Carl Trueman on preaching and the Trinity
Carl gave us three sessions on the Trinity last week at our autumn ministers conference. Session 1 was some historical background – 500 years of history in 45 minutes, a useful recap. You can watch it here. Session 3 were Carl's practical applications of the doctrine of the Trinity and preaching. You can watch it here. But best of all was the link between the Trinity and preaching, session 2 (below). It's an exceptional defence of the priority of preaching without becoming either too mystical or, on the other hand, too cavalier about preaching.
Autumn Ministers music
Some of the delegates asked what we sang at the autumn ministers conference and whether we could post a list and links. So here goes:
- Great is thy faithfulness
- I will glory in my Redeemer
- My heart is filled with thankfulness
- O great God of highest heaven
- Let us sing the King Messiah (we sung this to the tune Regent Square)
- See what a morning
- Who has held the oceans in his hand
- By faith we see the hand of God
- There is a higher throne
- We trust in thee our shield and our defender
- All people that on earth do dwell
- Before the throne of God above
- Your glorious cause O Lord
- Yes finished the Messiah dies. There's no online link for the music for this. You need to find a book called The Bridge for John Kelly's excellent hymn tune.
Vaughan Roberts at Autumn Ministers Conference
This is 25 minutes well spent. Vaughan introduced our recent autumn ministers conference with a brief look at Luke 6 and challenges for all those in ministry about keeping going. Turn off the phone, shut the door, open your Bible and listen carefully.
What is the mission of the church?
Kevin deYoung and Greg Gilbert's new book is an important one, I think. I enjoyed reading it pre pub and now it's out. Even if you don't agree with it all, it's a model of gracious argument. Nonetheless, I do think it has some critical observations to make about mission. It's certainly caused quite a stir. The Gospel Coalition website carries two useful articles, a critical review by Ed Stetzer and a thorough response from the authors. Elsewhere, and more briefly, Trevin Wax asked the authors five critical questions (here). You can read their answers here. For my money, I enjoyed most the analysis by Michael Horton over at the White Horse Inn.
There's a danger with such books of course that we only ever read the reviews. That's not good. Buy the book and read it for yourself. That's what we've got the Cornhill students to do. Next week is their reading week and this is one of the volumes the guys will be reading and then discussing when they return.
Just so you know what I’m worth
As a preacher, my worth is not derived from:
- the time I start in the office
- the time I finish in the office
- how early I get up to pray
- how good a preacher I am
- whether I can write a good set of Bible study questions
- the number of unbelievers in my contact book
- how regular I am at every church gathering and side meeting
- the number of books on my shelves
- the number of readers of my blog
- how many facebook friends I have
No, as preacher, as a Christian.
My worth is entirely and solely and eternally derived by being in Christ, joined in wonderful and mystical union to the eternal Son of God who died for me and rose for my justification. That is my worth. But it is not without effect and implication as a preacher. Being in Christ, I will:
- work hard and use my time wisely
- get up early to spend time with my glorious King
- strive to proclaim him clearly as I should
- write Bible study questions that will help others know him better
- seek to meet unbelievers to tell them about him
- try to be with God's people at every opportunity
- buy and read books that will build my faith and help me understand the Bible better
- in my ministry, encourage others to serve him well, perhaps through writing a blog
- keep in contact with other ministers, say through facebook
It's not so much WHAT I do, do you see? It's WHY I do it. It's my heart that always needs searching and changing.
No impressions in the pulpit OR what we can learn from Jimmy Saville
Preachers should not do impressions. Impressions rarely work as this rather hilarious Jimmy Saville clip from straight-laced Peter Donaldson doing the six o'clock news bulletin on Radio 4 shows. And yet, very often, we do end up preaching just like our heroes. A generation of free church pastors tried to be Lloyd-Jones just as a generation of Anglicans tried to be Stott. And those two generations have found, in general, that it doesn't work! These days the heroes to emulate are more diverse (thanks to the internet) but probably more listened to and accessible (thanks to the internet). That's not to say we can't learn from greats. But we should not seek to replicate them. The issue is, at its root, theological. Preaching is God's ordained means of making his presence known through the faithful exposition of Scripture by a man – that's you. That means your personality, your nature, your person are a key part of God's preaching plan. That is not to make much of you (you after all, a jar of clay), but to make much of him and display his power. When you or I try to be someone else we're cutting against the grain of the theology of preaching.
So, no impressions in the pulpit. Go listen to Peter Donaldson once more. Laugh. And then repeat to yourself. "No more impressions in the pulpit."
Sure you’ve got the torn curtain sorted?
One interesting aside from last week's conference was that Carl suggested that we may have got the torn curtain wrong (or at least, not wholly right). He explained that the tearing verb was only here and in Mark 1 when the heavens are torn at Jesus' baptism. That would imply not so much that we could enter the inner sanctum (after all, there is no temple any more), but that God breaks out! With the death of Jesus the presence of the living God breaks out and who does it reach first? The centurion, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" I like the idea! It was only an aside so no real time to explore and think, for example, how that fits with Hebrews 10.19.
Do pray for our brother David Robertson, minister of St Peter's Free Church of Scotland in Dundee. He is very seriously ill with a heart infection which seems to have spread and it seems touch and go. David spoke at this year's EMA and has an important ministry at St Peter's and through Solas. But we also know that to be with Christ is 'better by far.' We are torn, of course, but pray for recovery and for sustaining of his ministry. St Peter's was McCheyne's church, and one of his hymns seems apposite (quoted last week by Dick on our Ministers Conferencce):
When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o'er life's finished story,
Then Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then – how much I know.
Preaching and the Trinity – notes from the conference
Here are my rather garbled notes from Carl Trueman's session last night. An excellent apologtic for faithful preaching. Just a week and you can have audio/video as well!
- Words are the standard mode of God's presence. God is a God who speaks, this is foundational. God is often characterised by speech. Gen 1 and John 1 both reinforce this truth. The first divine action in the Bible is God speaking. God then maintains relationship with his creatures through speech (Gen 1.28 for example and on into Gen 2). Relationships with the living God are linguistic. God's speech makes him present in an obvious intentional way. The absence of God is described as a famine of words (Amos 8). Idols in the Old Testament are always marked by silence (Psalm 115). However, we also need to say that:
- The Spirit is the means by which God's presence comes in the created realm. This, of course, creates an immediate close link between Word and Spirit. This is clear throughout the Old Testament, and the Spirit does in the New Testament what he does in the Old. He is the agent of God's presence and activity. There are clear parallels between God's Word and his Spirit. Q89 of Westminster Shorter Catechism: How is the Word made effectual to salvation? A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation. If you want a proof text then read Deuteronomy! So often the language used of the Word is indistinguishable from the language of the Spirit – e.g. 'living and active.'
Why does the doctrine of the Trinity give us confidence in preaching?
Where do you find a gracious God? Answer: in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The obvious follow up question is Where do you find the Lord Jesus Christ. Luther said, it is in the preached word of God. The word combined with the Spirit is the means of God's presence. So, we can have confidence that if we preach the word, Christ will be present by his Spirit. This view avoids the kind of mysticism where the Spirit and the Word are separated. 'I didn't feel my preaching went well.' That is neither here nor there. If we faithfully preached Christ, then the Spirit is there. The word of God written and spoken has an objectivity which is not determined by the morality or status of the preacher.
It also pushes us towards a Christ centred approach of Biblical interpretation. The Spirit's task is to point to Christ. Preaching that is Christ centred in its content will be Spirit filled in its delivery whether you feel it or not. Indifference to the word is no sign of absence of the Spirit – read Jeremiah! This truth also gives us humility. If our preaching is met with blessing it is nothing to do with us! This truth also gives us excitement. Our triune God has always existed in this dynamic relationship. Our preaching is the preaching of a dynamic God who does dynamic things. Preaching should be exciting! Things happen when preaching takes place.
OK, so some quotes are OK
Just been listening to a wonderfully heart warming sermon by Johnny Prime at the FIEC leaders conference. Having said that we should use quotes sparingly last week, Johnny proved me wrong with two apposite and helpful quotes. Here they are: Spurgeon:
“Today there is not very much gospel about; the church has given it up; a great many preachers preach everything but the living truth. This is sad; but it is a strong reason why you and I should teach more gospel than ever. I have often thought to myself – Other men may teach socialism, deliver lectures or collect a band of fiddlers, that they may gather a congregation; but I will preach the gospel. I will preach more gospel than ever, if I can; I will stick more to the one cardinal point. The other brethren can attend to the odds and ends, but I will keep to Christ crucified. To the men of vast ability, who are looking to the events of the day, I would say, “Allow one poor fool to keep to preaching the gospel.” Beloved teachers, be fools for Christ, and keep to the gospel. Don’t you be afraid: it has life in it, and it will grow; only you bring it out, and let it grow.” Charles Spurgeon
When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.