This Day in Presbyterian History:
A Reminder to the Preachers
With persons, places, and things of historic Presbyterianism difficult to find for this October 12, I want to follow our last devotional in the Larger Catechism (See October 4) with another emphasis on the Word of God, only this time with an emphasis to the preaching pastors of our readership. Larger Catechism number 159 reads: “They that are called to labor in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, and fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”
What strikes this writer first is the biblical nature of this catechism, taking phrases straight out of Scripture. Titus 2:1 speaks of “the things which become sound doctrine.” (KJV) Apollos, in Acts 18:25, “spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord.” (KJV) The phrase “in season and out of season” come literally from 2 Timothy 4:2. That we pastors are to speak plainly thought “not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” is right out of 1 Corinthians 2:4. Making known “the whole counsel of God,” was Paul’s testimony to the Ephesians in Acts 20:28. Inspired Scripture can be found in all the remaining phrases as well.
Standing out second of all, to this retired pastor are all the adverbs which describe the manner of our preaching, fellow pastors. We are to preach “diligently,” “plainly,” “faithfully,” “wisely,” “zealously,” and “sincerely.” Now here is a check list for us on Monday morning, as we listen again to the tape recording of our sermons the previous Sunday. (I once had the embarrassing case of falling asleep, listening to my recorded sermon the following day. If I did that to my own preaching, what did the people do when they listened to it the first time?) Review the adverbs of our answer, and ask yourself, do those characterize my proclamation in the pulpit?
Last, are the ends of my preaching those mentioned in this Larger Catechism? Am I preaching sound doctrine in season and out of season? If my people took one of those tests so often mentioned in our newspapers, would they know anything more than the poor records of Americans? Am I depending on the Spirit and His power, and not in my own wisdom? Is the whole counsel of God my focus, or am I riding some theological hobby-horse over and over again? Am I conscious of my people’s spiritual necessities and capacities, resulting from my in-home visitation with them? Or am I preaching over their theological heads and hearts instead of down to their level? When it gets down to it, do I love God and my people being the people of God? Do I aim at God’s glory, and if so, is He happy with my sermons? Is the final end their conversion, edification, and salvation?
These are questions which you alone might answer. Or, if you are really courageous, take them to a loved one, or even your ruling elders, or a beloved brother in the church, and find out their answers, and whether they agree with your answers.
Words to live by: It is a good idea to write this catechism on the flyleaf of your Bible, and refer to it often, or place it in a noticeable place in your study, so you can use it as a guide in sermon preparation. Further than that, I tried to read a good sermon “how to” book at least once a year, taking from it principles and practices which I could incorporate into my sermons. And if you are a layperson who is reading this devotional guide this day, make the above catechism answer your prayer for your pastor in his pulpit ministry. Encourage him in these statements and compliment him when he engages in them. Lay the others matters before God. In short, your regular prayers for your pastor in the pulpit can make him a powerhouse for God in the hearts of God’s people.
Through the Scriptures: Nehemiah 7 – 9
Through the Standards: Definition of the visible church
“The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”
WLC 62 — “What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.”