One of my favorite things to do is to read old (or older, at least) books and to uncover the treasures they so often contain. There is something so challenging and so affirming about digging into a book that is hundreds of years old, yet speaks insightfully to the present day. Recently I’ve been enjoying Holy Helps for a Godly Life by the old Puritan Richard Rogers and have invited people like you to read along with me. Here, as promised, is what most jumped out at me through the first three chapters. (If you’re reading along, check back next week as well, and by then read chapters 4-6).
Rogers helpfully lays out five great benefits that come to believers as we commit to hearing the preaching of the Word. Here they are.
To Grow in Knowledge
The first great benefit that comes from a commitment to the preaching of the Word is that we will grow in knowledge. This is not merely knowledge of the facts and stories of Scripture, but knowledge that leads to piety and proper Christian living. “By the ministry of the word God’s people are cleared from error and darkness concerning both piety and behavior, and they grow more sound in the knowledge of the truth. Without this ministry they are fraught and encumbered with error. But by use of this means they come to see more particularly into the whole course of Christianity.”
To Be Renewed
The second great benefit that comes with preaching is the week-by-week renewal it brings. “This means quickens them from their drowsiness, cheers them in their heaviness, and calls them back from their wanderings. It raises them up when they have fallen and counsels them in their doubtful cases.” It is through preaching that we are renewed and set back on the course of the Christian life. When we are spiritually weary our natural temptation may be to skip church, but this course is actually completely wrong. We attend to be refreshed.
To Be Sanctified
The third great benefit is sanctification. Through plain preaching of the Word we are taught to flee sin and pursue righteousness. “They thus learn to lay aside and cast off that which would hinder them, especially their inward corruptions. And they prepare themselves to follow the directions which lead and guide them to their duty.” Through preaching we are exposed to our weaknesses and motivated to address them.
To Promote Private Devotions
A benefit that is perhaps unexpected is that our commitment to hearing the Word as it is preached motivates us to study the Word in private devotion. “Without the public ministry of the word, the Christian is likely to neglect and become weary of the labor of private reading and instead give himself to idleness or vain activities.” Preaching gives us a hunger for the Word, teaches us how to read, interpret, and apply the Word, and shows us the great benefits that come when we commit ourselves to it. If we are weak in private devotion, it may be that we have first become weak in attending church and diligently listening to the sermon.
To Be a Godly Example
The final benefit that comes with a commitment to preaching is that it allows us to serve as an example to others. As we apply ourselves to diligently hearing and applying the Word, we model a Word-centered life to others. I expect we can all think of times we’ve benefited from someone else’s excitement and attentiveness to the sermon. And this calls us to speak to others about what we’ve heard and learned and how we’ve diligently applied it to our lives. In this way we grow together. In this way we serve as models of godliness to one another.
And there you have it! Five good reasons to commit yourself to the preaching of God’s Word. What was a challenge when Rogers was ministering in the 1500s remains just as big a challenge today. His solutions remain just as helpful.
(Check back next week and I’ll have some reflections on the next three chapters.)