I’m crawling through Dennis Johnson’s new book Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures (P&R, 2007). Perhaps the following quotes will stir your soul as well. (The references to “apostolic” preaching are not a defense of modern apostleship, but how he describes Christ-centered, redemptive-historical preaching.)
“Apostolic preaching is no nine-to-five job at which employees put in the required hours and then leave workplace worries behind at day’s end, paychecks in hand, to pursue their ‘real’ lives. . . . The apostolic preacher’s struggle, therefore, is at its root a spiritual wrestling match with evil spiritual forces whose strength outmatches our own – were it not for the victorious power of our Champion Jesus.” (pp86-87)
“Occasionally, Christians pursue pastoral ministry because they are burned out in the cutthroat competition of the business world and imagine that they will find a tranquil (and even restful) life in the church, especially as a pastor who preaches on Sunday and enjoys a flexible schedule the rest of the week. Some starry-eyed ministerial aspirants imagine that people always admire, respect, and appreciate pastors. Such adulation can be a great boost to shaky self-esteem! Paul, however, awakens us from fantasyland and introduces us to the real world: those who would practice apostolic preaching must be prepared for both toil and suffering.” (p90)
Paul exhorted Timothy to “keep a close watch” on himself and his teaching (1 Tim 4.16). Doing so would “keep the main thing the main thing” which was his and the Ephesians’ salvation. We are not to keep close watch on the fickle winds of public opinion. Rather we must laboriously ask two questions: Am I living right? and Am I teaching right? (outlined in 1 Tim 4.6-15). At stake is not our ego, reputation as likeable men, or self-fulfillment. At stake are souls that unless they hope in the Living God will not be saved.
And finally from Johnson:
“The preaching that matures and edifies, no less than the preaching that evangelizes and converts, calls believers not ‘beyond’ the gospel to ‘deeper mysteries’. . . but more deeply into the gospel and its implications for our attitudes, affections, motivations, and actions.” (p68)