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.

My Current Reading List

I have the habit of reading several books at once. I don’t know if this is good for me or not. On the positive side, it keeps me thinking about a wide variety of topics all at the same time. On the other hand, it takes me forever to finish a book, and when I’m finished, I sometimes have a hard time keeping everything straight.

I thought I’d take the opportunity with this Midweek Message to share the books that I’m currently reading, with a brief synopsis and an encouragement for you to keep reading.

kingThe King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic) by Thomas Schreiner.  Biblical Theology studies the unifying themes of the Bible in their own historical setting, in its own terms, and forms; learning who God is and what God is doing through the ongoing story of Scripture. I have just started The King In His Beauty, but already I am loving the study of Scripture and the emerging themes that will unfold through the rest of the book. It’s almost ike reading a commentary that was written in story form.

baxterWalking with God (GLH Publishing) by Richard Baxter. I try to always have an old pastoral book on my reading list to keep me well rounded, and Baxter is one of my favorites. Baxter was an English Puritan of the 17th century (i.e., Presbyterian), a theologian and pastor most noted for his book, The Reformed Pastor. Reading the Puritans is not always easy, they love to make lists (and lists within lists), and they exhaust a topic before moving on to the next, so you really have to commit to ploughing through the reading. But the treasure is worth he work. “Walking with God” studies what it means to be in communion with God and to love him above everything else. Baxter’s work is challenging, but encouraging all the while.

elderFinding Faithful Elders and Deacons (Crossway), by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s that time of the year again when we as a church prayerfully consider nominating men to serve as Deacons and Elders. This is not light work, and I’ve been studying and praying, not just about who should serve, but how I can work to develop discipling relationships to help identify and train future leaders in the church. Anyabwile’s book is a quick read, but incredibly informative and practical.

The Wholwholee Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson. Admittedly, when I bought this book for a reading group I’m in, I had never heard of the Marrow Controversy, but I love Sinclair Ferguson, and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read of his. The Whole Christ included. Recounting the Marrow Controversy of the 8th Century Church of Scotland which was essentially a divide over Legalism, Antinomianism, and the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works, Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

nameName above all Names (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg. I picked this one up because I wanted to read something that wasn’t necessarily a theological study of Christ, but a biblical study on who Christ is and what He has one. Name above all Names is a reflection on 7 key qualities of Jesus’ identity and ministry, offering a meditation on the character of Christ. In case you didn’t notice, it’s another book by Sinclair Ferguson, with my second favorite scotsman preacher, Alistair Begg as well.

Studies on Daniel – As I am preaching through the book of Daniel for the next couple of months, I’m also reading a couple of commentaries on Daniel which I thought I’d mention here:

daneilPreaching Christ from Daniel (Eerdmans) by Sidney Greidanus. – In Preaching Christ from Daniel Sidney Greidanus shows preachers and teachers how to prepare expository messages from the six narratives and four visions in the book of Daniel. Using the most up-to-date biblical scholarship, Greidanus addresses foundational issues such as the date of composition, the author(s) and original audience of the book, its overall message and goal, and various ways of preaching Christ from Daniel. Throughout his book Greidanus puts front and center God’s sovereignty, providence, and coming kingdom. (from the website)

chapellThe Gospel According to Daniel (Baker) by Bryan Chapell. (From the cover) Often we read the book of Daniel in one of two ways – either as a book about a heroic man whose righteousness should inspire us to keep the faith, or as a roadmap to the end times that can, through careful study, tell us the day and hour (or nearly so) of Christ’s return. Both, says Bryan Chapell, are sadly missing the bigger picture – that God is the hero of the story, and he is in the midst of his unrelenting plan to rescue his people from their sin and its consequences. Pastors, teachers, and any Christian who wants to learn how to faithfully understand the book of Daniel without getting derailed by hero worship or prophetic mystery will value this grace-centered approach.

boiceDaniel: An Expositional Commentary (Baker), by James Boice. Boice was the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia, and his sermons were heard around the world on The Bible Hour. His commentaries give a verse by verse study of the text, and help apply the text to the readers experience. Reading Boice’s commentary is like reading his sermons, and it has been very encouraging as I approach the difficult task of preaching through Daniel.