…One of the most helpful things ever written on the question of faithfulness and effectiveness in preaching comes from the “Directory of Public Worship” published and authorized in 1645 by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster and subsequently adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Yes, I’m continental Reformed pastor but I love this Presbyterian document! It is my humble opinion that if the things written in On the Preaching of the Word were diligently followed, the church would we see a much more widespread response in our day to the ministry of the gospel.
…In the Directory’s Of the Preaching of the Word there is an initial encouragement that the public preaching of the Word is God’s power to save and is one of the most excellent works of gospel ministry. Preaching should be performed diligently and without shame. The pastor must have skill to discern the truth in the study of the original languages, arts and sciences, the whole body of divinity and the Holy Scriptures, beyond the “common sort of believers.” Read more»
Chris Gordon, “Recovering the Directory of Public Worship’ on Preaching,” Abounding Grace Radio May 6, 2021)
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I agree that God uses the preaching of the Word to bring people to faith. But I believe this notion has been distorted. In my nominally P&R church, every sermon is very much the same. It is an evangelistic sermon akin to something Billy Graham would have preached. I think they believe that only by doing this can we qualify as a “missional” church. Consequently sermons about discipleship such as one would find in the epistles are nearly entirely absent. Isn’t it the job of the pastor to “feed His sheep” and let the Lord use whatever He sees fit to use to bring people to faith?
The minister’s vocation is to preach faithfully the text before him. The sermon cannot be the same sermon again and again, since the text of Scripture varies. The sermon must be shaped by the interests of the text, read in its immediate context and in its broader canonical context. The preacher has to pay attention to the human and divine authors of Scripture. The law and the gospel ought to emerge organically from a close reading of the text.
The Reformed conviction, indeed the confessional Protestant conviction is that the law and the gospel are two distinct words within God’s Word and that the Lord has ordained to use the law, in its pedagogical use, to teach sinners the greatness of their sin and misery and he has ordained to use the gospel, the good news of salvation sovereignly accomplished and sovereignly, and freely given to sinners through faith alone, to bring his elect to new life and true faith.
This is the explicit teaching of Heidelberg Catechism 2-3 and 65. God is indeed free to do as he wills but we are not. We are bound to his Word and preaching is an act of faith in the Word, in the promises, and in the sovereign work of the Spirit in the hearts of his people.