1 and 2 Timothy, we read about a great concern of the Apostle Paul, given to
his son in the ministry.
what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the
opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. (1 Timothy 6:20, NIV)
That is why I
am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed,
and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for
that. (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)
Guard the good
deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit
who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:14, NIV)
the good deposit. What is the “good deposit?” It is, of course, the
apostle’s doctrine of Acts 2.42. It is the gospel of grace that Paul labored
for and defended in Acts 15 and in Galatians. It is the Word of God.
this Word of God. That is my concern, and that is your concern if you are a
pastor. This concern of Paul’s, and mine and yours, is given in the context
of following one who has kept it. In other words, the “good deposit”
has made it through one pastor, and is now like a distance runner handing a
baton off to another runner-being entrusted to you. What are the implications?
How is this to be done? How can we “guard the deposit” in our generation?
show us how to guard the deposit for the glory of Your name. I pray for the
sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in His name. Amen.
you ever seen the old Disney children’s movie, Dumbo? There is a scene
in that quaint old movie when the circus parade comes to town, and you see the
elephants linked nose-to-tail, forming an unbroken chain of giants. But what
is really funny is not just to see a smaller giant named Dumbo linked up, but
at the very end of the parade of giants is a little mouse named Timothy, hanging
on to the tail of the elephant. I feel like saying, “Hello. My name is
Timothy! I am a mouse following a parade of giants, and I probably need therapy!”
followed one of the most extraordinary orators in the church in the twentieth
century. Ben Haden was (is) an amazing speaker with a one-of-a-kind delivery,
a worldwide television ministry, and an amazing pastoral record. He served faithfully
for over 30 years. There are stories all over town, all over the country, about
the homiletical and pastoral feats of my esteemed predecessor. Now I knew I
was following that giant, but little did I know that there had been a veritable
pastoral parade of pulpit pacaderms in Chattanooga for over a century and a
Ben Haden was a Dr. Fowle, who wore a morning suit replete with Edwardian tails.
His voice boomed Biblical exposition in our sanctuary for 38 years. During the
week, he taught Bible at the University of Chattanooga. He was renowned for
his city ministry. Hospital wings and entire buildings are named for him. I
was told that he never took a salary but gave it all to the church. I always
squirm when I hear that one.
him was a man who was a great scholar, a Dr. Venable, who died five years into
his pastorate. His son, 80 years old, is my clerk of session, and I am pastor
to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Dr. Venable was Dr. Bachman, who served for 50 years, a former moderator of
the old Southern Presbyterian Church, and was named the Chaplain of Chattanooga.
He also distinguished himself as a chaplain in the Confederate Army. He was,
moreover, a leader in the old Southern Presbyterian Church, a leader in academics,
and a leader in the community. He dedicated the cornerstone of our present historic
downtown church by depositing in it, literally, the Westminster Confession of
Faith and catechisms, the hymn book, the minutes of the General Assembly of
that year, the rolls of missionaries supported, and the membership roll of our
church at that time. He was a man bigger than life in many ways. His opening
prayer for the sanctuary is engraved in marble over the portico of our church
building. He always wore a clerical collar. I have a picture of him fly fishing,
and he still had a collar on. I read that he never turned his light off on the
porch of the manse for the same reason he never took off that collar. He wanted
to always be available and for them to know that a minister was ready to meet
their spiritual needs.
Dr. Bachman was a Dr. McCallie. If anyone has any question as to his pastoral
legacy, you need only look out to see the street sign. Our church sits on McCallie
Avenue. There is a school that he and his sons founded called The McCallie School
for Boys. When every other minister left the city during the occupation of Chattanooga
during the Civil War, Dr. McCallie stayed, ministering to Union and Confederate
could go on. But suffice it to say that all of the 11 pastors before
me were godly, powerful, and noted for their holiness and their faithfulness
to the Word of God. When you walk through the foyer just outside our sanctuary,
you are overwhelmed by the larger-than-life oil paintings of these great men
I was called to this venerable pulpit, Mae and I were introduced to the officers,
and they presented me with a crystal that reads, “To Michael Anthony Milton,
12th Senior Pastor in 161 Years.” I accepted it with humility, but also
with fear. The words made me feel small and helpless. I have a friend who often
says that he feels like Barney Fife in the presence of John Wayne. I felt that
way as I came into that pastorate. At times, as I move from my study to the
sanctuary on a Sunday morning and pass through the hall of heroes, I still feel
that those grand oil paintings of those holy men of God are hovering over me
with a stern look, reminding me not to goof up what they had worked so hard
to build! For I know my sin. I know my limitations. How can I follow Ben Haden,
Dr. Fowle, Dr. Venable, Dr. Bachman, and Dr. McCallie? More than that, I had
heard the horror stories of following in the footsteps of famous, long-tenured
pulpiteers. In fact, when I was called to the church, many of my friends, like
Bildad and Elihu, questioned whether God was smiling on me or judging me. Even
my old mentor, Dr. D. James Kennedy, under whom I completed my internship for
the ministry, reminded me that it is a hard thing to follow a great preacher.
Perhaps he will remind the man who follows him of that observation.
right,” you say. “So you’ve followed a tall steeple man. What is that
to me? And how does your experience and insights impact my ministry?” Well,
your pastorate may be different, in context, in size, larger, smaller, or different
in many things. However, there are things in this matter that concern all of
us. For aren’t we all following in a line of godly preachers? And who among
us feels worthy to the task of standing between God and man, announcing God’s
Word to men, and standing with men and women to petition God for help in their
time of need. You may not follow Ben Haden (who, incidentally, has been wonderful
to me), but you do follow Spurgeon, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards,
and the college of preachers who stretch across denominational and ethnic lines
all the way back to Paul, John, Moses, and our Lord Jesus Himself. All of us
deal with questions about our pastorate:
• How can
we be faithful in our ministries?
• How can we have a ministry approved by God?
• How can we have an effective pastorate?
• How can our ministries, our preaching, support church health?
• How can we have power in our ministries?
are significant answers to those questions that may be located in the Bible,
cultivated through prayer, study, consecration, and dying to ourselves. But
I want to consider one single answer, and to do so from the Word of God: 2 Timothy
3:16 through 4:1-5. There, a little pastor named Timothy, just like the name
of the mouse in Dumbo, who followed a ministry giant, a pastoral pacaderm named
Paul, is instructed on how to latch on to the legacy. Hear the Word:
I charge you
in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and
the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready
in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience
and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound* teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit
their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander
off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the
work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4.1-5 ESV)1
just say it and let the power and the possibility for failure sink in: Timothy
was pastor of the church planted by Paul. When I feel really challenged,
I think of Timothy. The elders at Ephesus had fallen on the neck of Paul and
wept over his departure at Miletus. Three years of powerful ministry gave Paul
the right to call them to shepherd the Church of God that He had purchased with
His own blood. And Paul, in his swan song at the twilight of his remarkable
ministry, reminded Timothy how he had to follow Him. He gave the secret to power.
He lifted a mouse (no, his words were so divine and powerful that they magically
transformed the mouse into an elephant), a giant linked to his ministry, and
linked to Jesus Christ, powered by Almighty God Himself. And what did Paul commend?
He commended the Word of God, and after calling it God-breathed, he charged
a God-called man to preach. The answer to the question, “How do mice latch
on to elephants?” is neither original nor surprising. Like Charles Hodge
addressing new students at old Princeton, I, too, say to you, “I glory
in saying that you will learn nothing new here.” But it is an answer that
every frail follower of pulpit giants must remember:
only way for a mousy man like me to follow a giant like Ben Haden is through
expository preaching. The only way for any of us to stand in the long
and honorable legacy of gospel preachers is through expository preaching.
I offer eight concise reasons why expository preaching is the power for the
pastorate, whatever your situation.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Divinely Wrought.
way for Timothy to take his place as “[the] beloved child [of Paul]”
(1:2), to latch on the legacy of “faith that dwelt first in [his] grandmother
Lois and [his] mother Eunice” (1:5), to “fan into flame the gift of
God” (1:6) which was transferred through the apostolic laying on of hands
of Paul himself (1:6), to overcome a “spirit” of “fear”
(1:7), to “guard the good deposit entrusted to [him]” (1:14), to teach
others what he has learned from Paul, thus extending the apostolic succession
to another generation (2:1-2), to avoid getting “entangled” (2:4)
with “civilian pursuits” (2:4), to proclaim and teach the whole counsel
of God, from the old covenant to the new covenant (as Paul speaks of in 2:8-13)
“for the sake of the elect that they may obtain the salvation that is in
Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” “to take his place,” to “flee
youthful passions and purse righteousness” (2:22), and to do all of the
things he is charged to do at Ephesus like: reminding the saints not to quarrel
about words (2:14), to “avoid irreverent babble” (2:16), to correct
his opponents with the aim of leading them to repentance and a knowledge of
the truth (2:25) so that they may avoid “snare of the devil” (2:26)
– to say it again – the way to be this man and conduct this ministry
is – khrucon ton logon – to preach the Word.
Paul makes it clear that the Word of God alone is able to meet the mission of
the preacher. The reason this is so is that the Word of God is the authoritative
instrument from the throne of God to accomplish God’s mission in the world.
We remember that Paul’s admonition to “preach the word” follows his
teaching that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that
the man of God may be competent for every good work” (3:16-17). Paul had
been building up to say that in everything he had written previously.
love the way Dr. Robert L. Reymond puts it, “the Bible is a Word from
another World.” In his New Systematic Theology of the Christian
Faith, Reymond writes, “When God gave his Word to us; he gave us much
more than simply basic information about himself. He gave us the pou sto
(“[a place] where I may stand”), or base that justifies both our knowledge
claims and our claims to personal significance.”2
Word of God is the place where the pastor may stand. Indeed, our very existence,
our calling, our vocation only have meaning through this Word. I recently read
J.C. Ryle’s wonderful Warning to the Churches,3
in which the old Bishop of Liverpool warned his diocesan ministers of the perils
they faced. The book left me amazed at his prophetic gifts and understanding
of the times. I do not have such gifts, I am sure. But I do want to raise a
danger related to the matter before us.
live in an ever increasing iconoclastic culture that demands image and entertainment
to communicate, that tells the preacher that short sound bytes are more persuasive
than exposition of a text, that narrative is of more importance than the exposition
of a text, that postmodern man cannot endure direct teaching, but needs to make
the homeletical turns for himself. I say that this is a danger to the preaching
of the Word, to evangelism, and to discipleship. And in the midst of such an
age, we would all do well to remember that God called for Israel to do something
that the heathen did not do, to think about Him in His Word, not in image. The
late Neil Postman, a non-practicing Jew, saw this clearly. The God of the Jews
was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring
the highest order of abstract thinking. Iconography, thus, became blasphemy,
so that a new kind of God could enter a culture. People like ourselves, who
are in the process of converting their culture from word-centered to image-centered,
might profit by reflecting on the Mosaic injunction.
Word, my beloved brothers in the ministry, is the God-given place where we may
stand, where we may reason, where we may dialogue with man. Indeed, we have
been forbidden to go elsewhere. As a pastor, the reason that I want to focus
on expository preaching – that is, proclaiming the inerrant and infallible
Word of the living God as it is written, as it has been transmitted to me by
God through the church, passing muster with the intent of the author, with conviction
in my own life, and with love for those before me – is because expository
preaching fixes itself, by its best definition, onto God’s Word, divinely wrought
and divinely authorized. This has powerful implications for my ministry that
I want to explore further.
only way for me to stand in the company of pulpit giants is to stand with this
Word from another world. The truth is, if they are truly giants in the church,
if they are linked from Spurgeon, to Ryle, to M’Cheyne, to Whitefield, to Bunyan,
to Luther, to Calvin, to Wycliffe, to Augustine, to Paul, to Jesus and the prophets,
then they are men of this one Book, and that is all they have to say. This leads
me to a second reason that we must cling to expository preaching in order to
find our place in the accredited college of godly preachers.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Biblically
have seen that Paul tells Timothy to preach the Word, and we all know why. Preach
the Word because the Word is divinely wrought. It is God’s Word, and what could
be nobler? If there were no other reasons to proclaim His Word other than the
mere fact that the Bible is His Word? that would be enough. The matter, then,
becomes how shall we do it? To “preach” the Word must be to faithfully
communicate that Word (from another world). Expository preaching, properly understood
and properly done, fulfills this mandate.
preaching is, as Al Mohler put it in his contribution to Give Praise to God:
A Vision for Reforming Worship: “Expository preaching is that mode
of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and
application of the text of the Bible.”4 And if expository
preaching is really exposing the mind of God in a given text and communicating
the mind of God to men and women, then no other methodology will do.
Temple was not an expository preacher, though he said enough good things that
we often quote him. But the old Bishop of Canterbury did not believe that God
would communicate His Word propositionally in the Bible because man could not
understand it even if He did. Temple did not believe in the inerrancy and infallibility
of the Bible. Temple did believe that you could understand what he wrote; otherwise,
he wouldn’t have written anything, but that is another argument.5
Enough to say, that if we believe that the power for our ministries is the Bible,
as Paul teaches us, then it surely follows that expository preaching is the
only model we should seek in communicating that Word.
an adjunct professor who gets to teach preaching every now and then, and who,
as a pastor, gets to mentor younger preachers before sending them to other places
of service, the subject of “the future of expository preaching” in
light of post modernity and post Christian America is a hot topic. I have found
that many are wrestling with the question of whether such communication really
can reach across the widening and ever-changing rivers of modern culture to
reach the hearts of an emerging generation. The realities of the emerging generation
cause them to question expository preaching, and, in fact, have led several
on a journey to “find their voice,” as they tell me. I’m happy to
say that many of these with whom I have met have worked through that question
to re-discover the power of expository preaching for this generation.
whole matter of whether expository preaching can effectively communicate to
a postmodern, post-everything generation (as Tim Keller calls our times) is
a question that has been answered time-and-time again. For if we are preaching
the very Word of God, then surely God knows what we need in every age. This
Word worked in the fallen ruins of Eden when God promised a Savior in Genesis
3:15. The Word worked in Genesis 12 when God’s Word provided promises to Abraham
for a land, a nation, and a blessing that would reach around the world. God’s
Word was enough in 586 BC in the crumbled remains of Jerusalem when a weeping
prophet named Jeremiah preached through tears. God’s Word worked in first century
Rome when Paul preached it. It worked in the 18th century in America when George
Whitefield roared out its truths up and down the colonial coast. It worked in
the 19th century in Korea when missionaries preached there, and it worked in
industrial Dundee, Scotland, when Robert Murray M’Cheyne preached there. It
worked in the 20th century, the bloodiest century in the world’s history, when
modernity overtook the West and men such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones thundered from
a world capital such as London. And it will work in the 21st century, in postmodern
and post-Christian North America, as it will work in China, Africa, India, and
in Bulgaria. The Word will work in Chattanooga, will free slaves to sin in Miami,
give abundant life in Los Angeles, renew cold-hearted saints in Des Moines,
restore marriages in Peoria, reunite severed relationships in Louisville, sprinkle
the spirit of holiness in New Orleans, call new missionaries out of Kansas City,
and save souls from Hell in Bangor, Seattle and Paducah. The power of our ministries
is expository preaching because, if what we have to say is the Word of God,
how we say it matters. And expository preaching, rightly followed, is the way
to say it.
I have said that expository preaching is powerful because it is the Word of
God and it is faithful to the Word of God. Let me continue with my reasons as
to why it is the power for the pulpit, but let me be thoroughly pragmatic about
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Pastorally
this is the Word of God – and it is – and if expository preaching
is the biblically faithful method for giving out this Word of God – and
it is – then it surely is the key to success in the pastorate.
do I mean? I surely don’t mean to imply that success and effectiveness in the
pastorate is to be connected with being a celebrity, or selling books, or gaining
fame. This past week I read a fine sermon by J.C. Philpot, from 1857, about
the ever-present temptation of pride and vainglory among preachers, and I am
aware that each of us deals in some way with this. But no, I’m not talking about
that. I’m talking about effectiveness in what I call the essentials of the ministry
– gathering, growing and sending forth strong disciples of Christ. I have in
mind the work of seeing souls saved, lives transformed, marriages saved, young
people’s hearts burning with zeal for Christ and His kingdom, and desiring to
die to themselves to live for Christ. I have in mind “setting in order
the things that remain” and ordering our churches according to God’s intentions.
I have in mind speaking peace into a troubled, maybe even splitting, congregation.
I have in mind being pastorally effective in shepherding the flock of God over
whom God has made me an overseer.
is no program, no model, no paradigm, no experiment, no policy, and no amount
of pure elbow grease or mental genius that can equal the power of the Word of
God preached. It accomplishes everything I hope for in the ministry. Recently,
I read where someone said that the best time-tested discipleship tool in the
history of the church has been morning and evening worship where there is expository
preaching. My own experience as a disciple and a pastor is that I couldn’t agree
more. I believe that this is so.
I counsel people in trouble, I always ask if they are sitting under the expository
preaching of the Word of God. I’m not asking them to come to my church, though
I would love to have them. I’m simply saying that they must locate a place to
belong, a local congregation, where the preacher is committed to moving sequentially
through the Word of God – that may be moving through books, chapters,
or other preaching portions within a book – in such a way that they are getting
the mind of Christ in the study. Expository preaching is pastorally effective.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Vocationally
I say “vocationally satisfying,” I am speaking to those who have come,
in their own lives, to say with Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach
the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon
me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
we are called by God to preach the Word of God to a dying world, and if preaching
is unveiling the mind of God for man in this Word, and this is what expository
preaching is, then it follows that we will only be happy in our work if we are
Peterson is the pastor’s friend in so many ways. I have greatly benefited from
his various works. In Under the Unpredictable Plant, he tells how he
was at the point of burnout at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Belaire,
Maryland. He was going from board meeting to board meeting, doing this and that,
and as a pastor who has planted two churches – and Peterson’s church
was a church plant – I know how it can be. Well, this tired pastor goes
to his session and tells them that he can’t go on. He thinks he is at the end
of his pastorate. Fatigue is physical exhaustion, and we all get that. Burnout
is a loss of meaning, and we do not necessarily have to have that, but this
is apparently what Peterson had. His Session was wise and told him to list the
things he went into the ministry to do. He listed, preaching, visiting the sick,
sharing the Gospel, and the things that the Bible teaches us is our work. His
Session told him, “You do those things you were called to do, and we will
do the rest.” You probably have read what happened. He not only was renewed
in his ministry, but stayed over 30 years at that church.
of us have been greatly blessed by The Purpose Driven Life campaigns
in our congregations. We need a purpose driven pastorate also. For if God has
called you to preach, He has not called you to be a rush chairman, a religious
store manager, or even a really great storyteller. Yet, there are many who will
tell us that expository preaching is not enough. Peterson says, “Propagandists
are abroad in the land lying to us about what congregations are and can be.
They are lying for money. They want to make us discontent with what we are doing
so we will buy a solution from them that they promise will restore virility
to our impotent congregations. The profit-taking among those who market these
[programs] indicates pastoral gullibility in these matters is endless.”6
us not be gullible. Expository preaching fulfills God’s purpose for our lives
as preachers. He has called you to preach the Word, and you will never be happy
until you go to that Word, live in that Word, exegete the meaning of that Word,
dive like a Pacific native to the bottom of the ocean for the rich pearls of
that Word, and then come back up from your time in the deep-blue of God’s presence,
string those pearls together in a sermon, and put them on the neck of your people.
a preaching method, a preaching approach, that is radically Word-centered, Christ-centered,
Gospel-saturated, and uncompromisingly faith to the text will give you joy.
For you were made to preach.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Eschatologically
when I say eschatologically useful, I am saying that expository preaching brings
our people into contact with ultimate realities. In personal eschatology, expository
preaching prepares our people to not only live but to die. Oh, if we could hear
the stories of faithful preachers, seated right here today, who have shared
those sweet and sacred moments of vigil with a family when a loved one is going
home. You know that the power for your ministry at that time is in the exposition
of the Word. An elder in our church who recently went home to be with the Lord
said, “I have been waiting for this. I am ready to go home.” This
attitude comes from expository preaching.
preaching also is eschatalogically useful in that it brings our people to see
God’s ultimate cosmic realities. I would say that faithful exposition of the
Word would probably distance our preaching from some of the excessive, isogetical
propositions that we sometimes hear at certain prophecy seminars that lead to
theological speculation and seem to draw cosmic curiosity seekers. But faithful
exposition, say of 1 Corinthians 15 or Ephesians 1, leads our people to see
that God is a teleological God, that this world is going somewhere, and that
we who are God’s children are destined for something greater than ourselves.
revelation of God gives meaning, purpose, context to time, space, and eternity,
to man and God. It gives meaning to sickness, hope, and even happiness in the
face of theodicy, and the questions of suffering.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Personally
call to preach the Word is a blessing. Each week we come to the text, and we
are fed by it, hopefully, before we give it to others. I know the James 3 warning
against being teachers, but we also know the words of Paul – this Word will
“make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). We will save ourselves
as well as those who hear us.
must say this, also. When we are about the work of expository preaching in the
pastorate, the work carries us along in a sense. Week-in and week-out, we develop
a discipline of study, for to preach the Word of God line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept,
demands time, struggle, and prayer. I know that in this room, your heads and
hearts are turning, perhaps not over this address, but over the portion of Scripture
that you must deliver this week. Is there anything as rewarding in life as unburdening
your soul in that movement when you approach the sacred desk and open up the
Bible? Expository preaching feeds my soul. I know of no other way to put it.
But more than that:
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Constantly
present the mind of Christ in a text requires much of us, does it not? I once
heard a preacher say that every time he preached, a little piece of him died.
I am sure there are those for whom that is true because they are tired of preaching,
or they will know that they will get ripped to pieces at the front door of the
church. But this man was speaking about preaching in a way that I can identify
with. Like you, to preach the mind of God, to go through the necessary steps
to get there, then to emotionally discharge the holy calling on your life through
the act of expositing a text is the most challenging thing in the world. It
takes your very life.
was once in a seminar with Dr. D. James Kennedy where seminary students got
to ask him anything they wanted. One asked, “Dr. Kennedy, what is the most
challenging thing you have ever done in the ministry?” His answer was,
“Prepare next Sunday’s sermon.” Can I get an “Amen” on that?
We all know it is true. We all know that such rigorous preaching cut short the
life of John Calvin. It must be balanced with recreation and separation unto
God in quiet prayer and reflection. We all know that to constantly face the
Word of God each and every week, sometimes three or four times each week, is
overwhelming at times. But for those called to do so, it is a response to a
calling to an amazing love that demands my soul, my life, my all. Would you
really want it any other way.
Expository Preaching is the Power of the Pastorate because it is Always Contemporary.
we go to the Word, and preach the Word, we never have to worry about whether
it is the right time or not, or if this is the right message or not. Now surely
wisdom is needed to discern between preaching Lamentations at a wedding or Leviticus
chapter 15 and “bodily discharges” at the dedication or baptism of
an infant. But, you know what I mean. As I think about this conference, I am
reminded once more that expository preaching is always in vogue, always “cool,”
if you will, for the human condition remains the same in every age.
did Lloyd-Jones follow Campbell-Morgan? Expository preaching. How did Boice
follow Barnhouse? Expository preaching. How did Timothy follow Paul? “Preach
the Word.” We must guard what was deposited to us with expository preaching.
We must, because we can’t conduct a sound ministry of visitation of the sick
and dying without it. We cannot carry on the work of evangelism, discipleship,
world missions, building up our saints, or being a witness to our communities
without expositing the Word from another world. We were made for it. It is our
lives. It is our heart.
of great missionary’s stories will recall the amazing story of that intrepid
Scotsman, the physician Dr. David Livingstone, who, like Lloyd-Jones, was not
only a medical doctor but also a preacher of the Gospel. You will recall that
David Livingstone’s body was returned from Africa, where he died, to be buried
with highest honors in Westminster Abbey. But do you also recall that before
his body was removed from the deepest parts of that great continent to make
the 700 mile trip to the coast, the tribesmen of the place where he died so
loved this man that they removed his heart from his body and buried it in great
ritual in the land where he preached the Gospel?7,8 Jesus
said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will
be also” (NIV). The tribesmen knew that David Livingstone’s treasure was
Africa. His soul would go to His Savior. His body would return, for the time
being, to his native country. But Livingstone’s heart was in Africa.
our people know that we treasure them? Do they know that we treasure preaching
the Gospel of God to them? Do they know where our hearts are?
have talked to some of the older folks in our congregation, and I think that
the reason my predecessors are so honored is that, like Livingstone, they preached
the Word to a certain people in a certain time in a certain place. That Word
did for those people in their land, in their time, what the Word
always does – saves, changes lives, heals, restores, gives hope, brings assurance,
and brings God to men and men to God. I am convinced that in the final analysis,
this is the answer.
preachers, whether they consider themselves mice or elephants, great or small,
are loved when they faithfully open up the Bread of Life and feed the lambs
of Jesus. And this becomes our legacy, not that our images are recorded in oils
to hang on a church wall, but that our hearts are buried in that place where
we took our stand, spent our years, and gave our lives to preach the Word. For,
you see, to those whose lives are changed, you will always be a giant to them.
A. Milton is Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, TN.
1. All Scriptural citations are from the English Standard Version
of the Holy Bible (Crossway, 2001) unless otherwise noted.
2. Robert L. Reymond, Ph.D, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 111.
3. J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, n.d.).
4. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Expository Preaching: Center of Christian Worship”
in Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W.H. Thomas and J. Ligon Duncan, editors, Give
Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, PA: Presbyterian
and Reformed, 2003), 112.
5. See Robert L. Reymond’s discussion of Temple and his position in Reymond’s
The God-Centered Preacher: Developing a Pulpit Ministry Approved by God
(Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 11.
6. Eugene Peterson, Under the Predictable Plant, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
7. An abbreviated story of Livingston’s death and burial (which I accessed on
March 6, 2004) may be found at http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/dlivingston.htm.
8. See “Livingstone’s Last Journals in Central Africa,” 2 vols (1874),
and “Missionary Travels” (1857), “Livingstone and the Explorers
of Central Africa,” by Sir H. H. Johnston (1891), and “How I Found
Livingstone,” by Sir H. M. Stanley (1872).