Edwards on the Ministry (1)
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist…” Matthew 11.11
The purpose of preaching
Jonathan Edwards provided more details than John Calvin concerning the proper work of ministers as shepherds of God’s flock. Edwards examined “the true excellency of a Gospel minister” in various sermons, beginning with one carrying that title and focusing on John the Baptist.
Edwards wrote, “John the Baptist was not only a burning but a shining light: he was so in his doctrine, having more of the gospel in his preaching than the former prophets, or at least the gospel more plainly exhibited with greater light and clearness, more plainly pointing forth the person that was to be the great Redeemer, and declaring his errand into the world, to take away the sin of the world, as a lamb offered in sacrifice to God…”
John, Edwards explained, was a great preacher because his preaching turned people to Jesus. He did not attempt to humor people or to condescend to scratch their itches. He wasn’t funny and he wasn’t particularly attractive to the eyes.
John was all business, and the business he was into was Jesus. John called for repentance in view of the coming of Him Who would take away the sins of the world. And when at last He finally came, he insisted that He must increase and all others – including the one greater than whom none had yet arisen – must decrease.
Great shepherds seek daily to increase in the Good Shepherd and to lead the people they serve to feed on Him and grow in His salvation.
Resources for Shepherds
Poet and hymn-writer William Cowper, would have agreed. He had some very pointed thoughts about the work of preaching, and we have lifted them from his great epic poem, The Task, and woven them together into a brief “Essay on Preaching.” You can listen to all five installments of this series of the InVerse Theology Project by using the links below.
An Essay on Preaching Part 1
An Essay on Preaching Part 2
An Essay on Preaching Part 3
An Essay on Preaching Part 4
An Essay on Preaching Part 5
In this series on the work of shepherds we’re using excerpts from the writings of John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards. A complementary study, The Work of Shepherds, is available free in PDF. The excerpts and commentary in this resource are arranged for 28 days of morning and evening meditations, drawing from the writings of great shepherds from the past. This is an excellent tool for personal use or with a leadership team. Download your free copy of The Work of Shepherds by clicking here.
We can become more effective at pointing people to Jesus if we see Jesus in all our reading, study, and learning. Our book, Know, Love, Serve, leads you “with Christ in the circle of Christian learning” so that you can see Jesus more clearly in everything. Check out the table of contents and a brief excerpt, and order your free copy of Know, Love, Serve by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here). Here is an excerpt from the writings of Patrick, which is featured in our latest issue of Crosfigell:
My name is Patrick, and for sixty years
I have, with many labors, joys, and tears,
proclaimed the Name of Jesus in these parts,
although I know within my heart of hearts
I am a most uncultivated man,
the least of all the faithful in this land,
and looked upon with scorn by many. I
have sought with all my strength the Lord on high
to serve, not seeking status, wealth, or fame,
but just the celebration of the Name
of Him Who looked on me with mercy when
I was an ingrate, and the slave of men.
- Patrick, Confession (late 5th century)
T. M. Moore
It is our privilege to provide resources and opportunities to equip and encourage church leaders in building the Lord’s Church and advancing His Kingdom. Please pray that God will move many of those we serve through this ministry to share with us financially in its support. If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.