In loving memory of Jim Bublitz who went to be with the Lord not more than two days ago, I will feature this post from his blog – The Old Truth.
In the 19th century, R.L. Dabney wrote –
“All the leading Reformers, whether in Germany, Switzerland, England or Scotland were constant preachers, and their sermons were prevalently expository”; the purpose was to explain the meaning of Scripture. So he says, “We can assume with safety that the instrumentality to which the spiritual power of the great revolution of the Reformation – was mainly due to the restoration of scriptural preaching”.
Martin Luther in 1533 said, “The Word of God is the greatest most necessary, most important thing in Christendom.” And it is. I’ll tell you what, you turn away from the Book and you have endless problems. You turn away from the Book and Jesus becomes a clay toy, you can shape Him any way you want. Truth becomes a clay toy, you can shape it any way you want…
See, people want to reinvent Jesus, shape Him any way they want.
They want to come up with their own view of truth, shape it any way they want. The Book doesn’t let you do that. Our faith is rooted in a decisive revelation in history called the Bible…
And when people grasp the deep truth of Scripture, they begin to grasp the high majesty of God. I look at the evangelical church today and I see shallowness and indifference toward Scripture. Truth is a problem because they see it as divisive. I see, because of that, they don’t know the depth of truth, they also don’t know the glory of God…
As you study the lives of the Reformers, what you find out is that they were absolutely indefatigable and relentless expositors of Scripture. And they took every single opportunity that ever came their way to exposit the Word of God before people and the Word of God is what caused things to change…
I don’t think you can do ministry in this climate today the way God wants it done without a radical commitment to the Bible. And I say radical because it’s resisted even within the framework of evangelicalism. And as I said before, the meaning of Scripture is the Scripture. As you clear the fog and reveal the meaning, that is the Scripture. And that’s the truth of God and that puts God on display and that gives people discernment and gives the church power.
You know, I just think there are people who don’t want to do the hard work. You know, you look at Calvin, he wrote prolifically, he wrote his Institutes, he wrote his commentaries, several shelves of my study are filled with his volumes. He preached ten sermons every two weeks…all of it Scripture exposition.
Same with Luther. Between 1510 and 1546 he preached 3,000 sermons. Many days a week and many times a day he preached and all that with family struggles, with his wife, Katie, gave him six children. Some of them died, the rest of them he catechized on Sunday afternoon. Do you want to hear a typical Sunday for Martin Luther?:
*5AM. was the first service, it was an exposition of an epistle.
*10AM. was the second one, it was an exposition of a gospel.
*In the afternoon he taught the Word of God to his children.
*At 5PM he came back to exposit a book in the Old Testament.
*On Monday and Tuesday he taught more exposition.
*On Wednesday he taught on Matthew.
*On Thursday and Friday he taught on an apostolic letter.
*And on Saturday he exposited the gospel of John.
You know, people don’t roll out of bed and lead a Reformation. You understand that? There’s a reason why these people had the influence they had…consumed with Scripture, with its understanding and its proclamation. All he did was preach and preach and preach and preach and the people worshiped. He went down and they went up. That’s why I told you a few weeks ago, it’s better to go slower than faster, it’s better to be deep and not shallow. It’s better to be thorough and not superficial.
Back to John Calvin, he never wavered from expository preaching for almost 25 years…from 1536 to 1564 in Geneva. And he even ignored Christmas and Easter and every other event and just kept doing his exposition. He didn’t give any special messages, he just stayed with his expositions. The scope of his pulpit is really amazing…just amazing. He preached for . . .
*six years on the book of Acts.
*46 sermons on Thessalonians,
*186 sermons on Corinthians,
*86 sermons on 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus,
*43 sermons on Galatians,
*48 sermons on Ephesians.
*In 1559 in the spring he started a study of the gospels, expositing the gospels in a harmony fashion, and he didn’t finish when he died in 1564 in the month of May.
*And in the middle of the week he preached 159 sermons on Job,
*200 on Deuteronomy,
*353 on Isaiah, and
*123 on Genesis and so on and so on and so on.
And all that took preparation and study. He was preaching on Easter, 1538. After his sermon he left the pulpit of St. Peter’s church and they threw him out of town. The city council banished him. They had enough of him.
He had only been preaching a couple of years there but he was so strong,
so powerful that they threw him out of town after his sermon. He came back just a little over three years later and picked up his exposition at the next verse….
[Necessary Addendum: Although Zwingli’s name is overshadowed by that of Martin Luther and John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli was a major force in the Protestant Reformation. A contemporary of Luther, the man credited with initiating the Reformation in Germany, Zwingli campaigned for change in Switzerland.
Zwingli held to a simple theology: The Holy Scriptures contain the only true authority for doctrine and practice in the Christian life. Although scarce in his day, Zwingli acquired a copy of the New Testament in Latin and began studying it and teaching from it on a regular basis. He is believed to be the first clergyman to ever practice expository preaching, or verse-by-verse teaching through the Word of God.]
The contemporary evangelical church, sad to say, is not interested in biblical depth and therefore it doesn’t experience biblical height.
It tends to be shallow and worldly and weak and self-deceiving,
deceiving itself with superficial success.