The Reformers placed a supreme value on the preached word. Of all the means God uses to impart grace, it was seen as the greatest. The Second Helvetic Confession puts it this way: “[W]hen this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “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.”
We have been going through a tough time of late. Uncertainties, the weariness of waiting, sinful intertia, and frustrations with a thorn in the flesh make heaven a dim light.
Then last weekend a faithful pastor delivered a sermon. He didn’t make up the topic, he just elaborated the verses of the Scripture he was going through (Genesis 43). The verses discussed Joseph’s brothers, who fretted and worried about the money in their sacks. They worried about a mysterious Egyptian who kept putting his finger on painful, hidden wounds. And yet, despite their gloom and anxiety, God was preparing to bless the brothers in unimaginable ways. What a wondrous thing God’s salutation is to us at the beginning of each service. He looks upon those who believe in Him with kindness, and a purpose to work all things together for good.
These simple points have been a refreshing spring for many days. And this spring has also watered someone dear to me.
Pastors spending long hours on their sermons may wonder if it is worthwhile. They may wonder why they keep exposing law and gospel to a few dozen people every week while megachurch pastors give moralistic series on “improving relationships” to thousands. Well, this is why. We laymen don’t move beyond the need to hear the impossible rigors of the law or the freshness of the Gospel. We need always to be prodded away from self and back to Christ.
My sanctification (and that of another) was advanced this week. May the pastor through which it came be blessed.