John Murray on the Pastoral Ministry

I found the following sermon by John Murray through following various links and ultimately on Jeremy Walker’s blog “The Wanderer.”   Given that I am a pastor and I know other pastors read this blog – I wanted to share it and open it up for dicussion – I think he makes good points but do have some concerns – but that could just be that I am a young pastor still learning how the ministry works.  In addition to his two foci I would probably add leadership, which can come through preaching and pastoral care but I think it can be a separate category pastors need to think about. 

Do let me know what you think. 


“You have been called as minister in this congregation and you have been ordained in pursuance of that call.  There are many functions which devolve upon you in that particular capacity, but I want to draw your attention particularly to two of these functions because I believe they are the two main functions which devolve upon the minister of the Gospel.  And these two functions are the preaching of the Word and pastoral care.

“Now first of all there is this duty of preaching or teaching the Word. You are to labor in the Word and doctrine. And in connection with that function I want to mention three things.

“First, do not burden yourself and do not allow others to burden you with other business so that you are deprived of the time and energy necessary to prepare adequately for your preaching and teaching administration. The Word of God indeed, in all its richness and in all its sufficiency, is in your hands. It lies before you. But in order that you may discover the richness of that Word and bring forth from its inexhaustible treasure for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for the instruction which is in righteousness, there must be the blood and toil and sweat and tears, the earnest labor, and the searching of that Scripture, and in application to its proper understanding, so that you may be able to bring it forth in a way that is relevant in your particular responsibility.

“The second thing I want to impress upon you is that you realize deeply and increasingly, your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit for understanding of the Word and for the effectual proclamation of it.

“Now that is not the counsel of sloth. That is not to be an alibi for your earnest labor and the study of the Word of God and your earnest application to effective proclamation, and neither is that a counsel of defeat. Your absolute dependence upon the Spirit of God – this is the counsel of encouragement and confidence. It is the Spirit and the Spirit alone who gives the demonstration and power by which the Word of God will be carried home with effectiveness, with conviction, and with fruitfulness to the hearts and the minds and lives of your hearers. It is He and He alone who produces that full assurance of conviction, and it is your reliance upon the Holy Spirit that in the last analysis is your comfort.

“The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. And do not be so God dishonoring as to pray for Pentecost. Pentecost is in the past. Pentecost was a pivotal event in the unfolding of God’s redemptive touch, when the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit abides in the church. He came and He abides in order to perform those functions which Jesus himself foretold: ‘When He, the Spirit of Truth’ is come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and that He will also glorify Christ by taking of the things which are Christ’s and showing them unto us.’

“It is necessary, it is indispensable, however, that you earnestly pray for the unction and the power and the blessings of that Holy Spirit. Because it is only if there is that accompanying demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the power that men and women will be arrested and stunned with the conviction of sin. And it is then that they will give expression to the word of another, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ Likewise, in that particular situation of overruling, overwhelming conviction produced by the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, that you will be able, by the understanding given by the Spirit, by the unction imparted by the Spirit, to bring into that conviction of need, that conviction of sin, that conviction of misery, the unsearchable riches of Christ.

“That is my second aspect of this charge. To realize more and more your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is as you will realize your complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit, that you will be more diligent in the discharge of all the duties that devolve upon you in the understanding of God’s Word and in its effective proclamation.

“Third, I wish to mention, in that precise connection, that you are to think much of the privilege. You are to think indeed of the responsibility, and I have said enough with respect to that responsibility already. I want particularly to impress upon you now the appreciation of your privilege.

“It is yours to be a fellow of the Gospel – of the glorious, the blessed Gospel. It is yours to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is yours to be the ambassador of the King eternal, immortal, invincible. It is yours to be the ambassador of him who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, of whom you have heard already that He walks among the candlesticks. There is no greater vocation on earth. There is no greater vocation that God has given to any than the vocation of proclaiming the whole counsel of God – proclaiming the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, and proclaiming the unsearchable riches of the Redeemer. Think much of your privilege.

“Now second, you have the pastoral care. That is an all important aspect of a minister’s responsibility and privilege.

“There are likewise three things that I want to mention in connection with that particular function, and the first is this: Shepherd the church of God. I personally cannot understand those men who have been called as pastors of churches who neglect the pastoral care of the people committed to their charge. I cannot understand it. And I’m not expected to understand it, because it is part of the mystery of that iniquity which too frequently has overtaken those who have been called into the ministry.

You do not get your sermons from your people, but you get your sermons with your people. You get your sermons from the Word of God, but you must remember that the sermons which you deliver from the Word of God must be relevant. They must be practical in the particular situation in which you are. It is when you move among your people and become acquainted with their needs, become acquainted with the situation in which they are, become acquainted· with their thoughts, become acquainted with their philosophy, become acquainted with their temptations, that the Word of God which you bring forth from this inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and truth will be relevant and will not be abstract and unrelated.

“Second, in connection with this very same subject of pastoral care I charge you to be ready always to give an audience to your people. I mean an audience to them as individuals, or an audience to them as families. Be in such a relation to them that they will make you their confidant, and take good care that you will be their confidant. And as you will be their confidant, they will pour out to you the bitter experiences of their heart, the bitter experiences of their souls, of their lives. I charge you, my very dear friend, to be the instrument of dispensing, I say the instrument of dispensing the ‘oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ to those who are broken in heart and weary in the body.

“Now there is more, of course, involved in that ministration of comfort to the people of God in the temptations and the trials which necessarily overtake them in this life. You must also bring the counsel of God, the whole counsel of God, to bear upon them where they are. And it is just as you bring that whole counsel of God to bear upon them in your pastoral visitation, that you bring it to bear upon them precisely where they are. Remember that there are many who, in accordance with the address which you have heard already tonight, are going astray or are on the verge of going astray, or perhaps have always been astray. And remember the inestimable privilege that is yours, to convert the sinner from the error of his ways, to save a soul from death, and to hide a multitude of sins. ‘Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.’

Now thirdly and finally, I charge you to remember that you are the servant of Christ in this pastoral care which you will exercise. Oh, be friendly to your people, and be humble. Be clothed with humility for ‘God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’ Be clothed with humility in the pastoral visitations and the pastoral duties that you discharge because, if you are not humble, you will not only be offensive to God, but you will soon become offensive to all discerning people. Be friendly, be humble, realize your own limitations and be always ready to receive from those who are taught in the Word as they communicate unto you who teach. But remember that you are the servant of Christ and do not seek to please men, for if you should seek to please men, you are not the servant of Christ. And again, I repeat in that very same connection: Don’t be afraid to reprove, don’t be afraid to rebuke, just as you may not be afraid to exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.

“I give you these charges, in the humble expectation and the hope that you will become an example, that you will be an undershepherd, realizing at all times, that you will one day give an account to the great Arch-shepherd who himself gave, as the Shepherd of his sheep, His life, ‘that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’

“And I charge you, in constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit to be the minister, the administrator in Christ’s name, of that life which is nothing other than life everlasting.”

– A charge to Wayne F. Brauning, DMin 1993, at his ordination and installation as pastor of the Fifth Reformed Presbyterian Church, Phila., PA on October 13, 1960 by John Murray, prof. of systematic theology at Westminster.

Faithful Preaching?

How would you explain what faithful preaching is?  What is a Preacher? What is Preaching?

From the B&H Publishers website regarding a forthcoming book on preaching, Pastor Tony Merida asks these foundational questions to arrive at this overview of his widely anticipated book, Faithful Preaching:

faithful preachingWhat is a preacher? What is preaching? Pastor Tony Merida [teaching pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and assistant professor of Preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary] asks these foundational questions to arrive at this overview of his widely anticipated book, Faithful Preaching:

“Faithful preaching is the responsible, passionate, and authentic declaration of the Christ-exalting Scriptures, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the Triune God. Expository preaching is the best approach for accurately explaining and applying God’s Word, and for maintaining a God-centered focus in preaching. It also offers wonderful spiritual benefits to both the preacher and congregation. To be faithful expositors today, we must avoid the common problems associated with expository preaching such as boredom, irrelevancy, and Christless messages. Faithful preachers will usher the people through the text passionately and authentically, pointing them to Christ.” 

What say you?  How you you define or explain faithful preaching?  Let me know. 

Douglas Stuart on OT Exegesis

Douglas Stuart in his primer on Old Testament Exegesis writes:

To do OT exegesis properly, you have to be something of a generalist.  You will quickly become involved with the functions and meanings of words (lingustics); the analysis of literature and speech  (philology); theology; history; the transmission of the biblical writings (textual criticism); stylistics, grammar, and vocabulary analysis; and the vaguely defined yet inescabably important area of sociology.  Natural intuitive skills are helpful but no substitute for the hard work of careful firsthand research.  Exegesis as a process can be quite dull.  It’s results, fortunately, can often be exciting.  Exciting or not, the results should always at least be of genuine pratical value to the believer or somthing is wrong with the exegesis.  While this book is a primer, and hardly an exhaustive analysis of exegetical presuppositions or techniques, it ought to serve you well if your reason for learning exegesis is eventually to apply it’s benefits in Christian preaching or teaching.


So what is the goal of either OT or NT exegesis?  That’s right!  Application!   Without it your preaching or teaching will be empty, dull and pointless.  Without application points your sermon or teaching will not be a sermon or teaching – it would just be meaningless empty talk.   Stuart states later that he intentionally leaves out some parts of the exegetical process to the focus can remain on application, as it should be!

So what are some ways to draw out application points in OT Exegesis?

List the life issues: this means we try to draw out the most important (transferrable) life issues in the passage compared to the secondary or less important issues.  Are these life issues still a concern for us to day and if so, what are the implications?

Clarify the nature of the application: do the applications inform or direct the reader?  A passage the describes the love of God primairly informs whereas the passage that commands the love of God primarily directs.

Clarify the possible areas of application: does it promote faith or action? While these should remain together, they are distinct  and any given passage may focus on one more than the other. 

Identify the audience of the application:  There are two audiences of application: the personal and the corporate.  Is the passage dealing with individual issues or corporate ones? 

Establish the categories of application:  is the matter primarily personal or interpersonal?

Determine the time focus of the application: it is past, present, future?  Is the call immediate or is a more steady response needed?

Fix the limits of the application: it is often as valuable to explain how a passage does not apply as how it does apply.  In general, it is safest to limit potential applications as much as possible.  Limit applications to what the passage itself implies or leads to.

So that’s it folks!  Let me know what y’all think!

The collocation of Philippians 1:2

I am reposting this since I think it got overlooked:

Gordon Fee in his IVP commentary on the Philippians writes regarding Philippians 1:2:

philippiansIn a profound sense this greeting nicely represents Paul’s larger theological perspective.  The sum total of God’s activity towards his human creatures is found in the word grace; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ.   Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved.  The sum total of those benefits as they are expereinced by the recipients of God’s grace is peace, God’s shalom, both now and to come.  The latter flows out of the former, and both together flow from God our Father and were made effective in our human history through the Lord Jesus Christ

The collocation of the Father and Son in such texts as these must not be overlooked.  In the theology of Paul, whose central concern is salvation in Christ, God the Father is understood to initiate such salvation and his glory is its ultimate reason for being.  Christ is the One through whom God’s salvation has been effected in history.  But texts such as this one, where Father and Son are simply joined by the conjunction and as equally the source of grace and peace, and many others as well, make it clear that in Paul’s mind the Son is truly god and works in cooperation with the Father and the Spirit for the redemption of the people of God (43-44). 


I remember noticing this possibility when I was learning NT Greek at my home church back in Washington.   I think in my case I was noticing the preposition απο in Galatians 1:3 that grace and peace come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I was warned not to make too much of it, but when I see this comment by a premier NT Scholar, who happens to also be a Pentecostal, I take encouragement to know I was thinking in the right way. 

I preached this very thing this Sunday I and I think it went well – I just talked about grace and peace in as simple of terms as I could and then showed how they come only from God and that our ability to show grace to others is only because we have ourselves received grace from God and understand that.   I also shared about how when we step out of the grace of God we tend to not be at peace because peace is the benefit of walking in the grace of God.  When we step out of that we start to worry, fret, have trouble, and all sorts of other things.  When we walk in the grace and the mercy of God, however, those kinds of things tend to be minimized since we are at peace, which comes when we walk in grace and so on. 

This kind of greeting is important to because in Philippians Paul exhorts the believers to be unified and to be humble and concerned for each others needs and to be joyful in the midst of suffering or persecution.  These kinds of things are not possible if we are not walking in the grace of God and have peace in our hearts as a result – when we are not in grace we grumble, complain, argue, become selfish, not care for others and so on.  So I think knowing the benefits of grace and peace are important to understand if we are to understand the book of Philippians or if we are to understand what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ and to live accordingly. 

Be Blessed!

books on preaching (updated)

TC Robinson has a post campaigning for expository preaching.  Some like it some don’t.  Some know how to do it well, some do not.   It’s quite a discipline and takes work.  I tend to think this is why many pastors resort to topical and thematic preaching because they may not really know how to put together an expository sermon or may feel they don’t always have time so they resort to topical issues.  Here’s how I see it: no one form of preaching is necessarily better then another form per se.   There are those who esteem the expository sermon as being really the only true form of biblical preaching and that other forms are looked down upon.  I do not think that should be the case.   In following Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 I think there is a time the expositional preaching series and there’s the time for the textual sermon, and there is the time for the topical sermon series.   The good Pastor knows when to do which.  My approach would be, zero in on the exposition of scripture and as needed (following the Spirit’s leading) do the topical, textual, thematic, narrative sermon, etc.  Preaching is an art really more than a science.   While it has rules, there is flexibility and you learn to get the feel of it and soon develop your own style – and that takes time (and lots of preaching!). 

That said, here are a few books (among the plethora) I’ve found helpful for preaching (none of which are perfect).  I put them in what I would consider an order of importance:

James Braga’s How to Prepare Bible Messages, 35th Aniv Edition (Multnomah Books, 2005).   

This is a really great book to start out with, if not one of the best for learning the basics of putting a sermon together.  It used to be used a lot in colleges and seminaries but since Braga passed away in 1994, more “newer and better” books have come out.  Well, that’s all good and well, but if I taught a beginning homiletics course this book would be on the list.  It covers basic sermon structure and gives countless examples of outlines and the like.  It shows the basics for the topical, texual and expositional sermon.  A great place to start.   Very foundational

Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, 2nd, ed (Baker Academic, 2005). 

christ-centeredThis is probably the single best book available on developing skills in expositional preaching, and that from a primairly reformed perspective though easily applicable to nearly any orthodox theological persuasion.   This isn’t just a book on theories – its explcitly a “how to” book on designing, developing, and delivering expository sermons that are faithful to the text, redemptive in focus, and application-oriented in style.  There are a couple of main emphasis that set this book apart from the rest.  The first is in learning to identify the fallen condition focus (FCF) of the text to be preached.   This will help keep the sermon particularly Christ-centered and keep the sermon focused.  Too many sermons lack focus.   The other emphasis is on developing a sound balance between explanation, illustration, and application, which typically, many a serom goes too much on one or the other.  The fact that there is emphasis on developing application points is significant because it helps the preacher to contemporize the biblical text (bridge the gap), help people see abstract truth in a way that is concrete, pictoral, sensible, and drive home the practical significance of the Bible in a way the will encourage both personal and corporate life transformation. 

Michael Quicke’s 360 Degree Preaching: Hearning, Speaking, Living the Word (Baker Academic, 2003).  

360-preachingThis is one of my favorties.  He approaches preaching from a trinitarian perspective and introduces what he calls the preaching swim (how he goes about developing the sermon: immersion into Scripture, interpretation, sermon design, sermon delivery, and outcomes) and then gives one of his own sermons to show what he means.  On the issue of the trinitarian dynamic of preaching, he takes John Stott’s 180 degree approach (the preaching bridge in Between Two Worlds) and completes the circle.  Quicke sees the preaching act as “involving movement through the 360 degress of eventfulness as God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, – speaks through his Word and empowers the preacher and convicts the listeners and transforms the lives of preacher and the listeners.”  It’s good, good stuff.   I want to check out his book 360 Degree Leadership

Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Baker Academic, 2001).

biblical-preachingThis is the standard for expositonal sermons and is used by many a Bible college and Seminary.  Here you learn to zero in on the big idea and figure out what the key ideas are in the text you’ll be preaching, ask the “so  what?” question and so on.  The idea is that it is really important to have a central propostion or one main idea you are trying to communicate so the sermon maintains it focus – one main idea with upt to 3, not  more than 4-5 points used to develop the main idea.  The problem for new preachers is the tendecy to overload the sermon – try to say too much or present too many ideas.  That overwhelms both the preacher and the listener.   I just thought it was interesting at the end he talked about the preacher not being overweight so as to not undermine his message about basic aspects of Christian discipline and such.  I understood the point, but whatever.

Sidney Greidanus’ The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Eerdmans 1988). 

modern-preacherThis might be from the 80’s but I see it as by no means dated.  This is another one of my favorites.  Lots of good stuff, but most useful is the section where he talks about the different genre of the Bible and how to use that information in understanding the text and preaching it accordingly


Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Eerdman’s 2000). 

christian-scriptureThis is not a “how to” on designing and developing sermons so much as it focuses on understanding aspects of biblical theology and integrating biblical theology into your preaching.   It helps the reader think through such questions as “What is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments?”  “What is the central message of the bible?”  “How does each passage relate to the central message about Christ?”  “What does this mean to us as we seek to preach it?” and so on.   It emphasizes that the Christian Bible is the One Word Written of the One God about salvation in Jesus Christ.  It’s a book every preacher/teacher needs.   Get this book. 

Edmund P. Clowney.  Preaching Christ in All of Scripture.  Crossway, 2003. 

clowneyDon’t let the reformed nature of this approach scare you away.  Where appropriate we can and should preach Christ in all of Scripture, for in the words of John R. W. Stott, Jesus Christ is the center of history, the focus of Scripture, the heart of mission.  So, what makes a sermon distinctively Christian?  Christ does.  A truly Christian sermon from anywhere in the Bible must take into account the full drama of redemption and its realization in Christ.  If you want to preach Christ, get this book. 



That’s it for now. 

What preaching books have been helpful for you?  There are just so many out there. 

Martin Luther quote on Preaching

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and discrace if he flinches at that point.

As quoted in A Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy, Crossway, 1990, pg 11, in relation to the need to address various cultural shifts that reflect where people are intellectually at present in any given culture (referring to shifts away from belief in absolute truths).

Agree or disagree?

Robert H. Mounce on using Greek in Preaching

There is a strong temptation to convince a congregation of the correctness of one’s interpretation by adding the always popular “the Greek says.” If in fact the Greek DOES say that, then okay. But all too often it is the interpretation that lacks internal verification; instead, it’s supported by the slogan.

From his recent post over at Koinonia on Matthew 28:19 and the Participle as imperative.

Reformed Quote of the Day

Justin Taylor links a couple of interviews between C.J. Mahaney (of Sovereign Grace Ministries) and both Mark Dever and John Piper.  I found the stuff Mark Dever said somewhat a little more helpful but was simply amazed at Mahaney’s comment in how he perceives John Piper.  He wrote:

As you know, I cannot preach like John Piper. But what I have discovered over time is that great preachers like John, Charles Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards do model practices all preachers can emulate and benefit from.

What?  John Piper is on the list with Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards?  Hardly.  Why?  How?  I mean, I knew John Piper was the superstar preacher of most Reformed circles but Johnathan Edwards is probably the single greatest preacher and theologian in American History hands down.  Well, I guess this is just how I see it.  Amazing really.

Note on the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:5-15)

Matthew 6:9-15 (NLT)

9 Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c]

[c] Matthew 6:13 Or from evil. Some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


Keven Sam over at New Epistles has a blog post on the Lord’s Prayer and its being in perpetual error.  While it has been know for some time that the last line, know also as the Doxology, was most likely added for liturgical purposes – I don’t know too many who necessarily object to it’s presence.

The way I understand the Lord’s Prayer is as an index prayer.  In teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus was using the same means other Jewish teachers were using (Teacher’s of the Law?) (no Rabbi’s yet as we know them at that time).  I suppose this could be an instance of orality(?) in the Gospels and evidence of an oral culture and how teachings and prayers and things we’re passed on.  Notice how easy the Lord’s Prayer is to remember.  It’s supposed to be.

The Lord’s Prayer is not meant to be prayed by rote and Jesus prefaces his prayer with a case for what happens when we do pray by rote, nothing.  Rather, the Lord’s prayer is to be prayed line by line as a sort of topical guide on what to pray for/about.

It starts out with “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”  This is the indicator to keep first things first in prayer: Worship God! The NLT does to go highlight the subjunctive here with “may.”  This is not noted in most other translations.  But the point is to keep first things first: when you begin your time in prayer spend time worshiping God.

The prayer then moves on to the next topic: intercessory prayer.  It reads, “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  This is the indicator to pray for the coming of the kingdom, the in breaking of the Kingdom, if you will, into the world and into the lives of people both in your circle of influence and in general.

And so on. The next line is for supplication, which is fine and appropriate – just not as the first thing prayed about.  Finally then there is the doxology at the end – I think it is fitting as an inclusio – it reminds us to, again, keep first things first, worshiping God in prayer, because indeed – God’s is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen!

All that to say I support praying the doxology at the end of the Lord’s (or Disciple’s) Prayer!


Edit: I just wanted to note I am not saying the Lord’s prayer should not be said all the way through – what I do is say the Lord’s prayer through once and then go back and pray it line by line.

How to be Pentecostal in a Postmodern Society

I think this is a solid presentation by Earl Creps, now former director of the DMin program at AGTS on the role of the Holy Spirit in a secular society.  Here he is speaking to campus pastors but I think it can apply to just about any setting Let me know what you think.

Here is the linkStill trying to figure out how to embed the video into the blog.  I got it now, what I did wrong is try to cut and paste the embed code into the blog when instead it was better for me to add a video link under the “add media” part of the blog post.