As you can tell from your bulletin, and if you’ve been here in the last couple of weeks, we’re doing a brief series looking at the church, under the title “Heaven on Earth.” That is what the church is in the world; it should bring down heaven. A church should be nothing like the world, and it should approximate heaven. Churches, however, today seem to have lost their sense of heavenly connection. They have an identity crisis in so many churches, shifting styles, changing methods, shallow sentimentalism, naive theology, superficial worship, all kinds of things—a smorgasbord of attempts to, quote-unquote, “make the church relevant to a fast-changing world.” This calls for us to go back to the foundation, and that’s what we’re endeavoring to do in this series.
The right way to define the church in its true form is this: It is the present form of the kingdom of heaven. It is the present form of the kingdom of heaven. That is a fundamental definition of the church.
The kingdom has many manifestations. There is the universal kingdom, the kingdom of creation over which God is the universal Sovereign; He rules over all creation. There is the eternal kingdom to come, the new heaven and the new earth; again, this will be the kingdom of righteousness and holiness that lasts forever. There is the millennial kingdom, which is a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, when He comes and sets up His throne in Jerusalem and rules over the entire world.
The kingdom has various manifestations through redemptive history, but for now, in this present era, it is the present form of the kingdom of heaven, and that is the church, the church. It should be informed by, and conformed to, heavenly realities. As Paul said to the Colossians, it should be where our affections lie. As Jesus said, it should be where our treasure is. Our perspective has to be heavenly. The church is the realm of the redeemed, the kingdom ruled over by God and His appointed head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we saw a couple of weeks ago, Paul said that if you’re a believer, you’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. It’s a lot of kingdom language in the gospels, as our Lord speaks of His kingdom and entrance into His kingdom, and those who will not enter into His heavenly kingdom. This is familiar language to any Bible student, and it is the way to understand the church. It is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
In 1 Corinthians 15:23 it says the church is the kingdom made up of “those who are Christ’s.” That’s a great statement. The true church, the kingdom of heaven on earth, is made up of those who are Christ’s. Now, when you understand that, it ends all the foolishness of trying to figure out what a church is and should be.
What establishes the entire ministry of the church, what establishes everything about the church, is what the King says about His kingdom. Our King is none other than the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father made Him as head over the church. The church of Jesus Christ, then, is not a man-made organization. It is not a human institution. It is not to be designed by clever people, or any people for that matter. And it’s certainly not to be designed to fit the preferences of a debauched culture or the desires of the unconverted. The church is heaven on earth; and if that is the case, then there’s an obvious reality that is the very foundation in the church, and it is this: that we are conformed to the will of God in heaven. That’s why 1 Timothy 3:15 says the church is “the pillar and support of the truth.”
When we say that, we’re really talking about the true foundation of the church. It is built on truth. And as we saw in Psalm 119, it is built on truth, designated as the word of God, fixed, settled in heaven forever. It doesn’t change.
Now, the last couple of weeks, we talked about some other foundational doctrines regarding the church: the church and election, or the kingdom and sovereignty—it is the work of God in Christ. Christ said, “I will build My church.” We talked about the church and identification, or the kingdom and substitution—it is in union with Christ, who is our substitute and Savior. And we talked about the church and purification, the church and sanctification.
The church and election, we looked at the Father’s role in choosing the church before the foundation of the world. In the church and identification, we looked at the role of Christ, who is in union with the church, substitution and imputation being that marvelous defining language that speaks of us being in Christ and Him in us. And then thirdly, we looked at the church and purification, which points directly to the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. So we’ve been looking at these first three foundations and seeing, essentially, that there is a Trinitarian character to them.
Now this brings us to the fourth in our five doctrines—we’ll save the fifth one for next time—the church and revelation. The church and revelation (meaning the Word of God), or the kingdom and Scripture, the kingdom in Scripture. This is really the very foundation of all three that we have spoken about, because the reason we understand the doctrine of election and identification and substitution and sanctification is because we understand the Scripture. This is the cornerstone of what the church is. And one reality—and we can narrow this down to one which is very helpful for us—one reality guarantees that the church will be heaven on earth, one reality, and that is that it is conformed to the Scripture.
Again, I remind you of Psalm 119:89, that verse that I read earlier, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” It’s not changing. God doesn’t change. His Word doesn’t change. In fact, in Psalm 119, verse 160, says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and [all] . . . endures forever.” In the words of Isaiah 40 and verse 8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God [stands] forever.” That’s why, going back to Psalm 119, verse 89 says, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven,” and then verse 90 follows it up immediately by saying, and it demonstrates God’s faithfulness to all generations. For all generations in all of human history, the word of God is settled—settled, established, fixed, set in heaven. First Peter 1:25 says, “The word of the Lord endures forever.” Jesus said, “Not one jot or tittle from My word shall in any wise pass away until all is fulfilled,” Matthew 5. And in Matthew 24 He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will never pass away.”
The Word of God is eternal, never altered, never changed. Nothing can be added to it, nothing can be taken from it. And that is the final warning in the Bible at the end of the book of Revelation: If you had anything or take anything away from this, it’ll be added to you the plagues that are written in this book. This is the Word of God, settled forever in heaven.
So for us to understand how the church is to behave as heaven on earth simply is to bring the truth of God, settled in heaven, to earth, and live according to it. We conform our lives to the Scripture, to the Word of God. And that becomes the theme of the instruction in two critical books in the New Testament I want you to look at with me: 1 and 2 Timothy. These are called the pastoral epistles because this is the Spirit of God, through the apostle Paul, showing Timothy what is required of pastors who lead the church; and you will see clearly the emphasis.
If you look at 1 Timothy 3:15, I already quoted it: The church “is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” What truth? The truth settled in heaven and revealed on the pages of Holy Scripture.
And that brings you into chapter 4. And we read at the very outset, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits, doctrines of demons . . . [hypocritical] liars seared in their conscience [who go against the Scriptures]”—that’s the implication.
Verse 5 says, “[Everything] is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” The word of God is everything. And so Paul says to Timothy, “If you want to be a faithful pastor, listen to this”: “You will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” That’s the positive. The negative is in verse 7: “And have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women.” You will be “nourished on the words of the faith”—that’s Scripture—“and the sound doctrine which [Scripture proclaims].” And if you do that, you are “a good servant of Jesus Christ.” And then, not only are you to be nourished on them, but go to verse 11, 1 Timothy 4, “Command and teach these things.” Literally, “Keep on commanding and keep on teaching these things,” these things that come from the forever-settled Word of God. That’s what brings heaven down. The church will be like heaven when it submits to, conforms to, is faithful to, and proclaims the eternal Word of God.
In verse 13, Paul continues directing Timothy: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” “Read it, explain it, and apply it; that’s your ministry.” Verse 16, “Pay close attention to yourself”—your own spiritual life—“and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” If you want a church to be everything God wants a church to be, then live a godly life, and consistently and constantly teach the Word of God. That’s the New Testament command.
Down in chapter 5 and verse 17, Paul continues this emphasis: “The elders”—meaning pastors, just another designation for pastors—“who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Preaching and teaching is hard; it’s hard work. But those who give themselves to it are “worthy of double honor.”
Down in chapter 6, go to the end of the chapter, verse 20, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” “Guard what has been entrusted to you.” What had been entrusted to him? Look at 2 Timothy 1:13, and you’ll see: “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you”—chapter 6, verse 20, of 1 Timothy. “The treasure . . . has been entrusted,” 2 Timothy 1, verse 14; the treasure has been entrusted. This is saying, “I gave you the truth; I gave you God’s Word.” In Acts, Paul says, “I have not failed to declare unto you the whole counsel of God. Your legacy from me is the Word of God.”
Over in chapter 2, you can take a look at verse 14: “Remind them of these things”—these things that are truths that come from heaven—“and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” This is not a time for fancy oratory and speech. Rather, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God”—how can you be approved to God? Because you are “a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed”—how can you avoid shame?—“accurately handling the word of truth.” And again, verse 16, stay away from worldly, empty chatter that just produces ungodliness and—verse 18—leads people away from the truth. Again, he just keeps coming back to this same emphasis.
With that in mind, come down to chapter 3 and verse 15. “From childhood,” Paul tells Timothy, “you have known the sacred writings”—that’s the Scripture—“which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be [complete, fully] equipped for every good work.” All you ever need as a minister, for every good work, is to be equipped with the Scripture because the Scripture has the power to save, as verse 15 says, “[gives] the wisdom that leads to salvation”; it has the power to sanctify, as verse 16 says, bringing the teaching that reproves, corrects, trains in righteousness.
As a result of all of this leading up to chapter 4, Paul gives his final command: “I solemnly 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.” In other words, the King of the kingdom is going to hold you accountable. And he sums it up in verse 2: “Preach the word.” “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” What does that mean? All the time. You’re either in it or out of it. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” This is important “because the time will come and they will not endure sound doctrine; [they’ll want] to have their ears tickled, [and] they will accumulate teachers to themselves in accordance to [those ear-tickling] desires”; verse 4, they’ll “turn away . . . from the truth and be turned aside to myths.” It all comes down to that one command: Preach the word, all the time, in season, out of season—which is all the time.
So the defining and distinguishing mark of Christ’s church is the complete submission to the Scripture, which is forever settled in heaven, and when brought to earth becomes heaven on earth. It is to know the Bible, to understand the Bible, to be taught the Bible. This is the sum and substance, the center and circumference of the church and its life.
A familiar Old Testament passage, Isaiah 55, verses 10 and 11: “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so—so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” This is such an incredible promise. God says, “My Word will accomplish everything I intended to accomplish. This is how I do My work.”
Deuteronomy 8:3 says every word out of the mouth of God is bread. That’s true; Scripture is our bread. That’s a wonderful gift. But beyond that, Isaiah 55 says God has a plan, and He will work that plan through the proclamation of His Word, and it will not, and it cannot fail. You want the church to be what God wants it to be? Then preach the Word, and it’ll do the work that God intends and that God purposes. It’s powerful.
Look, God created by His word, did He not—six days created the entire universe by what he said, spoke it all into existence. His word has massive physical creating power. It also has massive spiritually creative power to build the church.
So that is the sum and substance, as I said, of the church. We have one book, one revelation: the Bible. Not the Bible and the Book of Mormon, not the Bible and the Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures, not the Bible and any other book given equal authority as the cults do. We have one book, and it does everything, it does everything, and I’ll show you more specifically.
So let’s look down at 2 Timothy 3:15, and we’ll just kind of sort these realities out. “All Scripture,” we’re talking about, “inspired by God”—God-breathed, God-authored—“and profitable.” And what can it do? Well, let’s look at verse 15. First of all, it is “the sacred writings”—the Scripture—“which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” How do we do evangelism? How do we bring people to salvation? It is “the sacred writings,” it is the Scripture, that is “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The Word of God is the tool of salvation; it is the instrument of salvation. Let me show you how clearly our Lord established this. Go back with me to the gospel of John, and we’ll take a couple of turns in the gospel of John and look at some things Jesus said.
John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life.” You want to receive eternal life? Then you have to hear the Word of God brought down from heaven. That’s what delivers you from judgment and passes you out of death into life. “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me”—the Father, the word from heaven—“has eternal life.”
Over in chapter 6, our Lord says in verse 63, in another discussion in the synagogue in Capernaum, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” All your fancy strategies to do evangelism in the flesh profit nothing. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” This is the power of Scripture: It gives life. It gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead.
Again, in chapter 12, right at the end of the chapter, in another conversation that the Lord is having, He says in verse 49, John 12, “I did not speak on My own initiative.” Again, Jesus, the Son of God, came down from heaven and never spoke on His own initiative; He spoke only what was forever settled in heaven. So He says, “I do not speak of My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” It is, again, the Word forever settled in heaven. And “I know that His commandment is eternal life; and so the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” You want a mandate for pastoral ministry and preaching? There it is. You’d better be preaching what the Father has established forever as the settled Word in heaven.
In chapter 14, verse 24, again the Lord comes back to this emphasis: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words”—that’s the distinction—“and the word which you hear is not Mine”—again, Christ Himself is faithful to the forever settled word—“I don’t make up anything.” “The word which you hear is not Mine, but My Father’s who sent Me. [And these are the] things I have spoken to you.”
At the close of the twentieth chapter of John, verse 31, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” God wrote the Bible so that you could have eternal life. It is the Bible, the Word of God, that gives life. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the [message concerning] Christ.”
Listen to 1 Thessalonians, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” It not only saves, but it continues to work powerfully in those who believe and are saved.
Listen to James 1, verse 17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above”—it all comes from heaven—“coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variance or shifting shadow.” The good things come from heaven. And the next verse says, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth,” “He brought us forth by the word of truth.” That is why Philippians 2:16 calls Scripture “the word of life.” It has the power to give life, just as the Word of God had power to give life at creation.
In Luke chapter 8, a very familiar parable will illustrate this. It’s the parable of the soil, and we’ll look at the explanation of that parable in Luke 8:10. Our Lord says to His disciples, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of [heaven].” “You know the truth that comes down from heaven, the eternal truth.” “But to the [others, the] rest”—those on the outside—“they see, but don’t see; and they hear, but don’t understand. So let Me explain the parable, parable of the seed and the soil.”
“The seed is the word of God.” I mean, what does that tell you? “The seed is the word of God.” And when the seed hits “good soil,” verse 15, “the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” The power is in the Word.
One final passage on this particular point: 1 Peter 1, verse 24—or verse 23, rather, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. . . . And this is the word that was preached to you.” He preached the Word, and the Word, the living and enduring Word of God, gave life. The Word of God is alive. It gives life to all who believe. Consequently, preach the Word. Why would you do anything else? Nothing else can give life, nothing else.
Notice down in verse 16 that it not only produces salvation, but it establishes doctrine. It is “profitable for teaching,” or for doctrine, didaskalian. That’s not a process, teaching; that’s a content, body of truth. Scripture is the body of truth revealed that Paul gave to Timothy, and Timothy was to guard, as we saw in 1 Timothy 6 and 2 Timothy 1. It is the truth: “Your word is truth.” God’s will is revealed in His Word.
The Word is filled with teaching that generates truths, propositional truth, fixed truth, eternal truth, everlasting truth, unchanging truth. And that is what we as pastors would want, I would hope, to dispense to our congregation. If you want to give them anything, you want to give them the truth. Why would you give them anything else?
Listen to an interesting comment in Matthew 22:16. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus, “and they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians,” and they asked this question in verse 16—or they made this comment: “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.” Now, just how much flattery that was. In spite of that, I don’t know; it is still absolutely a true statement. “You, the Teacher, are truthful. You teach the way of God in truth. You defer to no one. You are not partial to any. You never, ever deviate from the truth, never ever.” Later, in verse 29, Jesus said to them, “You are confused and mistaken, [because you don’t understand] the Scriptures,” and because you don’t understand the Scriptures, you don’t understand “the power of God.” The power of God is released through Scripture only when it is rightly divided, and when you believe.
The knowledge of God’s Word forms our entire theology, our entire view of everything in the natural and the supernatural world. That’s why the Bible says over and over again, “Be renewed in your mind,” Romans 12. “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind,” Ephesians 4. Philippians, “I pray that you’ll have real knowledge and discernment.” The power of the Word unleashed in your life when accurately understood is the power that establishes a set of convictions by which you can live your life to your own blessing and to the glory of God.
Thirdly, he says this: Scripture is profitable not only for salvation and for doctrine, but “for reproof.” Strong word. It refutes, it confutes, it convinces, it convicts, it rebukes. This is the other side of truth teaching: It exposes error.
When you have an expository ministry, and you preach the Word of God, you are bound to make some people uncomfortable. Some months ago I was on some interview, and somebody said to me in that interview, “Does it bother you that you offend people?” I said, “No, I live to offend people because that’s the work of the Word. It exposes their error. It undoes everything that is deceptive. It unmasks all the lies. It crushes the fortified ideologies that condemn people.”
So we preach the Word because it saves, it establishes truth structure, which produces convictions, and it reproves us in our error and our sin. And there’s more. It also corrects us. So at first, it makes you feel badly, but only with the purpose of establishing the right thing to do and believe. It reproves error, it reproves unrighteousness, and that’s Hebrews 4, which is also an amazing testimony to the power of Scripture.
Listen to Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”—and nobody can hide from it. The Scripture will cut right to the bone, right to your soul, your spirit; that’s how powerful it is. It is effective. It is dynamic. It is accurate. It penetrates into the inmost recesses of spiritual heart, into the depths of sin. It sifts, it analyzes, it reveals emotions, attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors; and God misses nothing with His Word and no one.
Men hate that. John 3, they hate the Light because their deeds are—what?—are evil. But it’s a necessary exercise. It’s a necessary exercise. So the Word of God does all that work: rebuking error, confronting sin.
And then comes “correction” in verse 16, correction—to straighten up, to thoroughly restore to an upright position. It’ll break you down, and then it’ll put you back together in a far better condition.
In John 15, our Lord talked about this same work of the Word in verse 3. He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The Word of God not only exposes your sin, it cleans you up; it corrects you.
Another passage that speaks of this is Ephesians 5:26. Regarding the church, the Lord’s desire is that He would sanctify the church, cleansing her “by the washing of water with the word.” How are we cleansed? How are we rebuked? But then, how are we corrected? By the work of the Word, washing with the water of the Word “so that He can present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; that she would be holy and blameless.”
The Word does the rebuking, and the Word does the correcting. And then, “training in righteousness.” This is the full work of the Word. It tears you down, and rebuilds you, and then it trains you in the right direction. As you feed on the Word of God, Peter says in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that . . . you may grow in respect to salvation.”
The Word begins by assaulting you and offending you, and then it sets the correction in place, and then it begins to train you in righteousness. So why is it that every time you come here we’re teaching you the Bible? This is why. We only have one tool. We only have one tool.
Since the Word does all that, verse 17, it accomplishes its objective: “The man of God”—by the work of the Word, in saving and teaching and reproving and correcting and training—makes “the man of God . . . adequate”—perfect, complete, mature—“equipped for every good work.” What more could you be than equipped for every good work? And that’s the max, right?
So what is going to get you to that kind of spiritual maturity where you are—artios is the Greek word—where you are complete, capable, proficient? It’s the Word of God. It’s the Word of God. That’s the tool. That’s always been the tool. And so faithful pastors go deep into the Word to mine out its riches. They disdain the flat, trivial, shallow preaching. They reject the formulas, the cleverness, the human wisdom. They know the Word is the truth that transforms. And so a faithful pastor takes his people consistently down deep into the Word because that’s the demand—and the singular demand—from God for his ministry. When you don’t do that, you get a kind of evangelicalism that is man-centered, trying to make people feel good about themselves rather than encountering the realities of heaven.
Just to kind of wrap up, I want to go back to the Reformation and give you a couple of illustrations. The greatest revival the church ever knew, in my judgment, was the Reformation, back in the 16th century. And the Reformation really came about because there was a restoration of biblical expository preaching. Take, for example, John Calvin, whose impact was probably without parallel. He was relentless in his exposition of Scripture.
In Geneva he started in 1536, and he exposited the Scripture until 1564, with a three-year break when he was exiled by the city council. But it wasn’t just Calvin. R. L. Dabney says, “All the leading Reformers, whether in Germany, Switzerland, England, or Scotland, were constant preachers, and their sermons were expository. We may assume with safety that the instrumentality to which the Spirit unleashed power in that greatest of all revolutions was the restoration of scriptural preaching.” That was—the Reformation came because of that.
The Bible forms the whole content of our preaching. And by the way, God set forth all its truths in such contexts and proportions and relations as He knows suit the soul of man under the work of the Holy Spirit, so that you don’t need to alter the Scripture. This is the way God wanted it. What is preaching, then? It is explaining the Scripture in its context. And the church, if it will be heaven on earth, must be radically committed to Scripture.
Part of the problem of the confusion in the church—probably most of it—resides with those preachers who refuse to do this. Maybe out of pride, maybe out of unbelief, maybe out of laziness, maybe out of sin, they don’t do what we must do. They will be held in account, James 3:1: Stop being so many teachers; theirs is a greater judgment.
But the Reformers understood it. Take, for example, Calvin. He wrote tracts. He wrote massive theology: The Institutes. He wrote commentaries on Scripture, except the book of Revelation. He gave lectures. He regularly preached ten sermons every two weeks. That’s a lot of work. All of them Scripture exposition.
And then Luther, between 1510 and 1546—that’s 36 years—he preached three thousand sermons, frequently, many days a week, and sometimes more than two times a day, studying, preparing, and preaching. He did all that, as did John Calvin, with some very serious issues in their home life, with their wives and children, who were ill and died.
Luther preached to his children on Sunday afternoons. Here’s just a little bit of insight into Luther. In 1520, he wrote 133 works on Scripture. In 1522, he wrote 130 works. In 1523, he wrote 183 works, one every other day. Here’s a Sunday with Luther and Wittenberg: 5:00 a.m., he exposited an epistle; 10:00 a.m., a gospel; 5:00 p.m., a book of the Old Testament. Monday and Tuesday, he taught theology and the catechism; Wednesday, he preached on Matthew; Thursday and Friday, on apostolic letters; Saturday, on John. And he did that all week, week after week. The whole church was just preaching, preaching, hearing the truth of God’s Word.
John Calvin did the same thing—it’s really astonishing—preaching in the same church in Geneva, the cathedral there, where I’ve had the privilege of preaching, an amazing opportunity. Just to give you some idea of the scope of Calvin: In August of 1549, he began a series on Acts and ended it in March of 1554, five years later. After that, he decided to preach on the Thessalonian epistles and preached 46 sermons. Then he preached 186 sermons on Corinthians, then he preached 86 on the pastoral epistles, then he preached 43 on Galatians, 48 on Ephesians. Then there was a gap while he was ill in 1558. But he came back in 1559 and began the harmony of the gospels, and didn’t finish when he died in May of 1564. On the weekdays during that same season, he preached 159 sermons on Job, 200 sermons on Deuteronomy, 353 on Isaiah, 123 on Genesis, and on and on. Just this saturation of Scripture.
It was an Easter day in 1538 he preached in the cathedral, and the city council arrested him and banished him. He returned three years later and picked up the exposition in the next verse. Calvin believed the Word of God was the lamp that had been taken away from the church. Calvin had a horror of those who preached their own ideas in the pulpit. He knew the Word of God was, indeed, the power that was profitable. I’ll give you just a quote to close.
In sermon number 61 on Deuteronomy, he said this: “Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the Divine Majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pastor the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all of it according to the word of God.” It’s heaven on earth when the Word of God reigns in the church. Let’s pray.
Lord, certainly in our hearts we are here in this church because we understand that power of Your Word. But Lord, we hope this morning You have driven that even deeper into our hearts, and sealed it permanently. May we understand that this, the church, has one great calling to unleash Your Word to do its work, to accomplish everything. All things pertaining to life and godliness are found in the Word, and they are brought to the hearts and souls of men and women when that Word is preached.
Lord, I pray that You would raise up more preachers. We know that if there’s ever to be a another Reformation, ever to be a great revival across this country, it will happen only when pulpits proclaim Your Word and nothing else. May You be pleased to do that, we pray for Your glory. Amen.
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