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Martin Luther and the Power of Preaching

Posted on February 5, 2016 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (3272)

Martin Luther and the Power of Preaching

By Carl Trueman

“The preacher is to preach the Word in a manner as rich and as inflected as Scripture itself.”

Luther, The Preacher

The pastor or Christian who reads Luther’s sermons will immediately notice certain things. Luther, rather like Spurgeon, often seems to have a very loose approach to exegesis of passages, to the extent that Luther’s commentaries and sermon series tended to disappear as sources for such very shortly after his death. Perhaps the one great exception was his second commentary on Galatians (and greatest commentary), which enjoyed many reprintings and appeared in numerous translations. Arguably, however, that is because this work was such an excellent statement of his doctrine of justification rather than because it was a definitive example of verse-by-verse exposition.

The modern reader of Luther’s sermons will probably also notice that, after a while, the sermons all start to seem much the same. That is because the law-gospel pattern is reflected in them all. For Luther, the purpose of preaching was to crush the self-righteous and, having done so, to point them to the promise of God in Christ. That move from law to gospel, from wrath to grace, was the core of the Christian’s daily life and was thus to be embodied in, and facilitated by, the preaching of the Word. Powerful as such drama is, it did tend to impose a certain form upon Luther’s sermons.

These two observations might seem like criticisms, and to an extent they are. The preacher is to preach the Word in a manner as rich and as inflected as Scripture itself. That means eschewing a one-size-fits-all approach to sermon preparation. Nevertheless, I would suggest that Luther’s approach does speak to an era like ours, in which the culture of individual uniqueness has such a deep hold even on the Christian mind.

From childhood upward, we are told that we are special. Sometimes this is even done in God’s name. The televangelists and megachurch pastors who talk about having “your best life now” are essentially presenting a picture of God as one who panders to the particular needs and concerns of the individual. The danger is that preaching can start to do the same—even worse, that preaching becomes sidelined because each person has to have his or her particular needs and problems addressed in a specific fashion.

Luther’s approach to preaching is a refreshing riposte to this kind of narcissistic nonsense in at least two ways.

1. You're not the center of the universe

First, his application of the categories of law and gospel in his sermons captures one crucial truth: Human beings, for all of their uniqueness, are not unique in terms of their status before God. There are only two ways of approaching God: by law or by gospel. And there are only two things one can say about any human being before God: A person is under wrath or under grace. While individuals have their own histories and circumstances, their own problems and challenges, the basic problem of where to find a gracious God is the same for all, as is the answer. Thus, Luther’s sermons first of all remind us of a very important truth: We are not the center of the universe; God is. And we are not so unique that we need tailor-made personal answers to our greatest problem. The answer is always the same: God’s promise in Christ. Thus, preachers and congregants alike must understand that the most important thing one can hear on a Sunday is not some pep talk on how to have a good marriage or how to cultivate an appropriate self-image or how to raise one’s children. The most important thing is to hear what God has done in Christ and then to grasp that message by faith.

That is a great antidote to Christianity’s capitulation to particularist conceits of the contemporary culture as evidenced in the dethroning of preaching by placing it on par with, or even below, one-to-one counseling.

2. The Word of God is Powerful

Second, Luther’s theology of preaching reminds us that the Word has power in itself because it is the Word of God. Luther understood both law and gospel as possessing moral force. They expose the heart of the theologian in everyone, of course, showing every human being to be a theologian either of glory or of the cross. In the Word, each person is confronted not simply by an idea but by God himself, either as the transcendent and holy God who demands perfection and terrifies us, or as the God who has made himself weak and died on the cross that death would not have the final word over us. When this is preached, the Spirit uses it to work mighty miracles.

Technique becomes less important. Party tricks, stand-up comedy and vaudeville antics are rendered unnecessary. In fact, Luther might well have considered them a confusion of categories, an attempt to improve upon God’s work by making it into a work of our own. That in itself he would have seen as a confusion of law and gospel. Preaching is a means of grace. It is done by preachers, but only in a proximate sense. The real Word comes from God, via his servant of course—but it is not the servant who gives it its power. That is why Luther could declare the Reformation to have been nothing of his doing and simply the product of God’s Word.

Thus, Luther’s theology of the Word and preaching stands at the center of the Christian life. There in the sermon, in the move from law to gospel, the fundamental struggle of the Christian is played out every time the preacher ascends the pulpit.

But this is no mere theatrical display: As the Word is preached, the Christian is torn down by the law and built up in the gospel. Preaching is a supernatural act, and that should give great confidence and assurance to every preacher tasked with the public exposition of God’s Word. Luther’s view of the Christian life, like his view of the success of the Reformation, was rooted first and foremost in the overwhelming power of the preached Word.


In addition to serving as Pastor of Cornerstone OPC in Ambler, PA, Carl R. Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Paul Wooley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. Carl has degrees from St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, MA and the University of Aberdeen, Ph.D. Carl has authored many books, including, most recently The Creedal Imperative. He also blogs regularly at Reformation21 and co-hosts the Mortification of Spin podcast. He lives in Oreland, with his wife Catriona and has two sons.

More from Carl Trueman or visit Carl at




Black church - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted on January 12, 2016 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (1729)

Greetings Disciples,

  Having "coming up" in the black church from childhood, I've always wondered about the history of the black church and started asking numerous questions of ministers and pastors about how and why "we" came to be, only to realize that some of them, as well as the congrgations were woefully ignorant of our history although they'd gone to these churches for years and decades, which led to very few answers and in some cases, scorn. I ended up researching this on my own and I have a great understanding now of how the black church in America came to be and I found that this Wikipedia article gives a very good summation of our history. I always encourage research and reading so I am totally happy to share this information. Shalom!

Minister E. Lionel Perry

Watch Portions Of The NewsOne Now Race In America Special | News One

Posted on January 12, 2016 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (3361)

Greetings Disciples,

Very interesting video as it pertains to how the image of Jesus was changed to enforce white supremecy. It is a shame that I tend to get a lot of flak when I try to talk about this subject; quite a bit of it from people of color who have been brainwashed to just accept what the oppressors have forced upon them (us), and never question, research, or think on their own. I am totally with Yeshua (Jesus), but I don't accept manyof the European translations and changes to the Holy Scriptures. It is my hope that true disciples of The Most High (Yahweh) will open their minds and research history. Shalom!

Minister E. Lionel Perry

5 Things to Know about Luke from the Bible

Posted on December 28, 2015 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (1181)

5 Things to Know about Luke from the Bible

• Liz Kanoy-Editor,

• 201510 Dec


Who is Luke?

Luke is only mentioned by name three times in Scripture, and all three references are in Paul’s letters: Colossians 4, 2 Timothy 4, and Philemon 1. Most biblical scholars support Luke as the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. We can come to this conclusion because of the similarity of writing styles and vocabulary in both books; another reason is that Luke used the term “we” several times to refer to his missionary travels in the book of Acts. Though Luke was not present with Jesus during His ministry, and likely was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection, Luke’s attention to detail and abundant eyewitness accounts serve him as a credible historian for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Luke’s gospel contains several parables and eyewitness accounts that are only in his gospel, such as a pre-birth account for John the Baptist, the story of the two men who met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, as well as stories of miraculous healing. His gospel is the longest of the 4 gospels and includes the most healing stories, showing his interest in and compassion for the sick. His gospel also has the most detailed birth account and a more descriptive death and resurrection account for Jesus. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts total 52 chapters, making Luke the author of 1/3 of the New Testament, just like Paul.

It is most likely that Luke wrote his gospel in 63AD before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, since he does not mention it. As a detailed and observant writer, it would be odd for him to leave out such a historic event, but there are still some scholars who argue for a later date.

Why did he write a gospel account?

In Luke 1, he writes:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

Here are 5 things to know about Luke:

1. Luke was a Gentile

Lucas (or Loukas) is a Greek name; the author of Luke writes with a Greek style, and is highly educated with his chosen vocabulary, similar to other Greek writers in his day. He used Greek expressions rather than Hebrew versions, showing that he was more comfortable with the Greek language. We also know that Luke was a Gentile because of the way Paul addresses him in Colossians 4; Paul named his Jewish co-workers first and says, “These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God…” Then 2 verses later Paul addresses Luke by saying, “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” Col. 4:11 & 14

Luke was the only Gentile to write a book of the Bible, and he clearly wrote his gospel with a Gentile audience in mind. He is sure to point out references to creation and Jesus’ circumcision that a Gentile audience would not have known. A Jewish audience would have assumed Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day, even if it wasn’t written, since he came from a Jewish family. Luke made sure to give a detailed account of everything he wrote, so that those who were not as familiar with Jewish traditions, customs, places, and Old Testament references would be able to understand the history of Jesus and plan of salvation.

2. Luke was a Physician

Though, we can’t be certain about every aspect of Luke’s background, we know he was referred to by Paul as “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. He likely had a comfortable life in Antioch practicing medicine, but he chose to sacrifice that life of comfort to follow the Lord. Henry Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research, shares this of Luke’s physician background,

“Some commentators have noted the ironical relation between Mark 5:26 and Luke 8:43. Mark had said that a certain woman needing healing ‘had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse." Luke, perhaps trying to defend his professional colleagues, merely said that this same woman "had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any.’ That is, they had done their best, but it was an incurable disease.”

3. Luke was Humble

Luke never addresses himself as the author of either of his books, he never addresses himself by name as one of Paul’s travel companions though he does use the term “we,” he never mentions his profession as a doctor (only Paul does), and he never mentions his brother Titus (2 Cor. 8 & 12). He does not mention the sacrifice he made in giving up his medical practice to travel with Paul and care for Paul. Instead, he gives much focus to Jesus’ healing miracles and Jesus as the great Healer. The most important thing he wants his readers to understand is salvation in Christ.

Gordon Franz, of the Associates for Biblical Research, states,

“When he wrote his gospel and the book of Acts, he did not mention his name at all (Acts 1:1), nor did he mention his brother Titus. Dr. Luke was a humble person and he did not want to call attention to himself or his family, but rather, he wanted to point people to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in His Church.”

4. Luke Met Some of the Apostles

By the time Luke was writing his gospel, the Holy Spirit had already inspired two others: Matthew and Mark. It is reasonable to think that Luke would have interviewed them and investigated their writings. Luke would have likely traveled with Mark, since Mark also traveled with Paul. And it is logical to think that since Mark and Luke knew each other, and Mark and Matthew knew each other that Matthew and Luke would have also met. Luke would have been exposed to many sources, and, therefore, would have based his writings on existing narratives with eyewitness accounts added in that he gathered with the help of the Holy Spirit. Luke was not trying to write a new gospel, he wanted to record the life of Jesus as accurately as possible for a wider Gentile audience, including a high Roman official named Theophilus.

5. Only Luke Remained with Paul to His Death

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul tells us that Luke alone remains with him. Why would the majority of Paul’s companions desert him? John MacArthur explains,

“Nero had cranked up the persecution to a high level and Christians were paying with their lives. And frankly, many believers had fled from Rome. And, you know, they might have had a reasonable motive to do that, to carry on the preaching of the gospel. It's not that they were all just cowards. But Luke didn't go. Everybody left. And there was a lot of desertion. Demas left him because he loved the present world, verse 10 says. And you do get the idea that some of the rest left in desertion from verse 16, but he says, "May it not be counted against them." But not Luke, loyal, faithful, brave, long-term friend, fellow worker, companion to Paul, been with Paul over years and years and years, been with Paul over hundreds and probably thousands of miles of walking. “

John MacArthur also writes,

“So I say, next to Paul, Luke is the most powerful writing force in the New Testament, and yet he is basically unknown. I don't think in my life I've ever heard a sermon about Luke. His historical narrative spans over sixty years. It starts with the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, and it ends at the end of the book of Acts, which is volume two of his writings, it ends with the gospel being preached at Rome, which means the gospel has extended to the world. No other writer wrote so comprehensive a history of Jesus and His impact. No other writer goes all the way from the John the Baptist to the gospel having reached the capital of the Roman Empire. He is the most complete story teller of the saga of salvation in the New Testament, and he is mostly unknown to us.”

Luke knew he wasn’t the first to write about Jesus nor did he claim to be; he wanted to write a gospel that shared the truth that had already been written but for a wider audience. He investigated every written and oral source that he could, with the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Luke was an evangelist, a historian, a physician, a pastor, a missionary, a companion, a brother, and a theologian. His goal and purpose in writing a gospel was to write exact truth concerning Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation, an infallible history and theology inspired by the Spirit. And with God’s guidance that’s exactly what he did.

No, we don’t know everything there is to know about Luke, but I think that’s the way he would want it. He didn’t write a gospel for fame or recognition, which is why he does not mention his own name in either of the books he wrote. Luke wanted to teach people about the Savior and the glorious salvation Jesus offers to all mankind.

Luke’s life was changed and transformed by God the same way that every sinner becomes new, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb!

Information received via Crosswalk



Forensic Depiction of Jesus Rises Again

Posted on December 27, 2015 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (1610)


Forensic depiction of 'manly Jesus' rises again

 San Francisco Chronicle

Amy Graff


A scientific representation of Jesus' appearance that appeared in Popular Mechanics over a decade ago resurfaced today in social media as a political statement.

Many are saying the depiction of a dark-haired, tan-skinned man is fitting at time when Americans are debating whether to allow Syrian refugees into the country.

"Would Donald Trump let this man into the US? Would you?" asks one Facebook commenter.When this image was first released in 2002, it challenged historical depictions of Jesus Christ as a tall, lean, pasty guy with effeminate facial features and long, flowing light-brown hair. Famous paintings of him — mainly done by Italian artists — show someone of European decent who probably could have rocked a pair of skinny jeans and a man bun.



A team of scientists led by medical artist Richard Neave created what they think is a realistic image of Jesus.

But scientists working in the field of forensic anthropology determined that the son of God probably had a manly face with a tan complexion, bushy eyebrows and short, dark hair, according to Popular Mechanics. He didn't look anything like the person many of us remember from Sunday School lessons.


The team of British scientists and Israeli archeologists used the same techniques employed by detectives solving crimes to create the computer-generated image. They delved "into cultural and archeological data" and the world of "physical and biological sciences" to identify the appearance of a typical Middle Eastern Jewish man living in the Galilee area of northern Israel at the time of Jesus.


The effort was led by medical artist Richard Neave, who has created depictions of dozens of famous historical faces.


"If anyone could create an accurate portrait of Jesus, it would be Neave," Popular Mechanics reported.

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