PREACHING: Why Johnny Can’t (4th post)

We left off last time (in our discussion about Why Johnny Can’t Preach) with a remark about the alleged Pauline statement regarding the “folly of preaching”.  I claimed that Paul did not say such.  Let us look at the text itself:

1 Corinthians 1 (ESV)

V.17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

V. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

V.19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

V.20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

V.21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

V.22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,

V.23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

V.24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Notice that it is not “preaching” that the World considers folly.  No, rather, it is “WHAT we preach” that is folly, not preaching in and of itself (v.21).  The world and its churches preach all the time (v.20).  The world has its own proclamation.  So I dare say it is not “preaching” proper that is the problem (folly) but the Cross (God’s humiliation saving sinners).  Christ (God’s anointed) crucified for sinners is folly.  It is folly to the world (undiscerning; see 1Cor.2.14), that, CHRIST, dead and risen, is the power and wisdom of God. 

Why do I bother to stress this?  Because all too often folks are thinking that preaching itself is the answer (almost regardless of what’s preached).  In addition, too often this proclamation is being reserved for the pulpit.  Anything taking place outside the pulpit is somehow inferior.  I simply do not buy a high-church tendency that hijacks the Gospel ministry, chaining it to an elevated desk.  Granted, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed/taught God be thanked, but let us not quarantine the Word of Life to one platform when there are other acceptable ones.

Notice too, that Paul understands that a “polished” ministry is not only what the World wants (is wooed by) but is something that in itself can empty the Cross of its divine power and wisdom.  There was no shortage of such “eloquent wisdom” in Corinth and Paul knew it, repeating the matter multiple times (see 1Cor.2.1; 2.4; 2Cor.4.2; & 10.10). 

Consider also the following from the JFB Commentary:

“not with wisdom of words” — or speech; philosophical reasoning set off with oratorical language and secular learning, which the Corinthians set so undue a value upon (1Co_1:5; 1Co_2:1, 1Co_2:4) in Apollos, and the want of which in Paul they were dissatisfied with (2Co_10:10).

In sum, then, it would be the case that Christ himself is foolishness and eloquent preaching (particularly that which only allows Jesus to make guest appearances) a subtraction.  Reader beware…not only the World but believers too stumble at Christ crucified being the simple and sufficient means whereby God does His salvationing, all of it, beginning to end, from here to glory. 

One last post to come…

PREACHING: Why Johnny Can’t (3rd post)

Again, we are dealing here with the discussion between Mike Horton and T. David Gordon (WHI program: Why Johnny Can’t Preach) on how the ‘medium is the message.’

Gordon explains that the “sermonic portrait” delivered well, makes all the difference.  He understands that the messenger is to be shaped by the medium of high-end literary works in order for the message to penetrate the hearers.  It is almost as if he is failing to account for the working of the Holy Spirit, not by carnal weapons, but by the Gospel itself. I understand it is not likely that he forgets this entirely, but only that he is caught up in something that is a life-occupation for him. 

As I have said in the previous posts, the Gospel shapes the messenger, the message, and the hearer(s).  No doubt, Gordon believes this, unfortunately though, this does not come across loud and clear, but is muffled by the cry for a more literarily astute clergy. 

Gordon also reminds us (and rightly so) that ours is not a WORD-shaped culture but an IMAGE-driven culture (TV, DVD’s, etc).  Here again, as an academician he wants to bring the full weight of top-notch literature to bear.  Granted, a televised people can tend to be a trivial lot.  Mush for minds is not a good thing.  What is needed though is not well-read people filling the ranks (and pulpit), but a believing people.  Is not Christ’s person and work, simply preached, sufficient to create and sustain believers?  Do not the people of God need a continual refreshing and gradual deepening in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in all of Scripture? 

Word-shaped?  Yes!  Nevertheless, it is content, not style, that is our foremost concern.  Where there is genuine content (Gospel-concentrated content), we have reason to hope for preachers (and laypersons alike) to present in plain speech the glories of Christ, for all to hear.  Yes, we might end up with people who are not so full of themselves as to present their style as Gospel.  Heaven knows, there is plenty of that to go around.

Next, Gordon utilizes this supposed biblical notion of the “folly of preaching”.  What?  Where does Paul ever speak like this?  I know, I know…in the First Letter to the Corinthians, right?  Wrong.  Look again at the text (1Cor.1.17-24; & 2.14)!  Let us deal with this text next time.

Stay tuned…

Gospel: ‘A’ or ‘Z’ (all or zilch)

Horatius Bonar once wrote:

“The truth is, that all that Christ did and suffered, from the manger to the tomb, forms one glorious whole, no part of which shall ever become needless or obsolete; no past of which can ever leave without forsaking the whole. I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that “He is not here, but is risen”; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord, yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.

ELECTION & Declaring Independence

Another informative and refreshing program at the White Horse Inn:    Election & Declaring Independence

The boys’ discussion pertained to :

1)     Election: It is in the Bible…everyone believes it — in some sense 

 

2)     Electing: Who is doing it?  (see Rom.8.28-30 – “called according to his purpose” not according to ‘foreknowledge’)

 

3)     Reprobation: The result of Adam’s work — Now man’s birth right and will

Election: On the basis of Christ’s work — God had to do all that pertains to salvation

 

4)     Modern Western Struggle w/ Sovereignty: In a climate of Independency  — “Hey, wait a minute; I did at least a little something right!”

 

5)     ‘Christ choosing you’ & ‘You choosing Christ’: It’s both, with the latter as the fruit of the former – see Jn.1.12-13; Eph.2.8-10; Phil.2.12-13 — We believe because He has made us willing and able to do so…thru the Gospel.

 

6)     Salvation (from ‘east to west’) is from the Lord — Just as there’s ‘no where’ and ‘no place’ that God is not Creator, so too, there’s no where in the believer’s faith that He’s not the Creator of New Life.

What drives you?

Lee Irons said:   This, I believe, is a most helpful passage [1Cor.15.1-19] in orienting us to what is primary for Paul, and by implication, what ought to be primary for us as well. When people read our books and blogs, or listen to our sermons, or attend our worship services, what do they perceive is “of primary importance” to us?  I hope it is not that we are “Reformed,” or that we subscribe to “the Reformed Confessions,” or that we are “Presbyterian” in our church government. I hope it is that we love, preach, and live out of the apostolic gospel of Christ’s death for our sins.”