The final session of the conference will be led by none other than John MacArthur who will speak about “40 Years of Gospel Ministry” and who was introduced by Al Mohler.
He had us stand and read for us the first two chapters of 1 Thessalonians (from our new MacArthur Study Bibles) and then proceeded to reflect on 40 years of gospel ministry. It was a biographical address, of sorts, and one that was very interesting to hear. He told about his slow start in the ministry, introduced us to his mentors, and shared the lessons he has learned over the past four decades. Because of the somewhat rambling, reflective nature of MacArthur’s speech, it was a little more difficult to encapsulate than some sessions this week. Therefore, I have merely taken down some of the themes and individual points, perhaps without a clear thesis or theme running throughout.
MacArthur believes that a committment to expository preaching will bring about the following benefits:
1) It establishes the authority of God over the mind and soul. There is an issue in the church today over who has the right to speak in the church. Even Jesus said He spoke only that which the Father showed Him to speak. When you preach in this way people understand Who has sovereignty over their souls.
2) It exalts the lordship of Christ over His church. This may be the most assaulted doctrine in the church today. “This doctrine has sailed down to us on a sea of blood.” When you bring to the people the mind of Christ contained in the Word of God you exalt the lordship of Christ over the church.
3) It is the Word of God which the Spirit uses to save and sanctify. This is so simple: the Spirit uses the Word! If pastors won’t submit to the Word of God, what will they submit to?
4) If I never preached a sermon I would thank God for the sanctifying grace of the day after day, year after year, sanctifying grace of studying the Word of God.
5) You honor by example the priority of Bible study. People get it. They know that the Word matters to you more than anything else because the Lord matters to you more than anything else. “You are a living demonstration of hermeneutics.”
6) I never want to be guilty of giving people the illusion that they’ve heard from God when they haven’t. This is why study and proper interpretation is so critical. Expository preaching guards against say what is against the Word of God.
7) It has a massive impact on the experience of worship. Transcendence of worship is directly related to the depth of understanding of the Word of God. Those who know God best, worship God deepest.
8) It protects people from the error and carnality which is deadly to the church. You can do sermonettes for Christianettes, but this does nothing to protect them from sin, error and temptation. You give them nothing at all; you are no shepherd at all. This leaves your people absolutely defenseless.
9) The pastor should want to be a person who fully understands the mind of Christ in so far as this is possible. No matter where he is, what he does, MacArthur wants to tell people what he knows of the mind of Christ. “We should be the voice of God on every issue in our time.”
“I could say more…that’s what we all say when we run out of material.”
Having discussed the benefit of expository preaching, he turned to the benefits to the church in this type of consistent, Bible-focused ministry:
1) A church full of genuine Christians who think biblically. “I go to church at a real church.” We can go to a real church with real believers. It is the real deal!
2) People develop conviction where they have clarity. Conviction makes strength and strength has impact.
3) When you exposit the Word of God, everyone’s belief is tested at every text. “Everything I’ve ever taught has had to survive the scrutiny of the text.”
“I know what it is to be exposed in a church.” After almost four decades his people know everything about him–all of his strengths and weaknesses. He looks at this people and sees a reflection of himself and these same strengths and his weaknesses. He is constantly overwhelmed by the love of his congregation for its shepherd. He knows what it’s like to be loved, challenged, forgiven.
In the end he reflected on how stunned he is by what has come of his ministry. He insists that he really only just preaches the simple truths of the Word. “I preach what captures me. I preach what thrills me.” He sits in his study week after week just trying to get the passage right. It may be that there is no more simple, pure way of describing the task of a minister of the Word.
Bob Kauflin led us in singing “It is Well With My Soul.” We will return for one final panel session which will feature John MacArthur sitting with Dever, Duncan, Mohler and Mahaney.