Monday, June 23, 2008

Another week in my life: Day 2

I can't stand admin stuff, but paperwork has been mounting up in the study so I had a good sort out this morning. Also rearranged library to make shelf space Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. The four volumes look so cool and alluring sandwiched between the works of Richard Sibbes and Jonathan Edwards. Read a chapter of John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 'The Situational Perspective - History, Science and Philosophy as Tools of Theology'. I'm enjoying the book, although some of the more philosophical stuff has been a bit of a challenge. Frame always bends over backwards to be fair minded, which is nice. But his arguments sometimes lack clarity and bite.
After lunch, led Christianity Explored at Ebenezer, West Lavington. We're using the DVD version and we've got to Week 5. Short discussional Bible study on Mark 10:17-22, the rich young ruler. Then watched the film in which Rico Tice explained that salvation is by grace alone. A very clear presentation, which led to some more discussion. I pray that every member of the group is beginning to understand that Christianity is about grace, what God has done for us in Christ, not works.
Read some of Spurgeon's Commenting and Commentaries, published with his Lectures to my students by the Banner of Truth Trust. It is well known that Spurgeon did not engage in systematic expository preaching. He preferred to preach one off textual sermons rather than give a series on a Bible book or theme. He gives his reasons for this in the lecture, On the Choice of a Text.
"I have a lively, or rather deadly, recollection of a certain series of discourses on the Hebrews, which made a deep impression on my mind of the most undesirable kind. I wised frequently that the Hebrews had kept the epistle to themselves, for it sadly bored one poor Gentile lad." (p. 106).
He also cites the example of Joseph Caryl, who commenced a gargantuan series on Job with eight hundred hearers and ended up with only eight. Having devoured Lloyd-Jones on Romans and Ephesians in my formative years as a Christian, I disagree with the Spurgeon's estimate of expository preaching. God has given us a Bible comprised of Books, not odd texts. Preaching should reflect the form as well as the content of biblical revelation. But few preachers possess the gifts of "the Doctor". He might have been able to keep thousands enthralled for the thirteen years he spent on Romans (he retired before concluding the series). That does not mean that we could get away with preaching verse by verse through Bible books. At the moment I'm preaching on John on Sunday mornings and 1 Peter in the evenings at Penknap Providence Church.
But Spurgeon's ministry was not altogether devoid of consecutive biblical ministry. As well as his sermon, he would read through Bible Books and then comment on the reading during the service. He commends this practice of "commenting" on Scripture in the second chapter of Commenting and Commentaries, saying,
"Nowadays since expository preaching is not so common as it ought to be, there is the more necessity for our commenting during the time of our reading of the Scriptures. Since topical preaching, hortatory preaching, experimental preaching an d so on - all exceedingly useful in their own way - have almost pushed proper expository preaching out of place, there is the more need that we should, when we read passages of Holy Writ, habitually give running comments upon them." (p. 681).
So, the great textual preacher was a systematic expositor after all. He just separated preaching from expository commenting. Why not join the two and have expository preaching in the mold of the Reformers, Puritans and (bearing in mind our limitations) Lloyd-Jones?
In the evening I attended the local Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Church prayer meeting at Atworth Chapel, Wiltshire. Most FIEC churches in our area were represented. Reports were given detailing encouragements and challenges faced by fellowships large and small, followed by prayer. Got home at 10.30pm.

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