Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ulrich Zwingli's Secret to Reformation- Exposition of the Word

It is easy for a pastor to succumb to the spirit of the age as it relates to preaching. The masses cry out for "relevant" (short, humorous, "how to" oriented, topical, devoid of controversy, non condemning, Dr. Phil-type etc.) sermons. The acceptance of such preaching indicates the relative unhealthiness of the Church in our generation. Ironically, the lack of biblical, expositional preaching further adds to the acceptance of the lesser form here noted. There is a sort of chicken/egg scenario when analyzing how we have come to such a point.

I am not as concerned with how we got to this point as I am with being sure there is a solid reformation in this area. Biblically speaking, reformation and revival was always fueled by the rediscovery and exposition of God's Word (and by connection, a right view and practice of the sacraments). The most vivid example of this occurred with Josiah, the young king of Judah. At age 18, Josiah commanded workers to clean up the temple. During this effort, workers found God's Word and brought it to Josiah.

Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying,"Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." 2 Kings 22:9-13

This marked the beginning of a new era of reform in Israel. I would humbly submit we are in a similar predicament today. The state of preaching today has rendered a similar effect to hiding God's Word. This should cause the thoughtful Christian to react like Josiah and tear his or her clothes in grief and protest.

The Reformation was a golden age of rediscovery. Not only was the Word of God rediscovered, it was preached with new zeal and accuracy. Why would we think God's Word needs our crafty assistance? The Word of God, with it's full authority, has always been the fuel for the fire of reformation and revival. The Reformers were very simple in their practice and strategy- preach the Word of God! I love what Philip Schaff says in describing the great Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli's approach to preaching:

Zwingli began his duties in Zurich on his thirty-sixth birthday by a sermon on the genealogy of Christ, and announced that on the next day he would begin a series of expository discourses on the first Gospel. From Matthew he proceeded to the Acts, the Pauline and general epistles; so that in four years he completed the exposition of the whole New Testament except Revelation.

His sermons, as far as published, are characterized by spiritual sobriety and manly solidity. They were plain, practical, and impressive, and more ethical than doctrinal. He made it his chief object to preach Christ from the fountain and to insert the pure Christ into the hearts. He would preach nothing but what he could prove from the Scriptures, as the only rule of Christian Faith and practice.

This is a reformatory idea; for the aim of the Reformation was to reopen the fountain of the New Testament to the whole people, and to renew the life of the Church by the power of the primitive gospel. By his method of preaching on entire books he could give his congregation a more complete idea of the life of Christ and the way of salvation than by confining himself to detached sections. He did not at first attack the Roman Church, but only the sins of the human heart; he refuted errors by the statement of truth.



M. Jay Bennett said...

That's good stuff! It gets me fired up. I want to preach like that. I want to teach my brothers to love preaching like that.


Frontier Forest said...

Most of Pastor Tony’s profound thoughts pontificated here seem far beyond my ability to critique. Therefore, any attempt on my part to express an additional thought would be presumptuous.
But one thought I did comprehend.... really jumped out and grabbed me. Even though I have never heard of these 2 great “Reformers” mentioned, I know this pastor words are true. For he will always “make every thought captive and obedient unto the Lord.” So whatever statements, that might be considered controversial, rest assured, this pastor has tested them in light of Scripture and holds fast to that which is good. Controversial subjects are always addressed head-on at “Redeemer!” No matter the topic, “hiding God's Word,” or the fear of being “politically in-correct” never intimidates this judicious man of God. After all, when standing fast for the Word of truth, one never needs to apologize, feel guilty, or think “my words might offend!” When God’s Word goes forth, they are never our words! For every believer, who constantly strives in “rightly handling the Word of Truth,” the following “Tonyian” didactic observation, should speak volumes! “Why would we think God's Word needs our crafty assistance? The Word of God, with it's full authority, has always been the fuel for the fire of reformation and revival. The Reformers were very simple in their practice and strategy- preach the Word of God!”