Preaching for Holiness

In my previous post, I shared the convicting and informative teaching I received from reading Joel Beeke’s, Reformed Preaching, in the chapter on Major Elements in Reformed Experiential Preaching.   There, he dealt with the holiness of the preacher. For today’s post, I want to share with you 10 points of holiness or spirituality that Beeke suggests the preacher ought to be working toward in the lives of the congregation, those listening to the sermons.

Have you ever thought about why preaching the Word of God is at the very center of Reformed Worship?  Our coming together on Sunday isn’t merely to get recharged and energized for the week, nor is it all about fellowship with other saints in Christ.  These are blessings, to be sure. Rather, our time of worship together is primarily about glorifying God in praise and in the hearing and obeying of His Word. The sermon is central to worship because it is in the faithful and regular hearing of the Word, read and proclaimed, that we mature into the likeness of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here are, then, the 10 things that the reformed preacher ought to be working toward in His congregation.

The Holiness of the People

What kind of spirituality does Reformed preaching aim to produce by the power of the Spirit? It is spiritually rooted in faith in Christ as the only Mediator and fruitful in reverential love for the sovereign God. To draw out what this looks like in more detail, I will follow the outline that Hughes Oliphant Old offers in his sketch of reformed spirituality. These are the sorts of things that Reformed preaching cultivates in the life of the people.

  1. The Spirituality of the Word.  When you preach the Word, call people to immerse themselves in it. Exhort them to become Psalm 1 Christians, who meditate on the Bible day and night, and walk in its ways with delight.
  2. The Spirituality of Praying the Psalms. Reformed spirituality is a spirituality of the Psalter… praying the psalms, singing and meditating on them, not only at Church but at family prayers every day of the week.” Preachers should constantly hold up to the church a lifestyle of continual prayer and praise.
  3. The Spirituality of the Lord’s Day. The sanctification of the Lord’s Day is not a Sabbatarian legalism; rather, it secures a day of peace, rest, refreshment, prayer and love for God’s people. Teach people to “call the sabbath a delight” so that they can “delight [themselves] in the Lord” (Isa. 58:13-14).
  4. The Spirituality of Works of Mercy. Apply the sweet and amazing love of God to our duty to love our fellow human beings at the point of physical suffering and spiritual ministry. Build bridges between heavenly doctrine and earthly mercy.
  5. The Spirituality of the Lord’s Supper. The rich piety of the Table is nurtured first of all through meditation leading up to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is not automatic conferral of grace, but an exercise of faith. Let your preaching before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper call believers to a rich feast in Jesus Christ. Help them to look through the bread and wine as through a window into heaven to see the love, forgiveness, and empowering grace of God for them.
  6. The Spirituality of Stewardship.  In the Reformation, the idea of stewardship transformed believers’ views of money and work. Businessmen, housewives, farmers, bankers, those caring for the elderly, and craftsmen came to see themselves as entrusted with a sacred vocation or calling to serve the Lord. Teach the congregation to rule their money, time, and talents for the Lord, and not to let their resources rule them.
  7. The Spirituality of Meditating on God’s Ways. This refers not just to meditating on Scripture, but to meditating on God’s works in our lives through the lens of Scripture. If you guide your flock to think often about God’s gracious ways with them, they will find much comfort in trials.
  8. The Spirituality of Evangelism and Missions.  The spirituality of God’s eternal purposes has often let to an evangelistic, missionary spirituality. The covenant blesses us to be a blessing to the world.
  9. The Spirituality of Godly Fellowship. Reformed spirituality encourages fellowship among the godly for mutual encouragement. It is relational, not individualistic. Teach the people the privileges of being active members of the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). Warn them against isolating themselves or trying to go it alone. Encourage spiritual friendships and mutual accountability.
  10. The Spirituality of Heavenly-Minded Obedience. Reformed spirituality produces zeal for obeying God’s laws and standing against worldliness.  Preachers must show people that his is not legalism because it is rooted in love for God. To obey God’s laws is to follow Jesus in the pathway of rejoicing in and walking according to divine love. Preach obedience to the law by the grace of Christ. The law is not means for sinners to find justification before God, but it is also no enemy of grace.
* Beeke, Joel R. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. (Crossway Publishers; Wheaton, Ill, 2018) pgs 67-69.

The Preacher’s Holiness

I’ve been greatly blessed as I have recently begun reading through Joel Beeke’s book, Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People*.  This is, as with all the other Beeke books I’ve read, an insightful, thorough, and Biblically faithful work that has both encouraged and challenged me as a Pastor. I grant that most people won’t be rushing out to purchase this book unless they are a preacher, but that is unfortunate.  The book doesn’t just teach what good reformed, experiential preaching looks like; it also examines the heart of the experiential preacher.

On that note, I thought I’d share with you some highlights from the chapter on the Major Elements of Reformed Experiential Preaching, specifically those on “The Holiness of the Preacher.” As I read this I was humbled and convicted, reminded of the high calling of the ministry of the world, and renewed in seeking God’s grace to make me the preacher He has called me to be.  Perhaps as you read this you can know how best to be praying for your preacher (and if that’s me, thank you!).

The Holiness of the Preacher

It is impossible to separate godly living from true experiential ministry. 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.

Here are three characteristics:

  1. They are God-Fearing Gospel Believers. Their lives pulsate with the power of the gospel. They are single-minded men who fear God rather than swivel-headed men who fear other people. Fearing God, they esteem his smiles and frowns to be of greater weight than the smiles and frowns of men.
  2. They Manifestly Love the People to Whom They Minister. There is no aloofness in the experiential preacher, no professional distance from the people. As Richard Baxter writes, “The whole of our ministry must be carried on in a tender love to our people… They should see that we care for no outward things, neither wealth nor liberty nor honor nor life in comparison with their salvation.”
  3. Their Lives Manifest the Fruits of a Growing Experience of God. When a preacher ceases to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, his preaching begins to stagnate. James Stalker (1848-1927) says, “The hearers may not know why their minister with all his gifts does not make a religious impression on them. But it is because he is not himself a spiritual power.”
    Scripture says there should be no disparity between the character of a man who is called to proclaim God’s Word and the content of his message. Ministers are called to be experientially holy in their private relationships with God, in their roles as husbands and fathers at home, and in their callings as shepherds among their people, just as they appear to be holy in the pulpit.
    Scripture says there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the character of a man’s life as a Christian and his usefulness as a minister (2 Tim 2:20-22). A minister’s work is usually blessed in proportion to the sanctification of his heart before God. Ministers therefore must seek grace to build the house of God with sanctified lives as well as by sound experiential preaching and doctrine. Their preaching must shape their lives, and their lives must adorn their preaching.

I pray that this may be said of me.


* Beeke, Joel R. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. (Crossway Publishers; Wheaton, Ill, 2018) pgs 67-69.