Samuel Miller – An Able and Faithful Ministry

The following article by Samuel Miller was made available by Presbyterian Heritage Publications. As the website hosting this article expired, I’ve copied it here. The archived webpage may be accessed here.

This sermon was published under the title of The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing an Able and Faithful Ministry, included in a larger publication, The Sermon, Delivered at the Inauguration of the Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D. Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, in the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church, in the United States of America: to Which are Added, the Professor’s Inauguration Address, and the Charge to the Professor and Students (New York: Whiting and Watson, 1812).

Copyright © 1987 by
Presbyterian Heritage Publications
Second Edition, 1994

The electronic version of this document has been provided as a convenience for our readers. No part of this publication may be transmitted or distributed in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical photocopying, or otherwise) without prior permission of the publisher. Inquiries may be directed to: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, P.O. Box 180922, Dallas, Texas 75218, U.S.A. Please write to the publisher for more details about our other publications.

An Able and Faithful Ministry

Samuel Miller

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 2:2

The apostle Paul received both his knowledge of the gospel, and his commission to preach it, immediately from the great Head of the church. Yet, notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstances which attended his theological instruction, and his official investiture, that “all things might be done decently and in order” (cf. 1 Cor. 14:40), he submitted to “the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Tim. 4:14; cf. Acts 13:3), before he went forth on his great mission to the Gentiles. In like manner, Timothy, his “own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), to whom the exhortation before us is addressed, was set apart to the work of the holy ministry, by the presbytery,­ in which body, on that occasion, the apostle himself seems to have presided (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6).

Timothy was now at Ephesus; and being the most active and influential member of the presbytery which was constituted in that part of the church, his spiritual father directed to him, as such (and in him to the church in all succeeding times), the rules and instructions contained in the epistles which bear his name. Among these we find the passage which has just been read: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6) Continue reading

Dabney’s 7 Points for Preaching

R. L. Dabney

T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach is responsible for bringing R.L. Dabney’s (1820 – 98) 7 “cardinal requisites” back on my radar. I’m generally against “New Year’s Resolutions” as being far too American and theologia gloriae (wink, wink), but I do hope to reflect more proactively to my own preaching in light of Dabney’s requisites for the year to come.

When I first read these, I was surprised to see nothing about “Christ-centered,” “redemptive historical,” etc. Now, I would suggest that Dabney is getting more at preaching method than content. Thoughts? Without further ado, then, the 7 “cardinal requisites:”

1. Textual Fidelity
“Since the mind of God is disclosed in Scripture, the sermon must be entirely faithful to the text-a genuine exposition of the particular thought of a particular text.”

2. Unity
“Unity requires two things. The speaker must, first, have one main subject of discourse, to which he adheres with supreme reference throughout. But this is not enough. He must, second, propose to himself one definite impression on the hearer’s soul, to the making of which everything in the sermon is bent.” Continue reading

How to Preach Christ from the OT

I’m working through sections of Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from Genesis: Foundations for Expository Sermons for a sermon series coming up on Abraham’s life in Genesis 12 – 25. I’ve looked at preaching Christ from the OT before, but never explicitly from Greidanus. He presents seven means by which we can see Christ in OT passages, and I’d like to list those below. Greidanus defines preaching Christ as “preaching sermons which authentically integrate the message of the text with the climax of God’s revelation in the person, work, and/or teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament” (Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 10).

Greidanus presents seven avenues to get to Christ from a text, and this is necessary if the interpreter is seeking to understand the text first, as the writer intended for Israel (or the original audience) to hear the message; and secondly, as the message is understood in light of the completed canon of the Triune God’s self-revelation to His covenant people. When both are recognized as necessary, the interpreter realizes seeing Christ in light of a passage isn’t an add on, but necessary to understanding the fullest and truest meaning of a pericope.

7 Ways of Preaching Christ

The following comes from pp. 2-6.

Redemptive Historical Progression
Scripture is a narrative that begins with a good creation, is abruptly marred by the Fall, and then traces God’s redemptive purposes in human history to bring about redemption and the New Creation. First through Abraham, and then Israel, the story of redemption climaxes and is focused in the advent of Jesus Christ. This method seeks to understand a pericope in light of this “metanarrative.” Continue reading

The Technical Is Pastoral…

technical_work…and the grammatical is applicable. In his very good series “How Seminarians Can Learn to Preach to Normal People” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Tim Raymond offers the following, generally true advice:

…Learn to rely on both exegetical and pastoral commentaries… Exegetical commentaries, such as the NICOT or the NIGTC, tend to query the text by asking grammatical, linguistic, historical, and text-critical questions such as, “What is the significance of this aorist?”, “Was this passage in the autograph?”, “How does this verse correlate with what we know from Phoenician archeology?”, and so forth. Pastoral commentaries, such as John Owen on Hebrews or James Boice’s commentaries, tend to ask theological, devotional, and spiritual questions of the text such as, “How does this passage feed my soul?”, “How might this passage help my congregation endure through suffering?”, “How can God’s Spirit actually enable me to obey this command?,” and so forth… What I’m arguing for here is that if a pastor wants to do responsible expositional preaching to ordinary people, he needs to rely on both types of commentaries.

I think Raymond is generally right on, and I’ve enjoyed reading his series. But I would like to nuance this; not by bifurcating the academic from the practical, but rather pointing out that excellent application derives from solid, technical exegesis. So instead of saying: “Is this an aorist?” and “How does this apply to families?” as two separate questions, let us instead ask one question: “What does the fact that this verb is an aorist say to the families in our congregation?” To quote somebody else, the Bible is already practical. Its the prepositions, grammatical constructions, and first-century context that helps us to understand how it is practical.

I think Raymond is basically saying this. He later notes, “Since all pastoral application is dependent on right exegesis, the faithful preacher will need to use academic commentaries to ensure proper interpretation.” This is probably only a difference of emphasis. But the emphasis I’m trying to make says that the exegesis itself is what is practical.

How to Listen to Bad Sermons

Dear Zion,
We have spent some time thinking about the importance of sermons in the regular, spiritual diet of God’s people, including how to hear a sermon, and also how to live from a sermon. But this all assumes that we are hearing good sermons to begin with. What should we do when we listen to a bad sermon?

Scripture tells us that there are some sermons so bad, we should not listen to them. When Paul soberly warned and admonished Timothy “to preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2), the emphasis must be retained: a sermon is only a useful sermon if the content is the Word of God. Paul himself resolved to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where the content of many (most?) sermons do not rely on God’s Word and His power, but instead rely on the preacher’s experiences, storytelling, practical suggestions, and eloquence. The preacher may even begin with a Bible passage, but the content of the sermon that follows is not coming from sacred Scripture. If sermons today were edited down to only “Christ and Him crucified,” how much would be left?

Similarly, Paul warned Timothy that there would be a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but they will gather around them a great number of [preachers] to say what their itching ears want to hear, to suit their own desires” (II Timothy 4:3). Continue reading

Taking the Sermon To Go

Dear Zion,

You’ve just heard the benediction; the Sunday morning service is over. So now what? We disperse to go with our own families to our specific vocations and tasks. But just because the service is over does not mean that we can forget about everything we heard in the sermon or during worship, or that God is any less interested in how we live Monday through Saturday. Last time we looked at how to hear the sermon, now we will consider a few things about how to live based off of the sermon. For example:

  • Believers should meditate on God’s Word throughout the week. The truth of God that we hear – during the Scripture readings and sermons – on Sunday should occupy our thoughts Monday through Saturday. Jesus told His disciples to “Let these words sink down into your ears” (Luke 9:44); in other words, He didn’t want His teaching to bounce off our ears like a glancing blow, but rather to take root in our minds. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1). Does this describe how you think about what you learned in worship? Do you pay closer attention to God’s truth than anything else?
  • Believers should talk about God’s Word throughout the week. Continue reading

Be Careful How You Hear

Dear Zion,

One of the things a pastor and a congregation spend a lot of time on together is the sermon that is preached every Lord’s Day in the worship service. The minister spends time preparing and delivering the message, and the congregation spends time hearing it and living their lives based off of it. But have you ever thought about how to hear a sermon? How can we obey Jesus’ command to “be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18)? Consider a few ideas with me:

  • Believers should prepare themselves to hear. The Apostle Peter commands that we “desire the sincere milk of the Word like newborn babies,” and that one of the ways we prepare that spiritual “thirst” within us for God’s Word is by laying aside all sin (I Peter 2:1 – 2). Sin acts like wax in our ears, and keeps us from hearing the life-giving words we so desperately need. Do not allow Saturday night – or the week before Sunday – as an opportunity for sin, but instead lay aside sin by faith and focus on “thirsting” to hear from the Lord in the sermon.
  • Believers should prepare through prayer. Continue reading

Redemptive Historical Preaching: Christ at the Center

Download file

One concept that is so helpful to have when considering how to exhort God’s people from God’s Word is that our preaching must be Christ-centered. The idea that Scripture isn’t just a book of timeless truths, morality plays, or helpful advice for living, but is instead one grand narrative displaying the promise of, the coming of, and the rule of the Messiah Jesus, has been thoroughly covered by men much better than I, most notably Ed Clowney, Sidney Greidanus, Dennis Johnson, and Graeme Goldsworthy. Their articles and books are most helpful. But occasionally, just having a handy chart around can jog your mind in the specifics.

The above chart can be downloaded here. It is a rough adaption of what Dennis Johnson adapted from Ed Clowney. I’ll try to briefly explain what the chart says, as well as how to use it below. Continue reading