Category Archives: Preaching

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Preaching like an elder statesman

Ken AllenOur latest addition to our preaching staff, the Emeritus Archdeacon Ken Allen, has been a tremendous encouragement for our church.  I remember hearing him in 2011 and thinking, this man is truly “old school” in his preaching style.  And as I’ve been maturing as a Christian and as I see preaching fads come and go, I thank God that He has spent the last 50 years training and equipping this man to proclaim the word of God to our modern generations.

I have noticed that as Ken has settled into the staff and church here, he has adopted a new style, that is preaching as the elder statesman. Many of us in Sydney are familiar with this style of preaching in we’ve particularly seen it in the last few years of Archbishop Peter Jensen’s preaching.

For me, elder statesman preaching comes from decades of being shaped by God’s word and preaching it.  It’s characterised by clear, concise and faithful exposition, illustrated with 50 years of hardened ministry experience.  Ken and my offices are across the hall from each other and after many conversations about preaching, ministry strategy, what’s happening in the diocese, etc, I can confirm that this man truly is a man of God, a straight shooter and one who says and does what is right, regardless of what others think.  And all this gives him the right and the ability to preach as an elder statesman.

I’ve uploaded an example of this preaching from our recent May Mission Series.  Let me know if you agree..

Trinity and Church

This is an excerpt of a sermon preached in November 2012.  

definition of church

‘The church is the people called by God for the sake of his Son to be gathered into him (the Son) by the Spirit’.

So now, let’s unpack how the Bible defines church, and there are three points.

The first point is that the church is the gathered people. In the NT, the word ‘Church’ or ‘Ekklesia’ basically means assembly or gathering and is often used to describe local gatherings of Christians, so e.g. in Acts 13:1, it talks about ‘the church at Antioch’ which is basically referring to the Christian gathering at Antioch.

But the church referred to in the Bible means more than individual assemblies. The NT church is the continuation of OT people of God. As the OT story unfolds, we see God actively gathering a people to himself. The nation of Israel is referred to as God’s people. In Exodus 6:7,

“the LORD said to the Israelites, I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. “

But this nation was eventually scattered and God again promised to gather them. The LORD says in Ezekiel 11:17ff,

“I will gather you from the nations … (v20) [You] will be my people, and I will be [your] God. “

The people of God also included non-Israelites. Isa 2:2-3 tells us that many peoples from other nations will come and gather in Zion. In the NT, this gathering happens around Jesus. Jesus says in John 10: 14ff,

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

The church is the gathering of Jesus’ flock. The people of God are the gathered, the ones who have listened and trusted the voice of Jesus and followed him. The church includes those in ages past, to us in the present and those still to be gathered in the future. This is how the writer of Hebrews describe church in 12:22ff,

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, […], 24 to Jesus…

The church is the assembly gathered around God and Jesus, and notice who the church belongs to? The church belongs to Christ, and this brings us to the second point.

The second point is that the Church is the gathering of those called by God for the sake of his Son. The church is Christocentric. In other words, it is centred around Christ. The NT describes it as the church of the firstborn, the body of Christ, the temple which is also Jesus’ body, Jesus’ flock, the bride of Christ, etc.[1]

descriptions of the church

The church belongs to Christ because the church is given to the Son by the Father and it is gathered for the sake of the Son. Jesus says in John 10[:27-29] that the sheep are given to him by the Father; and Paul refers to the Roman Christians as those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ (in 1:6). God’s purpose for creating and redeeming his people is primarily to bring glory to the Son. The 3 persons in the Godhead has always been other-centred – the Father glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father and the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son; and yet all glory is appropriately directed to himself as God since he is the only one deserving of glory and worship– the 3 persons in perfect relationship before time and creation. And so the triune God can exist without us. God doesn’t really need to create us or redeem us or gather us; yet the Father chose to create and redeem his people in order to bring glory to the Son.

This is how Paul describes God’s grand plan in Col 1:15ff,

15 He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The church is what God gave to his Son for the Son’s sake. God’s plan for the church is for her to be the beautiful bride for his Son, and for his Son to be the head of this unblemished and united body. This happens because of the Spirit, which is the next point.

So the third point is that the church is gathered into Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit. As we’ve been learning over this series on the Trinity, the three persons in the Trinity mutually indwell each other, so much so that the Triune Godhead is one God. Jesus tells us in John that the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father and that the Spirit is God’s Spirit but he is also the Spirit of the Son; this mutual indwelling of the Father, Son and Spirit is just mind-boggling.

perfect indwelling in godhead

But what is even more mind-boggling is that as God’s people we’re also caught up into this mutual indwelling. Let’s read from John 17: 20bff,

I pray also for those who will believe in me … 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us … 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus is praying that his people will be one with the same mutual indwelling as in the Trinity; but even more than that, he prays that we will be in the Father and the Son!  So, somehow the unity that God shares or their mutual indwelling is in some way extended to us! And this is made possible by the Spirit. Paul says in Eph 2:21-22:

21 In him [Christ] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

church gathered into jesus by spirit

Crudely speaking, the Spirit is almost like the bond or the glue that unites us into Christ, or the net that gathers us into him so that we are united as one body into Christ our head.

So, ‘The church is the people called by God for the sake of his Son to be gathered into him by the Spirit’.

End Note [1]:

  • The body of Christ Ro 12:4-5 See also 1Co 12:12,27; Eph 3:6; 5:23; Col 1:18,24; 2:19; 3:15
  • God’s building or temple 1Co 3:16-17 See also 1Co 3:10; 2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21-22; Heb 3:6; 10:21; 1Pe 2:5
  • A plant or vine Jn 15:1-8 See also Ro 11:17-24; 1Co 3:6-8
  • Jesus Christ’s flock Jn 10:14-16 See also Mt 25:33; Lk 12:32; Ac 20:28-29; 1Pe 5:2-4
  • The bride of Christ Rev 21:2 See also Eph 5:25-27,31-32; Rev 19:7; 22:17
  • God’s household or family Eph 2:19 See also Jn 8:35-36; Gal 6:10; Eph 3:15; 1Ti 3:15; Heb 2:11; 1Pe 2:17; 4:17

That Jude Sermon!

Eric and Ali teaching Jude (pic by B McLean

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of doing a tag-team teaching of Jude at SPCH.  Together with our resident expert on Jude, Ali Robinson (currently mid-way through her phD in Jude), we worked our way through the letter.  It was a blast to do and I’ve uploaded it for your listening pleasure!

Ali and Eric teaching Jude at 5pm 

Ali and Eric teaching Jude at 7pm (with question time)  

What we ought to be preaching to a hurting and needy world

I’m writing this post 5 hours after the doctors had administered a paralysis drug into mother-in-law just minutes before they were to switch off her life support.  Shocking, I know!  However, 5 hours ago, I was writing a sermon and pondering the kind of sermon ought we be preaching to our church.  The problem is that today’s preachers are just torn in trying to work out how and what to preach.  Everyone has an opinon about what’s wrong with our preaching!  For example, when you read some of the Christian luminaries, they say things like:

“… at the end of the day people are not asking about the five points of Calvinism, the trichotomy or dichotomy of the Spirit or the peccability/impeccability of Christ!  They are asking “why is my life falling apart?”  Or, “how do I get past the fact that I was sexually molested when I was eight?”  Or, “how do I, as a single mom, lead and provide for my family?” (Perry Noble from his blog)

And 5 hours ago, before the phone call, I tended to agree, to an extent. We live in a world racked by sin and death and decay.  We live in a world where we and the people we love suffer, grieve and are victims of other barbaric and violent sinful humans.  But now after 5 hours of reflection and prayer and crying out to God in pain, I dare suggest (and with the greatest of respect for Perry Noble and co) that to preach a needs centred, how-do-i-cope-with-life message to God’s church is a cop out.  And I say this not because I am some expert in preaching or some guru in solving the world-wide church’s problems, but as we’re currently going through a crisis, here is what I want to hear:

I want to hear of a God who is mightier, stronger, more loving, more majestic, more gracious than anything or anyone I could ever wish for or imagine.  I want to hear of the the God who is holy, holy, holy (Isa 6). I want to get to know the God who is all powerful, omni-potent, omni-prescent, eternal, unchanging .  I want to hear of the God who is the divine and soveriegn King of unrivalled power, holiness, love and glory.

This God is the one who doesn’t owe us, is not manipulated by our demands or instructions, and is not dependent on us in any way.  This God is the one “who made the world and everything in it and doesn’t live in temples made by humans, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17).  This is the God who freely gives salvation by sending His Son Jesus to die for us.  This the God who if is for us then no one and nothing could stand against us (Romans 8).

Unfortuately if our preaching is not grounded in this God then all the psycho-analysis and all the useful life-skills and all the world’s wisdom just seems trite and limp and lame and even pathetic.

I want to know how to make sense of people being struck down in their prime.  I want to help people whom Perry Noble is speaking of.  But the answers to our problems are not sociological or pschycological … instead our answers are theological as they lie in turning back to God and every fibre of our being putting our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. Our preaching must as it’s primary focus be bringing the church into the presence of God.  For it is only when we are God-centrered and knowing God who has revealed himself to us in Christ, will we truly find God-centred and God-honouring solutions to the most dificult of our life’s problems.

I’m sorry for my rant.  But I hope this helps!  Also my sincerest thanks to all who have been supporting Viv and myself over the last few weeks, and especially the last 5 hours.  My mother-in-law has had a miraculous late rally, but the doctors still don’t think she’ll make the night.  Thankfully, God is in control and in his loving-kindness he will do what is best for her.