Monday, January 16, 2017

Evaluating John MacArthur's Preaching Ministry (Phil Johnson)

While growing up the first expositor Phil Johnson was exposed to on a personal level was Warren Wiersbe.  Phil believes that Wiersbe is one of the great sermon outliners in contemporary preaching.  While Wiersbe focused much of his exposition on application he also made efforts to deal honestly with the Scriptural text.  Wiersbe's sermons lacked depth but they certainly did not lack clarity.

The next expositor Phil came to know and love was John MacArthur.  In 1977 Phil Johnson first met John MacArthur Jr., while MacArthur was on campus speaking at Moody Bible Institute.  Prior to John's message on Found God's Will Phil had never even heard of MacArthur "Jr."   If it had not been for a girl he liked (his now wife) he would not have gone to hear MacArthur preach at chapel.  Phil was immediately impressed with the way in which John handled the Word of God.  Johnson also remembers that John's "natural" preaching style was very easy to listen to. In God's good providence Phil Johnson arrived at Grace Community Church in 1983; at that time MacArthur was preaching through Matthew 19 in AM and Romans at night.  Since arriving at Grace Phil has edited many of John MacArthur's books including his New Testament commentary series.

Hughes Oliphant Old (a liberal professor) summarizes John's pulpit ministry quite well:
1) "MacArthur is first of all an expositor and after that a polemicist.
2) MacArthur fills his sermons with a wealth of factual material.
3) MacArthur has complete confidence in the Text.
4) MacArthur has an amazing ability to explain Scripture by Scripture.
5) MacArthur uses a variety of rhythms in his preaching with great effectiveness (pace, vocal variety, etc)."  

Olds concludes his article on MacArthur with this helpful insight, "Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools?  How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged?  Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of winning personality, good looks, or charm.  Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging.  No one would suggest that he is a master of oratory.  What he seems to have when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears.  It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest.  That is why one listens.

Practical tips for expositors:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Polemical Ministry of Charles Spurgeon

Phil Johnson's D. Min lecture on the Polemical Preaching of Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon was a topical expositor and often took a short text or phrase from a verse and expounded it in a doctrinal manner.  In his sermons he sometimes departed rather quickly from the context of his stated text.  His sermon content was sound and was well supported with a slew of cross references.  Having said that, it is a homiletic model that preachers today should not try to duplicate.  For one, Spurgeon had a photographic memory and he enjoyed an exceptionally powerful voice.  Concerning his sermon preparation Spurgeon studied all week long.  He filled his mind every week of his Christian life with biblical truth and sound doctrine.  You might say Spurgeon had deep theological wells to draw upon.  Concerning his work ethic, "Spurgeon often labored 18 hours a day. Famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone once asked him, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten that there are two of us.” On Saturday evening at 6pm Charles began to develop his sermon outline that he would then take with him into the pulpit.  Before Spurgeon's sermons were distributed throughout the world (up to 25,000 copies a week) he would edit his transcript.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Preaching with the Culture in View- Dr. Ligon Duncan

"I think the time in which we are preaching in the United States is as toxic of time for the faith as have ever existed in my lifetime."  The follow notes are excerpts from a Ligon Duncan Q and A session that I have edited and expanded.

The surrounding culture, by in large, is hostile towards the orthodox Christian faith.  Preachers need to remember this every time they preach the timeless Word of God.  We are living in days similar to Jude.  Apostasy is ever present.  The secular culture is very cynical and snarky.

Over the last 70 years Liberal Protestantism lost the "church" but won in the larger culture.  Having said that, atheism has more in common with Liberal Christianity than Liberal Christianity has with the historic Christian faith.  Suffice it to say, pastors need to be wise and authentic as they seek to minister the Word in season and life.  The truth must have an impact on us before we have an effect on others.  Our deep and true conviction must show every time we ascend the sanctuary steps!  As we preach we should try and present a biblical argument.

Their is a deep suspension in our culture concerning absolute truth claims.  We must never back down on this but we must also connect the importance of truth and love (1 Tim. 1:1-5).  "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith."  We need to be known as the people of truth and as a loving Christians.  Dr. MacArthur puts it this way, "Hard preaching creates soft hearts while soft preaching often creates hard hearts."  Like Loyd-Jones we need to lions while in the pulpit and lambs outside it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Current Trinitarian Civil War: Where Are We Now and Lessons Learned Along the Way

Photo Credit: Reformed Theological Seminary
In 2016 a theological firestorm erupted when Dr. Carl Trueman and friends posted an article by Dr. Liam Goligher titled, "Is it ok to teach complementarianism based on eternal subordination?   In this "Mortification of Spin" piece Goligher poured gas on a fire in hopes of lighting up Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware's position concerning EFS (and by extension any other theologian who does not teach eternal generation and eternal procession).  This particular article included loaded charges with claims that Dr. Grudem and Dr. Ware are actually "reinventing the doctrine of God."  Liam went onto to say, "What we have is in fact a departure from biblical Christianity as expressed in our creeds and confessions. Out of that redefinition of God their teaching is being used to promote a new way of looking at human relationships which is more like Islam than Christianity; more concerned with control and governance than with understanding the nuances of the relationship of the Son with His Father in eternity on the one hand and how that differs from the roles they adopt in the economy of redemption on the other. They make this move by failing to distinguish between God as He is in Himself (ontology) and God as He is in Christ in outworking of the plan of redemption (economy). They are in turn doing great dishonor to Christ. They collapse the intra-Trinitarian life of God into the roles adopted by the persons to accomplish our redemption."  Now whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, or Independent" them by fighting words."  In my judgement the shot heard round the (blogosphere) world started the Trinitarian Civil War of 2016. 

For many months a slew of blog articles, podcasts, and 'vlogs' weighed in on this hotly contested intramural debate.  As a non-celebrity, pastor-theologian I shared some initial thoughts and concerns with my congregation and friends (note here and here).  Personally, I sympathized with the theological formation that Dr. Trueman subscribes to as it seems consistent with the intent of the Nicene Creed.  In my understanding of church history the Nicene Creed's statement, "God from God and Light from Light" is a non technical way of highlighting eternal generation and eternal procession.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Theology of Preaching: Reformation History

A theology of preaching can help one to preach better.  During the Protestant Reformation the emphasis moved from the sacraments to the Word preached.  If you go into a medieval cathedral the architect placed the alter front and central in order to emphasize the mass.  During the Reformation the eye was drawn to the pulpit; (which is the throne of God's Word).  The design of a church sanctuary (past and present) reflects our theological convictions (good and bad).

The priority of preaching is not first and foremost a technical issue.  We preach because it is the God-ordained way of communicating the gospel and building up the saints (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; Col. 1:26-28).  God is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching in order to accomplish His purposes on earth.

Martin Luther helped establish the centrality of the Word preached.  In part, because Luther was committed to "nominalism" (as opposed to realism).  This philosophical matter answers the following question, "Do words reflect reality or do they create reality?"   Luther came to understand that justification is the declaration of God that a sinner is righteous having received the imputed righteousness of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:21).  The Latin expression of this is, “Simul Justus et Peccator” (simultaneously righteous and sinner).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Today's Trojan Horse: Professing Evangelicals who "Affirm" Inerrancy (have Redefined It)!

"You are the ones who are holding the inerrancy line like those 300 soldiers in battle of Thermopylae."  In a lecture presented on 1/12/17 at the Master's Seminary Dr. David Farnell asked the following follow up question: What is the impact of holding to (or denying) inerrancy in the Lord's Church (see James 3:1, 11-12)?

Farnell reminded this room full of pastors that the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) claims that they subscribe to Biblical inerrancy but many have redefined what this important term means.  In other words, not everyone who says the affirm the inerrant Test really does.  This is no insignificant thing.

The responsibility of a pastor is not to be thought of as a great "scholar" but to be faithful to the Word of God.  The Lordship of Jesus Christ must consistently reign over scholarship.  The evangelical use of historical-critical ideologies is like a pig with lipstick.  The grammatico-historical hermeneutic on the other hand lets the text say what it is meant to say. "The weight of any theologians underlying hermeneutical presuppositions is monumental (House)."  Many evangelicals have bought into "scientism" which forces them to deny the historical account of creation as detailed by prophet Moses in Genesis 1-2.  Others say that two or three guys besides Isaiah wrote the book.  Others deny the historicity of the first man (Adam); which greatly impacts the salvation theology of Romans 5.  Still others deny that Jonah spent three literal days in the belly of a literal great fish.  Others deny the historicity of the Resurrection of the saints post crucifixion (Matt. 27:45-54; eg. Michael Licona); and/or that the Magi actually visited Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12); and/or that King Herod actually killed babies in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth; and/or that Paul actual wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; TItus 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).

Now here is where the rubber meets the road:  Most critical scholars today profess that they are  inerrantists.  Further most substitute or promote inerrancy with a perverted definition.  This is often done in effort to keep up with the theological Jones'.  The fear of man and an unhealthy desire to be respected by the academic elite is a recipe for theological compromise.

Dr. Farnell provide many examples of scholars who have been impacted by the Historical-Critical methodology (Karl Barth, etc):

Including but not limited to: Dan Wallace, "Whose Afraid of the Holy Spirit?  The uneasy conscience of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical," p. 8.

Baruch Spinoza (a Theological Political Treatise).

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards

The Extraordinary Preaching of Jonathan Edwards
By Dr. Steven J. Lawson

I.       The Need For an awakening

II.    The nature of an awakening

III. the leaderS of the awakening

IV. the preaching of EdwaRDS (SUmmarized)

a.    scripture – saturated

b.     god – exalting

c.    Christ – centered

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Evangelistic Preaching and George Whitefield

The evangelistic Preaching of george whitefield

Steven J. Lawson
II.    What marked his life?

a.    Singular Devotion to Christ

b.     indomitable spirit for christ

c.    lowly humility before christ

III. what did he preach?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


why study great preachers from the past?

Steven J. Lawson

I.             they enlarge our PERSPECTIVE

II.          they prioritize our preaching

III.       they deepen our godliness

IV.       they motivate our study

V.          they sharpen our theology