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The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 20 Summer 2016

Summer 2016 Edition
Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

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“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”

Part I: The Power For Preaching, Pt. 3 Continued

“The Power of the Holy Spirit”

In the last three editions of this journal we have been discussing the subject of the power of the Holy Spirit for preaching. In the last edition, we asked several questions like: (1) What is Spirit-empowered preaching? (2) Why do some preachers seem to have the power of the Spirit while others do not?

In this edition we are going to address another question that this subject raises: What is the difference between the “filling” of the Spirit and the “empowerment” of the Spirit? Here it is important to understand three distinctions between the baptism, the filling, and the empowerment of the Spirit (adapted from Dr. Stephen F. Olford).

1. The baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) represents our “spiritual position” in Christ. This occurs only once at the time of our regeneration, at which time we are “indwelled” by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14; James 4:5). All believers are baptized / indwelled by the Spirit.

2. The filling of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) reveals our “spiritual condition” in Christ. There is one baptism of the Spirit but many fillings of the Spirit. Filling signifies saturation, no room for the flesh, self, or sin. This is not the indwelling of the Spirit (that is a fact of new birth). This is being controlled by the Spirit, as we have already discussed. This is a function of living according to the new birth. This involves obedience to, submission to, dependence on, and allegiance to the Holy Spirit in everyday living. “This is normal Christian living and Christ-likeness” (Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 216). We are to “be filled” with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This almost seems like a grammatical impossibility – an imperative in the passive voice; a command to do something that is done to us! But the conflict is resolved as follows: we obey the command by actively ridding our lives of anything that would grieve or quench the Spirit (by virtue of our manner of life, holiness etc.) and, in response, we are passively (i.e. something done to us) controlled by the Spirit as He works in us and through us in our lives and ministries.

3. The empowerment of the Spirit (Acts 1:8) reinforces our “spiritual vocation” in Christ. In order for our ministries to be effective for God, we need to be empowered by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 1 Thess. 1:5). We cannot produce spiritual results ourselves. We are engaged in a spiritual vocation which demands the sanction and efficacy of the Spirit in order to be effective. So, we must first be filled with the Spirit before we can be empowered by the Spirit to effectively preach God’s word. And I would argue that if we are truly filled with the Spirit, we will be empowered by the Spirit.

So, let me ask the same question as last time: Why are some preachers Spirit-empowered and others not? The difference has nothing to do with indwelling of the Spirit for all believers are indwelled by the Spirit. Rather, the difference seems to lie in the “filling” of the Spirit. Some preachers are “filled” with the Spirit and, thus, are able to serve in the “power” of the Spirit while others are not. If a preacher is not “filled” with the Spirit, then it stands to reason that his preaching will not be accompanied by the empowerment of the Spirit. Some preachers are living in obedience to the Spirit while others are not. Some preachers are gifted by the Spirit to preach and others are not. It’s all a question of how we live (whether we are in submission to and dependence upon the Spirit or whether we are living in our own resources) and how God has gifted us.

Therefore, if there is present in your life’s activities, thoughts, desires etc. anything that would “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30), then the Holy Spirit will not be active in your life and ministry. It’s impossible. I am not denying the sovereignty of the Spirit to use even dumb donkeys or even unsaved people to achieve his purposes, but the principle in the believer’s life is that the Spirit does not operate for blessing when our lives are not suited to his indwelling. Similarly, if there are things in your life that would “quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19), then the Spirit will not be active in blessing or empowering your ministry.

It is right and proper, then, that we should want the empowerment of the Spirit in our lives and ministries. Indeed, we cannot conduct meaningful, fruitful ministry without the empowerment of the Spirit and the liberty of the Spirit to do his work in us and in our audience.

In order to preach with power, we must allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us, sanctifying us (so that we are usable by God), illuminating us (so that we understand the Word correctly), and enabling us (so that we can express the Word properly). And, the Spirit of God must do His work in our audiences, convicting them concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement to come (Jn. 16:11), and transforming them into people of God, Christ-followers. This is the evidence of the empowerment and, therefore, blessing, of the Spirit – vessels who are fit for the Master’s use and audiences whose lives are radically changed.

Let me now add a word of warning and a word of encouragement. First, a word of warning. Beware of “having a form of godliness but denying the power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Beware of thinking that because you can create a certain atmosphere in the congregation or draw out a certain response from them, that you are preaching with power. Beware of focussing on experiences, phenomena, and subjective feelings, while missing the genuine work of the Spirit. Beware that you don’t confuse preaching in the flesh with preaching in the Spirit. “When you preach in the energy of the flesh, you feel exalted and lifted up. When you preach in the power of the Spirit, you are filled with humble awe at the work of God” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, cited in Arturio G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching, Christian Focus Publications, 2003, preface).

We must be convinced every time we preach that “the message I am preaching can do no good to anyone unless it is accompanied by the Spirit of God” (Stuart Olyott, Preaching Pure and Simple, Wales, Bryntirion Press, 2005, 154). It is only the empowerment of the Spirit of God that can produce spiritual results. On our own, we can accomplish nothing.

How do you know, then, if you are preaching with the empowerment and blessing of the Spirit of God? You know it when the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God produces a response from the people. And you know that people’s lives are being changed when some get saved, marriages are restored, relationships are healed, people become more devoted disciples of Christ, people become more engrossed with the Word etc.

Now, a word of encouragement. This analysis of “the empowerment” (anointing, unction) of the Spirit ought to be a great encouragement to preachers, who day in and day out, year after year, are quietly serving God in their ministries, who are faithfully and accurately explaining and applying God’s Word, who are trusting the Spirit of God to take his Word and use it to the conversion of souls and the transformation of lives, such that people become fully devoted followers of Christ “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

That’s Spirit-empowered ministry. It is the preaching of one whose sole desire is to glorify God, to magnify Christ, with a view to “presenting every person perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). I would argue that what we should seek in our preaching is God’s blessing, which will be manifested in such ways as: (1) fruit in our ministry (people being saved; people growing in Christ etc.), (2) spiritual fruit in our own lives (Gal. 5:22), (3) the affirmation of the leaders of the church in affirming us for ministry, and (4) the centrality of Christ and the glory of God in our preaching.

So, for those pastors and preachers who do not see visible results before, during, or after preaching, take courage. “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are so that no flesh should glory in his presence ...that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:27-29, 31).

May this article be an encouragement to us all as preachers, that we cannot accomplish the great purposes of God in the lives of our hearers, but through living holy lives, supplication in prayer, and dependence on the Spirit of God, we can be used by God for his sovereign purposes. Sometimes we may know what some of those results are, but many times we will not. Our comfort is that the work is God’s work – he alone can save souls; he alone can change people’s lives. Without that assurance our ministry would be discouraging. But with that assurance our ministry is fulfilling.

Part II: Preparing For Preaching

Outlining the Sermon

Up to this point, in our discussion of “preparing for preaching” we have been talking about selecting texts and topics, studying the text, analyzing and understanding the text, and identifying the structure of the text. That process can be both exciting and discouraging – exciting when you discover the flow of thought in the passage (i.e. the structure of the text), but discouraging when you work at it for hours and fail to discover it. Perhaps you can see why sermon preparation is hard work.

But now, finally, you are ready to prepare a sermon outline of the text. Perhaps you are wondering, “What is the difference between the structure of the text and the outline of the sermon? Are they not the same?” For some preachers they are the same. Many preachers preach from the structure of the text - and that’s alright, but it doesn’t really quite go far enough, because our sermon outline needs to reflect the theological principles and application of the text to us today, so that our congregations can see how it applies to them. One of our jobs as preachers is to bridge the gap between the ancient text, people, language, and culture, to our present day.

So, while a sermon outline follows and flows from the textual structure, it differs from the textual structure in that it determines how you are going to preach what the text says. By the time you have determined the structure of the text, you know the subject of the passage and what the writer says about that subject (the complements). In other words, you know what the author has written about and how he has arranged his material. Now you need to decide how you are going to preach the theology contained in the text and make it applicable to your audience today. I think that this is perhaps the most important function of a preacher, because this is something that our audiences do not usually do for themselves. They read the Bible and they understand what it says, but often they do not understand what it means and implies, and how it applies to us today. It is our job to communicate this.

Another question that may come to your mind is, “Why do we need our sermons to have an outline?” Many preachers do not use outlines and as a result fail to explain the theological meaning and implications of the text, as well as its application to today’s audience. Our sermons need to be structured because:

1. The entire Bible is structured. Each biblical writer has a purpose in writing. No writing in the Bible is haphazard (i.e. without structure and purpose).

2. If you do not have an outline that follows and flows from the structure of the text, you will not have a logical sermon that the people can follow.

3. If you do not have a clear, biblical structure, you will fail to preach a clear, biblical message.

A sermon outline is the “skeleton” of a sermon, the skeleton that the flesh of your message hangs onto, the “framework” that your exposition is nailed to. It is the main points that divide up and hold together the body of your sermon.

A good sermon outline accomplishes the following:

1. It divides your message into “main points” (i.e. sermon divisions).

2. It helps you present your flow of thought with clarity, order, unity, progress, completeness.

3. It keeps you on track by preventing you from wandering or forgetting important points.

4. It balances the message between the introduction, the body (explanation, application, illustration), and the summation.

5. It controls the length of the message by preventing the message from being too long or too short.

6. It serves as a road map (or, table of contents) for the congregation to follow.

7. It makes the message more memorable for the listeners.

A sermon outline divides the subject of the text into major divisions, which form the main points of the sermon. Then the main points may be further subdivided into sub-points, which merely clarify the main points by breaking them down into smaller units. However, the degree to which you subdivide your message is a matter of personal preference. I think that it is simpler for the audience to follow if you only use main points in your outline and preach your sub-points as explanatory material for the main point. You can still word your sub-points so that they stand out, but they flow with the explanatory material of the sermon and are not articulated as separate sub-points. Otherwise, your audience can easily lose track of where you are.

I try to make my main points stand out by using common wording and repeating them as I go. For example, Philippians 1:19-20 could be outlined this way:

1. We can have confidence in the prayers of Christ’s people (19a)

2. We can have confidence in the provision of Christ’s Spirit (19b)

3. We can have confidence in the preservation of Christ’s testimony (20)

You never want the sermon outline to overpower your message or to impress your audience. It merely gives structure to your message.

The starting point for a sermon outline is the main thought (subject) of the passage. It is important to write down the main thought and the statements about that thought (the complements) to form the core of the sermon.

Every sermon has to have structure. The main structural components of every sermon are: (1) the beginning (introduction); (2) the middle (exposition, body); and (3) the end (summation, conclusion). In turn, these main structural components need to achieve the following objectives:

1. Your introduction should…

a) Get your audience’s attention

b) Create a need that the sermon will address

c) Connect to the Scripture passage

d) State the subject

e) State your thesis (i.e. the overall point and teaching of the passage)

f) Transition to the body of the sermon

2. The body of the sermon is where you…

a) State and explain your main points

b) Illustrate your points where necessary and appropriate

c) Apply the teaching to your audience

3. In your conclusions you…

a) Summarize the points you have just brought out of the passage.

b) Help the audience to visualize the truth you have explained – i.e. to see what this teaching looks like in daily life.

c) Challenge them to actualize the truth – i.e. to put it into practice, to respond to the truth they have just heard.

Starting with the next edition of this journal, I will cover these sections of a sermon outline in the order in which you prepare them (not the order in which you preach them) as follows:

1. Wording the main points.

2. Stating the thesis - some people call this the proposition, or “the sermon in a sentence”.

3. Drafting the body of the sermon – the explanation (including illustrations) and applications

4. Structuring the close of the sermon.

5. Designing the introduction.

Part III. Devotional

“The Character Of The Gospel” (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford

We come now to one of the most revealing passages on the subject of the gospel and the nature of the Christian ministry that we find anywhere in the New Testament. Paul has been dealing with the curse of divisions in the church, but now he proceeds to consider the causes of divisions in the church; and right through to chapter 4, he addresses two misconceptions that are basic to all division. The first is the misconception concerning the Christian message (1:18-3:4), and the second is the misconception concerning the Christian ministry (3:5-4:5). To begin with, let us consider the misconception concerning the Christian message. First of all, this involves a misconception concerning The Character of the Gospel. This is our message today from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

Let us remember as we address ourselves to these verses that Paul is writing to a church that was divided. As we have observed already, there were no less than four parties with their respective watchwords. Part of the problem was that the believers were being drawn to men rather than to the Master, but there was also the tendency to exalt the messenger instead of the message. So Paul is compelled to set forth a clear statement on the character of the gospel. He first of all speaks about:

I. The Gospel As God’s Distinctive Revelation To Man

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Paul’s emphasis here is not so much on the presentation of the gospel, as on the “word” of the gospel, as distinct from the wisdom of words referred to in verse 17. His supreme objective is to point out the uniqueness of the gospel as a revelation of the wisdom and power of God. These were the key words of the ancient world. The Greeks were ever seeking after wisdom, while the Jews were obsessed with signs. Thus Paul delineates the distinctive character of the gospel by observing:

1) The Wisdom of God in Contrast to the Wisdom of Man - “…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Paul leaves us in no doubt as to what he means by the wisdom of God. A little further down in the paragraph he says, “But…in Christ Jesus…God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). There is no greater statement on the message of full salvation than that which is contained in this verse. First, Christ is our righteousness. In and through Jesus Christ, we have been made right, or just, before a holy God. This aspect of the gospel answers the ancient question: “How can man be justified with God” (Job 25:4). Because Christ has died for our sins and risen again to justify us, we can know the righteousness of God imputed to us through faith in His Son. Secondly, Christ is our sanctification. We could never attain holiness in our own strength, but through His indwelling, sanctification is accomplished day by day. This work of grace sets us apart entirely for the purpose of God. In terms of behavior it means living out experimentally what we are positionally in Christ. Thirdly, Christ is our redemption. This word means “release” or “deliverance.” In this particular context it refers not only to redemption from the penalty and power of sin, but from the very presence of sin. It is that final act of God by which we are made to conform to the very likeness of Christ at His coming.

What a revelation of the wisdom of God in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But in contrast to this, Paul describes the wisdom of man. With the writer James, he agrees that man’s “…wisdom…is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). Human wisdom is earthly. “…For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Now here is an all-important factor to remember: that God in His wisdom has decreed that the world by its own wisdom should not and cannot know God. This forever annihilates the notion that man by his own reasoning or intellectual attainments can find God, let alone know God. Human education at its very highest and best is wholly inadequate. Human wisdom is sensual. This is why Paul, with a touch of irony, says, “…the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22). There is nothing which appeals to sensual or carnal people like the so-called “intellectual approach” of sophisticated preachers or silver-tongued orators. Human wisdom is devilish. It is described thus because it is associated with the devil who fell by pride. This is why human philosophy is nothing more than intellectual arrogance and conceit. Every movement that has undermined the authority of the Scriptures – call it what you will: modernism, liberalism, or humanism – is all part of this philosophical approach. Because of human pride, men seek to be associated with famous names of the philosophical approach, not realizing that the Bible condemns it as devilish.

So Paul reminds the Corinthians “…it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). The whole point of this quotation is to show that man has to learn that all his schemes and efforts to accomplish his own salvation are utterly futile. God only saves through the word of the cross (Isaiah 29:14). The second quotation from Isaiah 33:18 illustrates how God utterly confused the worldly-wise counsels of the Jewish rulers. And what He did in those days long ago He has continued to do when men will not renounce their philosophical reasoning in favor of the wisdom of God. But in describing this distinctive revelation of God, Paul not only contrasts the wisdom of God as against the wisdom of man, but also:

2) The Power of God in Contrast to the Power of Man - “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). How this reminds us of Paul’s great affirmation in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” At the heart of the gospel is the very dynamic of God which has power to save and to deliver. There is nothing else in the whole universe which can transform human life like the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the cross is the only answer to human sin.

In contrast to this, there is the vaunted power of man. “The Jews require a sign…” (1 Cor. 1:22). As Leon Morris says, “The Jews, throughout their history, were very matter of fact. They showed little interest in speculative thought. Their demand was for evidence, and their interest was in the practical. They thought of God as manifesting Himself in history, in signs and mighty wonders.” This is why the Jews were forever seeking signs from the Lord during His earthly ministry (Matthew 12:38; 6:1, 4; Mark 8:11; John 6:30). They thought of the Messiah as One who demonstrated His authority by striking manifestations of power and majesty. To them, a crucified Christ was a contradiction of terms.

Thus Paul sums up his analysis of divine wisdom and power against human wisdom and power in those tremendous words found in verses 22, 23, and 24: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

The second characteristic of the gospel that Paul spoke about was: 

II. The Gospel As God’s Redemptive Invitation To Man

“But unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Here is presented the perfect balance of the Christian gospel. Not only does God give us a revelation of Himself, but also an invitation to Himself. This is more than human wisdom and power can do. Consider then:

1) God’s Pleasure in the Gospel Invitation - “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). The word “preaching” is not the same as that found in verse 18. The emphasis here is on the proclamation of the glorious message of the gospel. Paul tells us here that the supreme pleasure of God, or more literally, “God’s good pleasure,” is that through the foolishness of preaching men and women should be saved. Could anything be more majestic and wonderful than that God should set His heart upon the sons of men, and that through the foolishness of preaching, communicate the saving message of the cross? But think again of:

2) God’s Purpose in the Gospel Invitation - “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Here is a combination of words that comprehend the total saving work of God in Christ. Let us remember that every man outside of Christ is lost. Indeed, the verb rendered “perishing” denotes not extinction, but ruin and loss of well-being. A person who is perishing is failing to fulfill the very purpose for which God created him. But this is where the gospel of Jesus Christ meets him and saves him unto eternal life. The idea behind this word “saved” is not only that of reclamation but also of transformation.

But observe once again what we are calling:

3) God’s Process in the Gospel Invitation - “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe…But unto them which are called…Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:21, 24). There are two words which sum up the divine process in the gospel invitation. One is the word “call.” The other is the word “believe.” The one describes the offer of God, while the other denotes the response of man. Jesus is always calling men and women to Himself; and thank God, people out of every tribe, tongue, and kindred are responding. This glorious process will continue until the Body of Christ is complete.

So we see that this redemptive invitation of God demands a verdict. Man can never be confronted with the revelation and invitation of the gospel without giving an answer. If he believes, he is saved. If he rejects, he perishes.

Conclusion: The Corinthian believers were divided because they had false notions concerning the message of the gospel. This is why Paul takes pains in this first paragraph to set forth the true character of the evangel. Having treated it as thoroughly as we have seen, he concludes with the words, “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger that men” (1 Cor. 1:25). The philosophies and human demonstrations of power may come and go, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is unchanged and unchanging for its character is that of Jesus Christ Himself – “…the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Part IV: Sermon Outlines

To listen to the audio version of these sermons in English, click on these links: Link 1 - Jn. 10:1-2; Link 2 - Jn. 10:3-4; Link 3 - Jn. 10:4-8; Link 4 - Jn. 10:9

Title: Jesus is the Door (Jn. 10:1-9)

Point #1: False religious leaders are intruders (1-2)

1. They do not enter by the door but climb up some other way

2. They are thieves and robbers

Point #2: True religious leader are shepherds (3-5)

1. They lead God’s people by evoking our response (3a-b)

2. They lead God’s people by issuing us a call (3c)

3. They lead God’s people by giving us directions (3d-4b)

4. They lead God’s people by eliciting our trust (4c-5)

5. They lead God’s people by drawing us to Christ (6-9)

a) Christ is the door of the sheep (7-8)

b) Christ is the door of salvation (9a)

c) Christ is the door of liberty (9b)

d) Christ is the door of nourishment (9c)

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