Preaching as Worship – Part 1

Worship of the triune God is the essence of life as a believer in Jesus Christ. Worship in the believer’s life means that he is to align his volition with the prescribed method of worship in Scripture.[1] The lifestyle of a believer manifests one’s worship of God as the worth of God is evidenced. Therefore, Christian worship is more than mere singing or being involved in a local church; it is a lifestyle of manifesting the glorious work of grace by the triune God in one’s life.[2] The transformation that takes place in a person’s life at regeneration begins the life of devotion and commitment to God. Yet, this devotion to God is not forced upon a believer, but it is a natural outflowing of his union with Jesus Christ.[3]

However, a sizable portion of Christian worship comes in one’s commitment to a local church. And provided within one’s commitment to the local church is a weekly proclamation of the gospel through the preaching of the Word of God. This notion, of course, commences an important aspect to introduce this chapter and it is that we should never isolate preaching from worship. Preaching is an element of worship; it works in coherence with singing, prayer, liturgy, confessions, and ordinances.[4] Yoder explains the importance of  preaching when he describes it as  the “public address form of ministry in which a word from God intersects with a human need,”[5] Thus, as the sermon expounds on God’s message to his people,  preaching must be maintained as the focal point of a worship service.[6]

Therefore, this chapter will demonstrate how preaching is the primary activity in worship  by examining the  truthfulness and authority of the Scriptures, by describing a posture of worship through the pastor’s study, and by describing the act of preaching as worship through glory to God, proclamation, instruction, and exultation.

Worship begins with the Scriptures

Though the Bible is not the only means for the revelation of God’s self to humanity,[7] it is, however, the primary means through which God reveals his justifying, saving grace to a fallen world.[8] “How shall they hear,” Paul writes, “without a preacher” (Romans 10:14, emphasis mine)? Paul’s aim in this passage is to make preeminent the notion that preaching as the primary means through which the gospel of grace is proclaimed. In other words, Paul aims for his readers to comprehend the magnitude of trustworthiness of the Scriptures because it is God’s truth that is proclaimed when one preaches. Comprehending the magnitude of God’s worth through his revealed Word is the essence of biblical worship. So, then, how we comprehend this truth is extremely important.

Truth is the condition upon whether biblical interpretation succeeds or fails, because biblical interpretation is the direct explanation of the Word of God, the source of all truth.[9] This proposition brings to light the notion that truth only comes to the seeker when he correctly interprets the truth revealed from God. Jesus told asks the Father to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). If this proposition is accurate, then one must examine how it relates to biblical worship that is only brought to fruition through the discovery of truth.

The Bible as Foundation of Truth

Because truth is the assembling of facts as they are experienced through reality,[10] a pastor must understand the rationality and realistic nature of the Bible itself. The ultimate test of truthfulness of Scripture is its coherence with reality. So, regarding the Bible, one must seek to justify the Bible as truth rather than fairy tales or fiction. Therefore, one does this in two different ways: affirming God as the ultimate truth-Giver and proposing the Bible as God’s revealed Word.

The existence of God must be rationally interpreted through the lens of how truth is realized. It is not enough to simply “prove” God’s existence through a certain apologetic argument, though these means can be sufficient to “prove” God’s existence. Instead, a more fully orbed approach to ascertain the existence of God is through rationalizing the knowledge of truth; he is the sovereign truth-Giver. The penultimate method for discovering truth is by properly understanding which particulars cohere the most with reality. Some would argue that truth can be determined by each person individually, but this is actually not the case. Instead, truth must be justified/warranted belief.[11] Justified belief stabilizes itself in the notion that every person searches for truth with presuppositions. In other words, every person in the world has a way in which they view the world. further explains how one justifies a belief by a multitude of criteria – presuppositions, beliefs, and coherence with reality.[12] Thus, the Bible must be the foundation of truth in worship.

The Bible as God’s revealed Word must be the starting point for the pastor who is to preach in worship. The Triune God has revealed himself to us by communicating within himself to humanity. The Father speaks to the Son, the Son speaks to the Father, and both to the Spirit and the Spirit to both.[13] Peter declares that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), so the process of the Bible being understood as God’s Word begins with God revealing himself to the apostles by his Spirit, then succeeds to how the apostles witnessed the full revelation of God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. In essence, God is a communicator; therefore, God has communicated to humanity by his Word through his relationship with humanity, and through Jesus Christ, the Godman.[14] Therefore, God’s truth is reality.[15]

Since the Bible is God’s revealed Word to humanity, it must be of utmost priority to the one who will prepare to preach. The essence of preaching is the proclamation of God’s revealed Word to a gathered assembly of believers. Therefore, the Bible must be the foundation of all that is done in a worship service, from the singing to the preaching. 

The Bible as Basis of Content

Because the Bible is the foundation of all things true, it must serve as the content for all sermons. The Bible is the supreme source for content in the sermon, because the Bible is the source of life for a believer. It is described as “profitable,”  in 2 Timothy 3:16. Paul is reminding Timothy that “the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.[16] If a pastor has a spiritual foundation (built upon the disciplines of expository preparation), then the Bible will be prevalent throughout his sermon’s content. The truth of the Bible resonates with the pastor, because his delight is in the Word of God and this brings about clarity throughout the sermon construction process. This clarity for the pastor is a result of a healthy regimen of expository preaching in his weekly habits. Jason K. Allen explains how this process was beneficial personally in his spiritual development. He recalls that during his early days of ministry this weekly preaching was the most influential element to his growth.[17] Thus, a pastor will fill his sermon with the Bible in three distinct ways.

First, the Bible must be the source of all knowledge and content in the pastor’s sermon. There is no sermon apart from the Bible. So, for a preacher to preach effectively and for his preaching to serve as worship to God, he must approach the Bible, study the Bible, write the Bible (through notes), think on the Bible, pray through the Bible, and then preach the Bible. If a pastor is to ascribe all glory to God during his sermon, he must understand the nature of preaching as declaring Christ to a gathered congregation for the one purpose glorifying God.[18] Thus, the pastor should impregnate his sermons with the Word of God rather than aiming to quote well-known scholars or try to use excellent rhetoric to persuade the congregation to action. God blesses faithfulness that labors with the text to declare its correct meaning and interpretation. Therefore, the pastor must leave the content to the Bible and the conviction to the Spirit, for this is their roles as divine aids in preaching.[19]

Second, the pastor must fill his sermon with knowledge from his Bible study. As a pastor studies his Bible personally, sermonically, and intellectually, he must read the Bible with the end goal of worship. While Piper is correct when he says  that the ultimate aim of all Bible reading  is the “the worship of God’s worth and beauty,” we would also say that this is the goal of preaching as well [20] Therefore, as a pastor aims to worship God in his preaching, he must mold the content of his Bible study into the manuscript that will become his sermon week after week with the goal of acknowledging God’s worth and beauty. Therefore, the pastor must allocate time in his week to allow the content of his study of Scripture to be molded into the sermon itself. 

Third, the Bible contains language that must be studied and communicated. The Bible is the penultimate way in which God has provided sinful humanity a way to know him. Calvin proffers that the Bible is God’s expression of love and grace toward God’s elect to bring them nearer to him.[21] However, the Bible was not written by infallible authors, so their language is not precise, for they were human beings moved by the Spirit of God.[22] Since the authors of Scripture were normal human beings, their language is sometimes vague and difficult to interpret. Therefore, as the pastor desires to worship God in his preaching, he must endeavor to study the language of the Scriptures so he can communicate the truth of God effectively and, correctly.

Nevertheless, the pastor cannot truly communicate such a book with “language barriers” unless he believes in the authoritative nature of the Bible. Therefore, the Bible as authoritative is necessary for true biblical worship because it is the governing force behind all worship elements.[23] This is the foremost principle within the Regulative Principle: The Bible governs all activities during a gathering of believers in worship to God.

The Bible as Authority

 Augustine explains how meaning can sometimes be dependent upon the person when he writes, “What is time? If nobody asks me, I know; but if someone asks me, I don’t know.” Thus, words and meaning are important for establishing the divine authority of the Bible.

When God acts, he acts through his spoken Word. This is how God created the world (Gen. 1) and also how he gave us Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul conveys, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). According to Forlines, God’s word is a crucial element to understanding the divine nature of Scripture and its inspiration. Scripture is a product of the very breathe of God. Therefore, it is divinely given to humanity.[24] Words and meaning do have distinct characteristics but they also do have a close relationship with each other for learning and communication.[25] Because preaching is a communicative act and deals with how the congregants can learn the Scriptures, its words must be translated and interpreted carefully and correctly. If biblical interpretation is done ineffectively, the congregation’s learning ability can be disparaged. Therefore, the pastor must pay close attention to the way in which he prepares sermons because if biblical truth is incorrectly conveyed, it will limit the application of truth to the hearers.

The Bible and its authority are the most important elements for preaching, because anything otherwise is not preaching according to biblical standards. Therefore, we must not be timid in our proclamation of such truth, and one should proclaim these truths with authority because those who preach stand in the stead of Christ as they speak. In a sermon on biblical infallibility, Spurgeon says, “Modesty is a virtue, but hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault.”[26] This is advice that all pastors must heed when they stand behind the sacred desk. Biblical authority is emulated through the act of preaching and all pastors must understand the weight of such a task in worship. However, the element of preaching in worship does not begin when a pastor opens his Bible on Sunday morning getting ready to preach. Instead, it begins in his office while he prepares and constructs his sermon.


[1] Calvin, Institutes, 63

[2] For a more detailed description of worship, see Timothy M. Pierce. Enthroned on Our Praise: An Old Testament Theology of Worship (Nashville: B&H, 2008). Though Pierce defines worship exclusively from the Old Testament, there is much New Testament application within his work. He uses Old Testament law and tradition to sustain New Testament worship through the fulfillment of promise through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He describes worship as an “ascription of worth” alongside a “relationship between creation and Creator.”

[3] Peterson, Long Obedience, 50.

[4] John Piper. Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 16.

[5] June A. Yoder, “The Sermon as Fulcrum: The Role of Preaching in Worship” Vision 10, no. 1 (Spr. 2009), 37.

[6] Ibid., 39.

[7] For further study on this topic, see John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010).

[8] For a more detailed take on God’s self-revelation through Scripture, see Forlines’s chapter on revelation in The Quest for Truth (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), or Part 2 of John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010).

[9] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics” JETS no. 48 vol. 1 (March 2005), 89.

[10] Ronald H. Nash. Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 228.

[11] For a more detailed study of knowledge and justified belief, see Frame. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987); Alvin Plantinga. Knowledge and Christian Belief (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015).

[12] John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987), 104-122.

[13] Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 42.

[14] Forlines, Quest, 46.

[15] Piper, Expository Exultation, 161.

[16] Donald Guthrie, “Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary,” vol. 14, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 182.

[17] Jason K. Allen. Letters to My Students: On Preaching. (Nashville: B&H, 2019), 35.

[18] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 62.

[19] Meuer, “What Is Biblical Preaching?”, 187.

[20] John Piper. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 62. Though Piper’s aim throughout this work is geared toward reading the Bible for its worth in the life of a believer, it is not difficult to see how this concept also relates to the preaching of the Word of God.

[21] Calvin, Institutes, 26.

[22] Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 216.

[23] For a more detailed study of the “Regulative Principle,” see Ligon Duncan, “Traditional Evangelical Worship” in Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views, edited by J. Matthew Pinson(Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 99-124.

[24] Ibid., 43.

[25] Forlines, Quest, 49.

[26] C.H. Spurgeon, “The Infallibility of Scripture,” Spurgeon Gems, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols34-36/chs2013.pdf.

Disciplines for Expository Preparation – Part 3

Theological Instruction in the Preparation of Sermons

Preaching is a message from God; therefore, it is theology. Since theology is always present in preaching, it is “God talk.”[1] Peter exhorts his readers always to be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15), and this requires a foundation of doctrinal certainty. In other words, Peter encourages those to whom he writes to defend the gospel to which they have devoted themselves. It is from this word defense (apologia) where our English word “apologetics” comes.[2] Therefore, a defense of the gospel necessitates theological knowledge. If pastors are to correctly interpret and understand the doctrinal truth of which is contained within the biblical text, the only result when one preaches is “theology coming through a man who is one fire.”[3]

Lloyd-Jones states that the chief end of preaching is to give people a sense of God and his presence.[4] Since God and his presence are understood and experienced through His Son, Jesus Christ, preaching must be Christological. For preaching to be Christological, it must be centered upon and solely focused on Christ.This was the message the reformers proclaimed, Solus Christus. Joel Beeke affirms that if one loses any sense of Christ in their preaching, the substantial tenant of Christianity is forsaken.[5]

Such theological instruction in preaching requires an attitude of devotion to God and his Word, focusing upon learning all truth contained within Holy Scripture. It is similar to Packer’s method of theologizing which involves developing one’s theological framework from the Scriptures rather than from another scholar’s work.[6] Therefore, theological knowledge does not only come from Bible colleges or seminaries – though such formal education is beneficial to those who can obtain it. Instead, theological knowledge should begin with one’s study of the Bible. Hence, this knowledge that comes from one’s study of the Bible should translate into every facet of one’s preaching. Tom Nettles offers a similar approach in his principles for preachers: 1) preaching should propagate doctrine, and 2) preaching is the product of doctrine.[7]

In other words, Nettles is suggesting that preaching is doctrinal from its beginning. Doctrine and theology fuel the sermon and fill it with content. Thus, an absence of doctrine is no sermon worth preaching. The propagation of doctrine is the beginning of the pastor’s efforts to develop and construct a sermon. However, the development of doctrine in the exegetical stage of preparation does not fizzle out as the process moves forward; instead, it stays the course throughout until the pastor closes his Bible on Sunday evening. Thus, the necessity of theological instruction is to instruct a congregation in the knowledge and truth of God.

Pastors do their congregation a disservice when there is an absence of theological instruction in their preaching. Many pastors spend their time looking into cultural trends and fads that, they believe, aid in their preaching. However, they neglect the notion that God’s Word is sufficient to fill the content for their sermon. Yet, many congregants do not understand the weight of theology, so they ignore it altogether. They ignore the reality that knowledge of anything at all is knowledge of God.[8] Consequently, what many Christians they do not understand is that the very nature of Christian truth is theological. This reality does not imply that preaching ought to be incomprehensible. Instead, it aims to strengthen its content with biblical truth rather than stories or material from popular culture. The Bible is sufficient to fend for itself; therefore, pastors must do, as Spurgeon says, “give a clear testimony to all the doctrines which constitute or lie around the gospel.”[9]

The centrality of the gospel in theological instruction must be the goal of every pastor as he proclaims the message of God in Christ each week. However, the reality one must realize is that theological instruction is gibberish without application.

Application in the Preparation of Sermons

If a pastor’s sermon lacks application, his sermon is void of the characteristics necessary for Christian proclamation.[10] Expository preaching in general is absent unless there is application of exposed truth to the hearers. York explains, “Our job is more than just explaining the text. Our job is to make it vibrant, fresh, and accessible.”[11] Application is accomplished best by having a central idea in which to communicate the entire sermon in one short sentence. Some scholars call this a central theme,[12] while others name it the big idea.[13] Regardless of one’s terminology, the sermon should have one main proposition explaining how the passage of Scripture relates to the listener.

An important exhortation to aid pastors in applying their sermons is to preach from their hearts to the hearts of their hearers.[14] The application of the biblical text should affect the pastor before it ever applies to those under his proclamation. The pastor’s heart must be like the psalmist who declares, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24)! Only truth that applies to the heart of the pastor will more readily apply to the listener.[15] The Puritan preachers embody this principle in the most substantial ways. They were conscious of every single effort to reach the heart of their congregation by the format of which they proclaim the gospel.[16] Thus, the goal of preaching is so the Word of God will be at work in the pastor, which will translate to the working of God in the hearts of the congregation (1 Thess. 2:13). However, for the pastor to apply biblical truth correctly to his hearers, he must be present in their lives and be able to observe how his congregants live.

Observing Life in the Preparation of Sermons

Observing life is a phrase claiming that pastoral leadership comes best by characterizing relational ministry with his congregation.[17] When pastors are shepherds, they understand the necessity of spending time with their sheep. Shepherding is never successful if there is no time spent with the sheep of which they are in charge. Therefore, pastors must spend time with those under their leadership and care.

Unless the pastor is spending adequate time with his people, he will have difficulty applying his sermons to those sitting in the pew. This type of preaching is what the Puritans of old call experiential preaching.[18] Capill proffers the same advice to his readers with a probing question: “If we can’t connect the dots between biblical truth and life as it really is, what makes us think our people will after the sermon?”[19] Thus, the observation of life is necessary to apply the sermon carefully to those under his watch and care.

Conclusion

The disciplines for expository preparation are necessary for the pastor’s soul care, but they are also necessary to aid in the pastor’s construction of his sermon.

Though this list of disciplines is not exhaustive, they do prompt pastors to step back and take an honest look at their sermon preparation. Submitting himself to Christ through prayer, meditation, and Bible intake will allow the pastor to begin his sermon preparation with a clear mind and a pure heart because it will focus on growth in holiness that is only aided by the Spirit of God.

However, once the spirituality of the pastor is in full view, his sanctification is the focal point of his spiritual life. The sanctification of the pastor is necessary for the pastor to embody the faithful yet fruitful Christian life. This, then, will allow the pastor to interpret the Bible with pure motives and without sinful presuppositions as he exegetes the text he will be preaching. Yet, the pastor must not only search for the meaning of the text, but also the theological underpinnings detailed within. Only then can the pastor apply the sermon to his listeners. By building relationships with his congregants, he can determine the most appropriate ways to communicate the text from his heart to the heart of his listeners because he has observed life with them.


[1] Robert R. Smith, “Theology, Preaching, and Pastoral Ministry” in Theology, Church, and Ministry: A Handbook for Theological Education (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017), 340.

[2] Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 208.

[3] Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 110.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 402.

[6] McGrath, Mere Discipleship, 113.

[7] Thomas J. Nettles. The Privilege, Promise, Power, and Peril of Doctrinal Preaching (Greenbrier, AR.: Free Grace Press, 2018), 5-6.

[8] John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1987), 128.

[9] Spurgeon, Lectures, 74.

[10] R. Scott Pace. Preaching by the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2018), 50.

[11] York and Decker, Bold Assurance, 7.

[12] Ibid., 139.

[13] Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 31-48.

[14] Vines and Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit, 320.

[15] Pace, Preaching by the Book, 51.

[16] For a wonderful and clear presentation of the Puritans and their application of Scripture, see Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 369-384.

[17] Capill, The Heart is the Target, 81-96.

[18] For a definition of experiential preaching, see Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 23-42.

[19] Capill, The Heart is the Target, 90.

Disciplines for Expository Preparation – Part 2

Sanctification in the Preparation of Sermons

Pastors must be moving toward holiness through the process of progressive sanctification. That is, they must be spiritually maturing in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Joel Beeke proffers, “The holiness of a minister’s heart is not merely an ideal; it is absolutely necessary for his work to be effective. Holiness of life must be his consuming passion.”[1] This process is similar to how Paul instructed the Corinthian believers to “Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). Maturity is the goal of the Christian life. Sinclair Ferguson relates the situation in which the Corinthians found themselves to babies on Christmas day playing with wrapping paper rather than the gift they had received.[2] They are completely enamored with the wrong thing. In other words, if pastors are ignoring the sanctifying grace of God in their life, it will not be present in their sermons. Thus, this lack of presence will then translate to their congregation. When there is no personal sanctification in the pastor, it will result in a lack of sanctifying activities in the lives of congregants.

Therefore, the sanctification of the pastor is an indispensable activity because one needs it in order to exemplify it to their congregation. The spiritual disciplines allow the pastor to pursue godliness while progressively becoming more and more like Christ himself, all while emulating for the congregation what true spirituality looks like in everyday life. The disciplines are the foundation that sanctifies the pastor through the Word. The result, however, is that the spirituality of the pastor will filter into his sermons. When this goal of Christlikeness is the priority, the sanctification process will always be primary.[3] Here are two reasons why this process should take primacy in the pastor’s life.

First, this earthly journey is a pilgrimage preparing us for the life to come. Jesus told his disciples that the only way to get to the Father was by Him (John 14:6). The term pilgrimage is a necessary term to comprehend because it conveys the idea that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. Eugene Peterson communicates great wisdom to his readers that Christian maturity is never realized in life by immediate action and results. Instead, we mature over long periods through the processes of life.[4]

Thus, the pilgrimage in which pastors find themselves during their lives must be fueled by an intentional pursuit of holiness, for this is indeed what defines sanctification.

Second, sanctification is the lifelong pursuit of holiness. This lifelong pursuit of holiness is more than merely trying or aiming to be holy. Forlines notes that this process speaks of a relationship between a person and God rather than mere morality.[5] In other words, holiness does not come from merely being a moral person. Unbelievers can be a “good moral” person without an ounce of dedication to God. Therefore, a prerequisite to holiness is, of course, a relationship with God. This communion with the Lord is what makes a person Christlike. Furthermore, this union with Christ comes through faith, which is the condition of regeneration. It is not the other way around. Otherwise, sanctification precedes regeneration and justification, which is a biblical impossibility.[6]

Thus, for pastors to experience the sanctifying work of Christ in their life, they must devote their entire selves (mind, heart, and will) to Christ and allow His Spirit to guide their lives as they live and lead the church of God. Pastors must integrate their growth in holiness into their sermon preparation because it is vital to emulate for their congregants what it means to live the Christian life. Congregations need to hear (and see!) that the Christian life is achievable, and pastors must be the embodiment of such truth. Bridges notes, “Just as He delivered us from the overall reign of sin, so He has made ample provision for us to win the daily skirmishes against sin.”[7] In other words, Christ gives us victory and o\pastors must be the personification of the victory believers are promised through Jesus Christ.

In order to become sanctified, one must learn the truth by the Word of God (through Bible intake, prayer, and meditation), and must practice it through their actions. Forlines’s total personality provides the most logical conclusion for such statements: truth must be “understood by the mind, experienced and felt in the heart, and acted upon by the will.”[8] It is through these means and to this end that pastors must devote themselves as they grow in the grace and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This growth not only manifests itself through actions and attitudes of the pastor’s personal life, but the pastor will also actualize them in his sermons. Therefore, the sanctification of the pastor plays a primary role for the sermon preparation each week in his life because these first five disciplines – submission to Christ, prayer, meditation, Bible intake, and sanctification – supply the power needed to complete the next four disciplines dealing intricately with sermon preparation, beginning with biblical interpretation.

Interpretation in the Preparation of Sermons

According to Shaddix, proper interpretation draws out the meaning of a passage and correctly epitomizes it.[9] Haddon Robinson, however, claims that in order to do correct exegesis, the pastor must read the passage to correctly understand the meaning contained within.[10] In other words, exegesis/interpretation ensues when the pastor proclaims to his people what God says in his Word.[11] Correct exegesis is necessary because, without it, the pastor will proclaim a message out of line with biblical teaching. It is as Robert Thomas says, “if the explanation of what the author meant is missing, so is the heart of Bible exposition.”[12] Thus, to correctly exegete a passage of Scripture, a pastor must discipline himself to understand the meaning and themes of a passage so he can accurately convey and proclaim them to his congregation.

Understanding the meaning of a particular text is not an easy task. However, it is most necessary for the proclamation of the Word of God because it serves as spiritual direction for those who hear it.[13] Therefore, exegesis, before the construction of a sermon, is necessary because the Bible “does not lie open before us. It does not simply appear as God’s word but as God’s word in human word.”[14] To further this notion, Norman Geisler posits that though the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God, it is also the words of human authors – it is considered a theanthropic book.[15] Robert Plummer writes, “Note, Luke does not say, ‘I prayed and the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the stories of Jesus to write.’ Luke was a historian – engaged in real historical research. Nevertheless, as an inspired companion of the apostles, Luke was also God’s revelatory agent.”[16] Because the Bible is a book of divine revelation through the words of men, the truths contained within it must be meditated upon and diligently interpreted so the pastor might achieve correct interpretation.

However, achieving correct interpretation does not come without a cost. Biblical interpretation is the most difficult and most time-consuming effort of sermon preparation.[17] In the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pastors must aim to be honest with the text. The Doctor notes that directly approaching a biblical text to pick out an idea in which interests them would be dishonestly approaching the Bible.[18] He observes that analyzing and philosophizing a text is “utterly to abuse the Word of God.”[19] Thus, to correctly interpret the Bible, the pastor must diligently discipline himself to study the Word, he must understand the magnitude of preparing sermons, and he must always consider the weight of communicating divine truth as spiritual direction to one’s congregation.

Nevertheless, interpretation is just one meager step in the preparation of sermons. Once biblical interpretation has occurred, many other pieces of the sermon must be placed into the material used for construction. One specific piece which cannot be ignored is theological instruction as a part of one’s proclamation of the Word of God.


[1] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 67.

[2] Ferguson, Maturity, 12.

[3] Sinclair Ferguson. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (Edinburgh, NSW: Banner of Truth, 2016), 7.

[4] Peterson, Long Obedience, 17.

[5] Forlines, Quest, 222.

[6] Ibid., 235-236.

[7] Jerry Bridges. The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1978), 71.

[8] Forlines, Quest, 239.

[9] Shaddix and Vines, Power in the Pulpit, 181.

[10] Haddon W. Robinson. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 66.

[11] Hershael York and Bert Decker. Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition (Nashville: B&H, 2003), 19. (hereafter, Bold Assurance)

[12] Robert L. Thomas, “Exegesis and Expository Preaching” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. and the Master’s Seminary Faculty (Dallas: Word, 1992), 181

[13] Lauren F. Winner, “Preaching as a Spiritual Discipline” Sewanee Theological Review 57, no 4 (Michaelmas 2014), 520.

[14] Siegfreid Meuer, “What is Biblical Preaching: Exegesis and Meditation for the Sermon” Encounter 24, no 2 (Spr. 1963), 183.

[15] Norman L. Geisler, “Introduction and Bible” vol. 1 in Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002), 253.

[16] Robert L. Plummer. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010), 33.

[17] Roy B. Zuck. Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs: Victor, 1991), 10.

[18] Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 212.

[19] Ibid., 214.

Disciplines for Expository Preparation – Part 1

Although the primary spiritual disciplines – Bible intake, prayer, meditation – are biblically warranted practices, there are other disciplines in the life of the pastor that must be typified for the pastor to prepare to preach. Preparing one’s self to preach is, most definitely, a spiritual priority because the ill-prepared preacher is not only lackadaisical in his sermon preparation but is also in danger spiritually from lacking to discipline himself for godliness. Thus, both spiritual and homiletical preparation is necessary for these two reasons.

First, both correlate with the pastor’s soul. In his work, Edwards on the Christian Life, Dane Ortlund declares that Jonathan Edwards expressed the soul as active, not passive. In other words, Edwards summarizes one’s soul as the human itself, not merely one part of the human.[1] Of course, this is not only demarcated in Edwards’s writings but many other great theologians as well.[2] When a pastor prepares his soul for the task of preaching, he disciplines himself by the spiritual practices warranted from the Word of God. Nevertheless, when a pastor is pursuing the construction of his sermon through hermeneutical techniques, he is also disciplining himself for godliness by using his skillset to prepare his sermon adequately.

Second, sermon preparation should be an outflow of the pastor’s soul care. The spiritual life of the pastor should be the source from which the sermon obtains its content. Of course, this does not indicate that pastors must only preach their Bible reading plans each year, but the vitality of their spiritual life permeates the content of their sermons. Grace received always results in grace given. Therefore, a pastor’s sermon preparation is to be an overflow of his spiritual life because it transfers the truths of Holy Scripture from his heart to the heart of the congregation. Joel Beeke writes that preaching “often grows out of the preacher’s own experience of Christ in the midst of his sorrows and sins.”[3] Beeke indicates that the pastor’s own life experiences are what fuel his preaching. Thus, a pastor’s ministry is to be an overflow of his spirituality. This chapter, then, will be an examination of disciplines regarding the pastor’s sermon preparation.

The Disciplines of Expository Preparation

Pastors need not only focus on the spiritual nature of sermon preparation; they must also not fail to neglect the homiletical characteristics of sermon composition. Although these disciplines do not fall under the category of “spiritual disciplines,” they are, however, disciplines of which pastors must prioritize in order to prepare their sermons for the glory of God. Thus, this chapter demonstrates nine different disciplines for the pastor to apply in his method of preparing his sermons.

Submission to Christ in the Preparation of Sermons

Because the pastor is first a believer, his vocational undertakings begin with his submission to Christ. In other words, what pastors devote themselves to is what will be made manifest through their lifestyle and conduct. This is a foremost perspective for all pastors to understand – their values and beliefs dictate how they live and what they do.[4] Therefore, the pastor’s submission to Christ must be of first importance because how pastors act are the results of what they value, to whom (and to what) they are loyal, and what they believe. Thus, pastors must do as Jim Shaddix recommends – they must never lose God in the sermon preparation process.[5] Losing God in one’s sermon preparation is the result of a lack of submission to Him. Eugene Peterson declares, “God doesn’t change: he seeks and saves…we listen and follow.”[6]

If a pastor begins his preparation faithfully and thoroughly, he must begin in submission to Jesus Christ. Jesus entreats all people, especially pastors, to come to him and find rest.[7] Submission to Christ is not only resulting from respect, reverence, awe, and worship – although all there included in as much. Submission to Christ also comes when we cast our cares at his feet to find our identity and rest in Him (Matt. 11:25). Charles Bridges explains that for ministers to be involved in such a spiritual task (pastoral ministry), they must possess spiritual character to administrate such duties.[8]

Therefore, pastors must submit themselves entirely to Jesus Christ, the author, and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:2). The pastor’s faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ through his submission to him. So, the question of how to submit to Christ must be addressed. 

The pastor’s spiritual life is based solely on his union with Christ. Therefore, the pastor must actualize his spiritual life in two ways. First, submission to Christ involves devotion. God’s desire is for us to know him (Heb. 4:12). So, it is not possible to know God if one is not devoted to God. Knowledge of God does not come from sporadic interaction with His Word, nor does it come from one’s own experience or reason. Knowledge of God comes from one’s absorption of God’s Word.

Second, submission to Christ means forsaking all sinful activity in one’s life. Human beings definition of themselves is at odds with the way Scripture defines them. In the words of David Wells, “Americans, as we have seen, do not believe in original sin.”[9] Otherwise, humanity often discovers that sinfulness is the problem that keeps all believers from submitting their entire selves to Christ. The apostle James writes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Therefore, when submission to God is a foremost priority, one finds a new perspective on life.[10] When submission to God is the essential facet of the pastor’s life, nothing else is of any value, for God becomes all that he values. Thus, when God becomes all one values, the pastor’s life is marked by the overflow of such values.[11]

Hence, submission to Christ is the first and necessary step to disciplining one’s self for expository preparation. Preparing one’s soul to preach begins with Christ, but it also extends to actions resulting from one’s devotion to the Lord himself.

Prayer in the Preparation of Sermons

 The most critical element for the preparation of sermons is the pastor’s prayer. This section will address the importance of prayer and its nature in the pastor’s preparation. Spurgeon notes that if a pastor prays with any other attitude other than an ordinary Christian, he is a hypocrite.[12] Otherwise, pastors are to pray as ordinary people, for that is who they are. The most elemental purpose of this ordinary type of prayer is to understand the necessity of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus for pastors as they prepare and as they preach. Preaching, though done through human effort, is never done only by human effort, but by divine empowerment. Thus, pastors ought to outperform every person in their church through prayer.[13] Hence, prayer is not merely an act of mere devotion; it is “the Christians vital breath and native air.”[14]

Prayer is more than an act of mere devotion or spiritual habit; it is the most vital element of any believer’s life, and especially the pastor’s life. Prayer is petitionary, intercessory, communicative, and, most importantly, indispensable for all people who claim to be in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, as they prepare to preach, pastors must be people of prayer. The preparation of sermons – following the care of the pastor’s soul – must be bathed in prayer. Spurgeon taught that the prayer closet is the best place for study because the Author of Scripture is the most profitable teacher, even better than those who comment on such truth.[15] In other words, pastors must not neglect prayer as they prepare their souls and sermons. Luther was busy and still prayed; so can we.[16]

If pastors, through their submission to Christ, are dependent upon Christ for their strength to preach, they will understand that the power of Christ living within them is the only means through which ministerial accomplishments are made manifest. Joel Beeke looks back in time to Thomas Boston, a Puritan theologian, who advises that if pastors want to follow Jesus’ example to be fishers of men, they must first follow his example of much prayer.[17] Thus, pastors must be on their knees in prayer long before they engage in the duties of pastoral ministry. This is the attitude of Jesus and must also be the attitude of all pastors.

Therefore, prayer is more than mere communication between you and God. It is “a relationship which cultivates an awareness of the presence of the Heavenly Father.”[18]

 Nevertheless, an awareness of the presence of God during prayer should lead the pastor to devote himself to the Lord through profoundly thinking about the truths of God Word.

Scriptural Meditation in the Preparation of Sermons

Scriptural meditation is another discipline that must manifest itself in the life of the pastor and his sermon preparation. Charles Bridges states, “It is important also to cultivate this habit in the bent of our own work – that is, that a Preacher should think as a Preacher – marking everything (like any other man of business) with the eyes of his own profession.”[19] To “think like a preacher,” as Bridges would suggest, is to consider what biblical meditation is, then to apply these types of habits to your life.

The definition of biblical meditation comes best from the prophecy of Jeremiah: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). This eating is metaphorical of someone consuming physical nourishment.[20] Calvin writes that biblical meditation in the life of a believer is what yields the best and sweetest fruit spiritually.[21] The question, then, is how pastors meditate on the Scriptures that produce the best and sweetest fruit. Here are two considerations for such a question.

First, meditation is necessary for sermon preparation because it prompts the pastor to indulge his mind and heart in the Word of God. Meditation begins with the pastor’s pursuit of Christ through submission to Christ and prayer, but it also extends to the pastor’s consumption of the Word of God. A desire for the Word is necessary for pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 4:13), but it is also necessary for the preparation of sermons. This is what Paul meant when he writes that we are to “know nothing more among [us] except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). In other words, the content of our preaching is to be nothing more than Christ Jesus and his crucifixion to save the world from sin. Robert Picirilli notes that this is the only topic worthy of emphasis in Paul’s preaching, and must be the case in every pastor’s preparation.[22]

Hence, a pastor only knows and emphasizes Christ and him crucified when he is engrossed in the Word of God, for it is the sole means through which pastors can know Christ Jesus. The Word of God is also how our minds are challenged and shaped to think biblically.[23] Therefore, pastors must actively be pursuing knowledge of the truth that can only be found in God’s Word, for it is the foundation of their ministry.

Second, after immersing one’s self in the Word, a pastor must internalize the truth in which he finds. Biblical meditation is not achieved unless the truths considered are internalized and lived out. In summarizing the spirituality of Leroy Forlines,[24] Barry Raper notes that little familiarity with truth does not sanctify one’s life, but “truth must be understood by the mind, embraced by the heart, and obeyed in life.”[25] In other words, the way the Bible is lived out is through the means of meditation. Meditation leads to an internalized faith that characterizes itself through the life of an individual. Therefore, pastors must probe the text as John Stott recommends – like a bee with spring blossom, a hummingbird and nectar, a dog with a bone, and a cow chewing his cud.[26]

So, meditation is more than merely reading and re-reading a text, for many can read a text and gain nothing from it. Instead, it is the internalization of the Word of God in the life and ministry of the pastor so that when he preaches Christ, lives can be changed by divine power. This internalization, however, cannot be undertaken unless the pastor has a specific time and method for Bible intake.

Bible Intake in the Preparation of Sermons

The pastor must be consciously aware of his Bible intake, for it is the source in which he can attain godliness; one cannot attain godliness unless one knows God through his Word. Thus, the pastor must be consistently engaging with the biblical text to know God. Hosea writes that he desires “the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). Burnt offerings, in the Old Testament, were heartless sacrifices from the children of Israel in place of faithful obedience.[27] God delights in his children faithfully obeying him rather than them offering up burnt offering-like actions out of mere obligation. The psalmist echoes such an idea in Psalm 147: “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:11). Those who truly fear God will obey him out of reverence and awe and will seek to know him rather than do merely what is commanded in Scripture. Thus, pastors must look unto the Lord for godliness and growth that one achieves through faithful obedience

The pastor’s Bible intake, in specific regard to his sermon preparation, plays an intricate role as well. Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines proffer that preaching is not a sermonic option, but a sacred obligation because God has spoken through his Word. Therefore, we must preserve the spoken word of God that is contained in our Bibles, so pastors might proclaim it correctly to those who listen.[28] Thus, without the foundation of Holy Scripture, pastors have no basis for proclaiming the Lord Jesus to their congregants correctly. Hence, a consistent Bible intake is necessary. The only content worth sharing in a sermon is the Word of God. It is sufficient to change hearts because it is God’s authoritative Word that is inerrant and infallible. Thus, the preacher must impregnate his sermon with the content of the Word of God because the Word alone is powerful to save sinners (Rom. 1:16-17). Unless the sermon is full of the Word of God, it is not a sermon at all. Spurgeon posits that if pastors would give their people the complete, raw truth of the Scriptures, their fruit will soon be actualized because pastors are faithfully shepherding the flock of which they have been entrusted.[29]


[1] Dane C. Ortlund. Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 158.

[2] For further study on the soul as the full human being, see Sinclair Ferguson. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).; C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity (Nashville: Harper Collins, 2001).

[3] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 39.

[4] Carrol B. Freeman, Sr., “The Spiritual Discipline in Personal Formation” The Theological Educator 43 (Spring:1991), 94.

[5] Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix. Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago: Moody, 2017), 317.

[6] Eugene Peterson. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 11. (hereafter, Long Obedience)

[7] Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurances – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 171.

[8] Bridges, The Christian Ministry, 26.

[9] David F. Wells. The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 191.

[10] McGrath, Mere Discipleship, 4.

[11] Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism, 36.

[12] Spurgeon, Lectures, 42.

[13] J. Oswald Sanders. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago: Moody, 2007), 99. (hereafter, Spiritual Leadership)

[14] Ibid.

[15] Spurgeon, Lectures, 43.

[16] Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 100.

[17] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 81.

[18] Freeman, “The Spiritual Disciplines in Personal Formation,” 96.

[19] Bridges, The Christian Ministry, 209.

[20] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[21] Calvin, Institutes, 128.

[22] Robert E. Picirilli, “1,2 Corinthians” in The Randall House Bible Commentary (Nashville: Randall House, 1987), 28.

[23] McGrath, Mere Discipleship, 10.

[24] Forlines has much to say regarding the spirituality of one’s life through the mind, heart, and will – what he calls the “total personality.” To further review Forlines’s theological approach to spirituality, see Forlines chapter on Sanctification in The Quest For Truth (Randall House, 2001). 

[25] Barry Raper, “Sanctification and Spirituality” in The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines (Nashville: Randall House, 2016), 112.

[26] John R.W. Stott. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 220.

[27] Oscar F. Reed, “Hosea” in The Beacon Bible Commentary: Hosea through Malachi (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill, 1966), 55-56.

[28] Vines and Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit, 60.

[29] Spurgeon, Lectures, 78.

Book Review: The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines

Free Will Baptists owe a debt of gratitude to F. Leroy Forlines, for it is from his mind and mouth that our doctrine has been so clearly conveyed to the world. Along with Robert Picirilli, J. Matthew Pinson, and others, Forlines soars as the leading theologian for what he has coined as Classical Arminianism.

Forlines is no stranger to theological scholarship, in fact, he is the foremost theologian of Free Will Baptists. While others mentioned above are well-know and accomplished scholars, it was Forlines who has historically (that is, the last five decades or so) been the chief communicator of such truth.

This book, The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, is festschrift-like, similar to Randall House’s publication, The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines.[1] However, it is not necessarily essays for Forlines’ honor, but a chapter of tribute from J. Matthew Pinson, arguably Forlines’ most accomplished student and mentee, and chapters reprinted from Forlines’s systematic theological work, The Quest For Truth. Therefore, this post is written for the purpose of review of this new publication, and what follows will be an honest review of positive and negatives from the book itself.

Forlines on Empiricism

In all fairness, I do not think (no would I confer that Pinson would posit as much) Forlines claims to be an apologist. However, the discipline of theology often necessitates a philosophical/apologetic type of thought process in order to systematize theological ideas and doctrine. Thus, in his own way, Forlines is an apologist of sorts because of his theology of knowledge and ethics, but also because of his epistemological approach to theology which is made manifest in his work, The Quest For Truth.

In the first chapter written by Pinson, it is made inherently obvious that Forlines does not aim for apologetic writing, but instead is in search of truth – a view of which I believe should be prioritized in the field of apologetics. In other words, Forlines’s approach to apologetics deals much with epistemology and, honestly, the critique of empirical practices to arrive at truth. Pinson notes that Forlines claims empiricism only arrives at so-called truth by what Forlines names, “sense data.”[2]

Of course, Forlines – like Francis Schaeffer – claims that every human being has an upper story and a lower story of knowledge[3]. The lower story deals with particulars – things like mathematics, science, etc. The upper story deals with universals – knowledge of God, morality, and the meaning and purpose of life. Forlines describes empiricism as a worldview that only uses lower story knowledge and never transfers to the upper story, and, thus, argues that a worldview with no upper story knowledge will never achieve knowledge of God because knowledge of God only comes through divine revelation accessed through upper story knowledge.

Forlines on General Revelation

All believers, especially those in Free Will Baptists circles, would do well to read Mr. Forlines’s commentary on Romans. His dealings with Romans 1 and General Revelation are second to none. Pinson describes Forlines’ approach to such a topic in this way:

Forlines prefers the term general revelation to the term natural revelation because all revelation from God is supernatural…So, while God has clearly revealed Himself in all of creation so that He is immediately known by every human being, this revelation is primarily an immediate knowledge of God, not one that is developed by the use of reason…General revelation makes people responsible for their moral actions before God, because they know implicitly what is right and wrong.

Forlines conveys the idea, specifically in his commentary on Romans, that human beings do not obtain such knowledge of God after an experience with Him, but instead have innate knowledge of Him (to an extent) because they are image bearers.

Forlines on Testing Worldviews

Yet, the most powerful apologetic of Leroy Forlines is not in his theological approach to revelation, but is, in my opinion, in his assertion that every worldview must be tested to see whether or not it corresponds with reality. Forlines states in The Quest for Truth, “..we dare not accept a worldview that our reason tells us fails the test of rational consistency.”[4] In a more understandable conclusion, Forlines understands that all endeavors in search of truth are not embarked upon without some presuppositions.

Forlines does not aim to show God’s existence through his apologetic approach – this would be synonymous with an evidential approach to apologetics. Instead, Forlines shows “that belief in God is reasonable.”[5] Forlines approaches this line of thinking through what he calls “Christian Rationalism” – the idea that because humanity has innate knowledge of God through general revelation, then we can form rational thoughts about God without any research.

Review and Conclusion

All in all, this book is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant mind in the Free Will Baptist tradition. However, more than a tribute, it is a testament to Forlines’s commitment truth and its discovery in every individual’s life. His quest comes from a genuine search for objective truth, not to simply have knowledge of such things. And, in order to know truth one must know the God of truth.

You can pick up a copy of this book here.


[1] Matthew Steven Bracey and W. Jackson Watts. The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines (Nashville: Randall House, 2016).

[2] Forlines uses the term “sense data” to describe the incorrect approach of empiricism which states that knowledge can only be obtained through observation and experience.

[3] J. Matthew Pinson and F. Leroy Forlines. The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines (Gallatin, TN.: Welch College Press, 2019), 4.

[4] F. Leroy Forlines. The Quest For Truth: Theology for Postmodern Times (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), 95.

[5] Pinson and Forlines, The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, 28.

The Prayer Life of the Pastor

While prayer can come in the form of one’s devotional life, it is not limited to as much. Prayer is also a lifelong action for those who are children of God – it is the way of communication between the Creator and his creation. In fact, prayer is not simply a necessity or a command, although it is such things; it is a way of life.[1] Therefore, prayer for the pastors is not only a way to devote himself to God, but it is a way of life for him – it is a portion of his pastoral task. Here are three different aspects in which a pastor can implement prayer into his life.

The Personal Prayer Life of the Pastor

Over and over again, Paul’s command to the churches he planted was to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to continue steadfastly in prayer (Col. 4:2), but he also conveyed to these churches that he was remembering them in his prayers (2 Cor. 1:11), and that praying for his brethren was the source of his joy (Phil. 1:3-4). Paul’s prayer life was never abolished because of his suffering; nor should the pastor’s personal prayer life be absent from his life because of circumstance. Thus, a pastor should prioritize his personal prayer life for the following reasons.

First, the health of his soul depends upon his prayer habits. Prayer is the ultimate responsibility of the Christian life. Rick Reed explains that a failure to pray is a failure of soul care.[2] Jesus gave us the ultimate need for prayer when he told his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just as the disciples (and all believers) cannot do anything apart from the Spirit of God living within them, neither can pastors do anything for the Kingdom of God without the power of the Spirit which is accessed through a personal prayer life.

Second, his sermon preparation is dependent on a vibrant prayer life. Prayer regarding the sermon should be a natural outflowing of the pastor’s personal prayers. Because a majority of the pastoral task is preaching, it follows that a pastor must be continually active in praying for the sermon he will preach on the upcoming Sunday. Piper notes, “A cry for help from the heart of a childlike pastor is sweet praise in the ears of God.”[3] Spurgeon also claims that a genuine minister of the gospel will be one that utters a petition as arrows in the sky.[4] In other words, pastors should be people of prayer because a faithful preacher is a rigorous pray-er.[5]

Third, what is in the well is what comes up in the bucket.[6] Preaching and pastoring are only done effectively through prayer. Pastors are not so talented and skilled that their dependence can be self-fulfilled – their dependence must always be on the Lord Jesus. Joel Beeke claims that the Church is in desperate need of preachers whose prayer lives are exemplified and brought to light in the pulpit through their sermons.[7] However, more important than anything else is the posture of the pastor’s heart. The question is not rather or not the pastor prays in the morning before everyone else, but whether or not his heart is prepared to commune with the Creator of the universe who holds all things together.[8]

The personal prayer life of the pastor must take precedence over every other activity with the task of pastoral ministry. The reason for such primacy is because prayer is the most essential element to a pastor’s ministry. However, a pastor’s personal prayer life is not the only way in which he should pray. He should also prioritize his family and their centrality around the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Familial Prayer Life of the Pastor

Not only is the pastor’s personal prayer life an absolute necessity in the preparation to preach, but the pastor’s familial prayer life is second to none. Paul declared that pastors should manage their household well (1 Tim. 3:4) and that they should also have families who are believers in Jesus Christ (Titus 1:6). This can cause a conundrum for some because it brings up the question of wayward children or spouses. However, a majority of these issues could be solved if the pastor would not neglect to shepherd his own household before he shepherds the local congregation under his leadership. Kent Hughes posits that men have the power (influence) within their own respective families to steer their children toward godliness.[9]

Children naturally take their own habits and mannerisms from their parents. So, if the pastor spends his time at home allowing his children (and even his wife!) to see him praying, his family will begin to view prayer as important, says Ajith Fernando.[10] Family prayer should be a priority in every Christian household, but especially in the pastor’s home. It should not be a time where everyone is forced to pray (Eph. 6:4), nor should it be a time when prayer is meaningless (Matt. 6:7). Instead, this should prompt us, as fathers and husbands, to make family prayer a time of joy and purpose for a familial communion with the Lord. The persevering aspect of family devotions and prayer can yield godly fruit in the pastor’s family.

However, the activity of such prayer within the family is no easy completion. It takes determination and boldness with your spouse and children. Family prayer is hard work, but the hardest things in life are the things that often yield the most fruit. Fernando explains that in order for children to be taken care of, the parents must be healthy and strong.[11] The health and strength comes from a heart that is spiritually prepared to do such things. Yet, much like preparing to lead your family, a pastor must also be spiritually healthy to lead the church in which he has been entrusted.

The Pastoral Prayer Life of the Pastor

Charles Bridges writes, “The greatest and hardest preparation is within.”[12] If a pastor is to prepare himself to preach, he is also preparing himself to pastor, for preaching is the most important aspect of pastoring. The prayer life of the pastor begins within himself, but it extends even to the members of those under his leadership and shepherding. As seen earlier, prayer is not a simple task; it takes courage and discipline. Martyn Lloyd-Jones advises that before a pastor prays at all, he must first know himself. For example, if you need a good cup of coffee to really wake up in the mornings, then by all means have a cup of coffee. The problem is not necessarily in the fact that pastors neglect their prayer life in their pastoral calling, but that they are not doing it in a way that yields the best results.[13] Bill Hull notes that the sad reality is many pastors in the West have bred a pushback against discipline, which has resulted in its neglect altogether.[14]

Only behind his personal prayer life and the familial prayer life, the pastor’s pastoral prayer life should be a top priority for his ministry. The pastorate can often become immensely busy with the everyday requirements of the task at hand. However, when we examine the biblical accounts of the apostles, specifically in the book of Acts, we find that they devoted themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). Don Carson wisely points out that if you are too busy to pray, you must cut something out of your schedule to make time for prayer.[15] Jesus rebukes Martha for being too busy worrying about the little mundane things in the house rather than the presence of God, the Son, in her living room (Luke 10:41-42). Sadly, this is the reality of many pastors in evangelical Christianity today. Pastors are too busy worrying about methods and structures to get people into their church that they neglect praying to the Lord of the Harvest to bring forth fruit (Matt. 9:35-38).

Therefore, the pastor is not dismissed from the activity of prayer because of the fact that he has been called to the gospel ministry. In fact, Spurgeon argues that a pastor who does not pray regularly is not qualified for the ministry in the first place; he also notes that biblical texts will often be meaningless until they are opened by the keys of prayer.[16] Carson agrees with Spurgeon and asserts, “From God’s perspective, such Christians are ‘adulterous people’ (Ja. 4:4), because while nominally maintaining an intimate relationship with God, they are trying to foster an intimate relationship with the world.”[17] Therefore, pastors are to be men whose lives are devoted to the ministry of personal, familial, and pastoral prayer.


[1] Donald S. Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), 83.

[2] Rick Reed. The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 135.

[3] John Piper. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2013), 70.

[4] C.H. Spurgeon. Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 42. (hereafter, Lectures)

[5] Reed, The Heart of the Preacher, 135.

[6] H.B. Charles. On Pastoring: A Short Guide to Living, Leading, and Ministering As A Pastor (Chicago: Moody, 2016), 153.

[7] Joel R. Beeke. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 81.

[8] R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 104.

[9] Ibid., 47.

[10] Ajith Fernando. The Family Life of a Christian Leader (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 28.

[11] Fernando, The Family Life of a Christian Leader, 106.

[12] Charles Bridges. The Christian Ministry (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1952), 62.

[13] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Preaching and Preachers, 40th Anniversary Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 181.

[14] Robert W. Hull. Conversion and Discipleship: You Can’t Have One Without The Other (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 134.

[15] D.A. Carson. A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 114. (hereafter, Spiritual Reformation)

[16] Spurgeon, Lectures, 42-43.

[17] Carson, Spiritual Reformation, 121.

The Leisure Time of the Pastor

The pastor must aim to do his best work while he is serving the Lord in his respective ministry. However, if the pastor is working so much that he has no leisure time, he will end up experiencing ministerial burnout. Thus, the pastor must have a time every single week to rest and rejuvenate. This comes through a day off, taking Sabbath, intentional rest, and results in longevity in the ministry.

The Pastor’s Day Off

Rick Reed recalls his years in seminary with Dr. Bill Lawrence quoting Lewis Sperry regarding Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s life. Sperry said, “No one can have a spiritual ministry without a physical body.”[1] A large part of soul care is essentially a care for our body. While Paul did advocate that training one’s self for godliness is of value in every way, he also mentioned the fact that physical training does have value (1 Tim. 4:8).

Thus, physical exercise is, in fact, a necessary element to physical health, but pastors must also take care to prioritize their day off. This day off gives their bodies a time to reenergize for the following week and its duties. Pastors must understand that Sunday is not a day off; it is a workday. Therefore, a pastor must find another day throughout the week to rejuvenate and recuperate from the work of pastoring over the weekend. This recuperation comes from a pastor honoring Sabbath in his own life.

The Pastor’s Sabbath

Mike Glenn once preached a sermon in Southeastern Seminary’s chapel service called “The Marathon of Ministry.” In this sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-8, he says, “You step away, and you sit down. You remember the Sun came up this morning and did not ask your permission, and it will go down in the evening and will not check with you on its way by. It doesn’t depend on you, and that is good news! You need Sabbath to remember that.”[2] Dr. Glenn gets it right: Sabbath is the only way we can remember the reality that it is God who is sovereign over every single detail going on in the world, including the pastor’s life. If pastors are to neglect Sabbath, it will be a difficult task to shepherd his entrusted congregation in submissive reverence to Christ.

The Pastor’s Rest

Jared Wilson gives great wisdom to pastors who walk into their office on Monday morning tired and fatigued. He notes that while they may feel downtrodden and as if they do not amount to much, God is no less God now than he was before.[3] Pastors need to immerse themselves in the truth of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus promises rest to those who have tirelessly worked all week for God’s glory, and this group includes pastors on Mondays. Rest is a must for those who shepherd God’s people.

The Result in Longevity

Thus, it follows that when pastors give special attention to their off day, their personal Sabbath, and finding rest in Jesus Christ, a lengthy ministry can be the result from such activities and priorities. Leroy Forlines offers some timely comments in his work, Biblical Ethics, by stating that leisure activities are necessary for the Christian life (God created such activities), but they can become, if used incorrectly, means to sinful lifestyles.[4] Therefore, pastors must pay special attention to their leisure activities in order that they may glorify the Lord and not allow them to steer toward a way of neglecting the spiritual disciplines within their lives, which could result in shorter tenures.


[1] Rick Reed. The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word (Bellingham, WA.: Lexham Press, 2019), 192.

[2] Southeastern Seminary, “Mike Glenn – The Marathon of Ministry – 1 Kings 19:1-8” YouTube. Online Video Clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DURkQMrMxJ0&t=1s.

[3] Jared C. Wilson. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 34.

[4] F. Leroy Forlines. Biblical Ethics (Nashville: Randall House, 1973), 195-196.

The Study Habits of the Pastor

The way a pastor studies indicates the health of his spiritual life. Therefore, it is vital for the pastor to pay close attention to these three areas of study: his personal study, his sermonic study, and his intellectual study.

The Personal Study of the Pastor

Pastors are constantly interacting with the Bible through sermon preparation, pastoral counseling, pastoral visits and care, and in other areas. Often, it may seem as though their personal Bible study could be another task to complete. Pastors should guard against making such activities simply another addition to their work calendars. Martyn Lloyd-Jones advises that pastors should do more than simply read the Bible to find passages of Scripture for sermons.[1] A pastor with such engagement in Scripture is in grave error and in danger spiritually. This is not to claim that sermons cannot come from one’s personal reading of Scripture – the Word of God can work in this way – but that reading the Bible should never be for the sole purpose of finding a text to preach.

If a pastor is to be transformed into the image of Christ, it will be through a disciplined life of communion with God. Therefore, a pastor must discipline to take time for his own personal growth. This personal growth is the way he fills his reservoir. A pastor cannot fill his reservoir unless he is taking the time to nourish himself with the Word of God. Lloyd-Jones advises pastors to “safeguard their mornings” so they will not be distracted and so they will not neglect to prepare for work in the pulpit.[2]

In his book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Donald Whitney offers a question that all pastors should ask themselves on a weekly (possible daily) basis: “Do you thirst for God?”[3] This is the most essential question for a pastor’s personal Bible study – the question of thirsting for God. The psalmist claims that God “satisfies the longing soul” (Ps. 107:9). But God does not satisfy the longing soul with something other than himself; he satisfies longing souls with the only true satisfaction – himself.[4] Thus, a pastor must constantly be thirsting for God to satisfy his longing soul, and this satisfaction is only achieved through a personal Bible study.

The Sermonic Study of the Pastor

Another topic to make mention of is the topic of sermonic study for the pastor. Again, while this topic is not a major theme, it must be analyzed succinctly. Pastors can often find themselves in time crunches during their week either from a neglect to discipline themselves for the task, or from other pastoral duties taking precedence during a given week. However, the sermon(s) they will preach on the upcoming Sunday should not be neglected. Far too often, pastors will resort to an “already been chewed” sermon that’s been preached before or they will resort to not putting adequate amounts of time into studying.

However, there is another problem that can arise if pastors do not intentionally evade themselves from it: preaching someone else’s sermon. Scott Gibson writes, “A responsible preacher does the majority of his or her own work, possibly stimulated by various preaching resources, and prays to God for wisdom, guidance, and discernment.”[5] This problem of preaching someone else’s sermon entails more than the sin of stealing someone else’s material, but it deals with the pastor’s heart condition. A pastor who is consistently neglecting to preach his own sermons is one who consistently neglects his own personal holiness. In other words, unless a pastor is immersed in the Word of God, he is not preaching his own sermon. Therefore, the pastor must prioritize his content toward Scripture, then the use of other resources.[6]

Nevertheless, a pastor’s sermon study could be considered a spiritual discipline because it is directly related to prayer, when done biblically. According to Wesley Allen, a typical Jew would honor an hour of study as an hour of prayer.[7] In other words, an hour of sermon preparation could be considered the same as an hour of prayer because it is communing with God to proclaim his Word to his people. This becomes a discipline because sermon preparation can often be neglected because of laziness or other priorities. However, for a pastor to prepare well, he must study well for his sermons. And, of course, this only results from a prepared soul to preach.

The Intellectual Study of the Pastor

Paul wrote to the Romans that we ought to transform into the image of Christ by renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2); Jesus added to the Great Commandment to love the Lord with all our mind (Matt. 22:37). Therefore, the pastor must be constantly learning. In order to correctly model what it means to follow Christ, the pastor must be a disciple – that is, he must devote his life to learning. Thus, a pastor can learn in a number of different ways – here are three.

First, a pastor can learn by studying theology. Theology must play a vital role in the soul care of the pastor, but also it must play a vital role in his preparation, for the Bible is theology. Martyn Lloyd-Jones advises those under his teaching to read theology until they die because being a theologian does not stop once you attain a degree.[8] In the grand scheme of pastoral ministry, you cannot adequately lead the Lord’s church unless you have a theology of how a church is supposed to be led. Of course, not only is theology of the church necessary, but likewise is systematic theology, biblical theology, practical theology, etc. necessary for the pastor to shepherd his congregation.

Second, a pastor can learn by reading Christian biographies. Biographies benefit the pastor in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, they allow the pastor to be well-read with the “greats” of the Christian faith. On the other hand, it allows the pastor to interact with Church History to a certain extent. Reading biographies of Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and others will afford the pastor the opportunity to establish and live the truth that history really does repeat itself, even in the church. However, reading biographies also allows the pastor to keep up with the past. Piper notes, “Good biography is history and guards us against chronological snobbery (as C.S. Lewis calls it).”[9]

Third, a pastor can learn by reading other genres. It is vitally important for pastors to read theology and biographies, but it is also important for the pastor to read other genres of literature for personal enjoyment. Many pastors enjoy a good novel or a science fiction work, but it is necessary for the pastors to give his mind a break and read something for personal delight.[10] Your mind needs rest in order to think clearly, and it is not a neglect to read something less dense for a period of time. However, even still the learning process of any believer, but pastors in particular, can never truly come to a halt – it must be constant.


[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Preaching and Preachers, 40th Anniversary Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 184.

[2] Ibid., 179.

[3] Donald S. Whitney. Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 15-28.

[4] Ibid., 24.

[5] Scott M. Gibson. Should We Use Someone Else’s Sermon: Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 69.

[6] Iain D. Campbell, “Preparing the Sermon” in Pulpit Aflame: Essays in Honor of Steven J. Lawson (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), 147.

[7] O. Wesley Allen, Jr., “An Hour of Study: Sermon Preparation as a Spiritual Discipline” Lexington Theological Quarterly 45, no 1, (Spr.- Sum.: 2013), 28.

[8] Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 188.

[9] John Piper. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2013), 107.

[10] Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 193.

The Necessity of Believing in the Penal Satisfaction View of Atonement

The atonement is one of the most important and essential doctrines of the Christian faith, for it prompts many other doctrines in Christian theology as laying the foundation. The atonement is not only the foundation for other core doctrines of the Christian faith, it is also, according to Luther, the way in which we know God. “Knowledge of God is not found through human wisdom, human powers, or human achievements. It is found in the foolishness of the cross.”[1]

            The foolishness of the cross is parallel to the way in which the church father, Anselm, communicated this doctrine. It is foolish to think that God became man to die in the place of sinful humanity and reconcile them back to God. The importance of the atonement is climaxed at the simple fact that without it, there is no such thing as Christianity. To echo Leroy Forlines, Christianity is nonexistent without the atoning work of Christ on the cross. And not only is atonement necessary, the satisfaction view of atonement is the necessary viewpoint from which to see it.

The importance of the atonement is climaxed at the simple fact that without it, there is no such thing as Christianity.

            To claim that Christ’s death was simply an example of the wrath of God on sin is to minimize the punishment for sin and the character of God. There is only one way to save the world and it is by the sacrificial, satisfactory death of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, on the cross. Charles E. Hill observes that “the whole world needs saving, and that he (Christ) is the world’s only Savior.”[2] Satisfaction matters because it is the only view presenting Christ as the one who shed his own blood for the elect of God (Acts 20:28).

Conclusion

            Not only does atonement matter for theological formulation, it also matters for correct teaching and preaching. There is always a necessity to preach and teach the penal satisfaction view of atonement from the pulpit. If there is a lack of satisfaction atonement preached, there is a lacking gospel being presented. The only true way to present the gospel is through the lens of the satisfactory death of Christ on the cross.


[1] Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Why The Reformation Still Matters (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 102.

[2] Charles E. Hill, “1-3 John” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, ed. Michael J. Kruger (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 493.


What are the Spiritual Disciplines?

The spiritual disciplines, as defined by Donald Whitney, are “practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[1] The spiritual disciplines are found in Scripture. And an important facet to note about them is that they are practices. There may be some who believe the spiritual disciplines are equivalent to something as the fruits of the spirit – i.e. character qualities – but this is not the case. The disciplines are practices – that is, acts of being – for believers in Jesus Christ to become like him (Rom. 8:29). Dallas Willard notes, “Discipline is in fact a natural part of the structure of the human soul, and almost nothing of any significance in education, culture, or other attainments is achieved without it.”[2]

Paul wrote to Timothy that he should train (discipline) himself for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). According to R. Kent Hughes, Paul is exhorting Timothy to experience some “spiritual sweat.”[3] The spirituality Paul was encouraging for Timothy was one that took determination and diligence. This type of pursuit does not simply come naturally to a man – one must fight for its end. Hughes proffers, “Men, we will never get anywhere spiritually without a conscious divestment of the things that are holding us back.”[4] Often, pastors find themselves in spiritual slumps for different reasons and many excuses could be given as to seek a solution to their spiritual slump. But the only real problem is the neglect of the disciplines in their life – they no longer, as the psalmist writes, pant for God like a deer pants for water (Psalm 42:1). A neglect of one’s union with Christ results in many pitfalls in ministry – spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Now, there is no specific chapter and verse that describe the disciplines. These disciplines are implicitly found in Scripture. However, when we take a closer examination of 1 Timothy chapter four, we find that Paul is exhorting Timothy to take on practices all resulting in the same dynamic – godliness. It could be that Paul had the same attitude as Jeremiah when he prophesies, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Eugene Peterson paraphrases the attitude very well in The Message: “What delight I took in being yours.”[5] Truthfully, this is the essence of what it means to discipline yourself for godliness. Suddenly, the pastor’s attitude becomes as Jeremiah’s and he delights in the truth that he is God’s and God is his.

It is to this end the disciplines work within your life – they give you the opportunity to know God. Yes, of course, we can logically conclude there is a God from the natural world (Rom. 1:20), but this conclusion only brings one to a knowledge that a creator exists. This knowledge does not allow one to know the Creator. This is, of course, why the Bible was written – so we can communicate with our Creator. Matt Smethurst declares, “Your bible is tangible evidence that the Maker of the universe is a communicator.”[6] If God is a communicator, then a couple of notions can be brought to our attention. First, if God can be known, we must make the pursuit to know him, as his creation. The Bible is clear that no one seeks after God apart from the Holy Spirit’s drawing (Rom. 3:10; John 6:44). Therefore, to know God is to first have been given grace freely by Him. Second, if God can be known as a communicator, he must have given a message by which we can know Him. The Bible, then, is God’s message to how we can know him. John Piper has famously said that if we want to hear God speak, we must read the Bible aloud.[7] The Bible is the means through which God has chosen for those He created to know Him. Therefore, we must engage with it in order to have communion with the Creator. Pastors are no different.

The Bible is the means through which God has chosen for those He created to know Him. Therefore, we must engage with it in order to have communion with the Creator. Pastors are no different.

Conclusion

There is no greater joy than that of knowing God and the pastor’s ultimate prize in ministry will not be measured by the number of people, amount of money, or any sort of church success. The pastor’s ministry will be measured by his faithfulness to the Word of God and knowing the one who created him.

May we all be found faithfully devoted.


[1] Donal S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), 4.

[2] Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, and the Restoration of the Soul” Journal of Psychology and Theology 26, no. 1, (Spring: 1998), 106.

[3] R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 14.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Eugene Peterson, The Message.

[6] Matt Smethurst. Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (Denmark: 10 Publishing, 2019), 16.

[7] Desiring God on Instagram accessed September 22, 2019, https://www.instagram.com/p/6h7KulSMnA/.