properties of the ministry of the word

“O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”
(Galatians 3:1 LSB)

Here first, we are to observe the properties of the ministry of the word. The first, that it must be plain, perspicuous, and evident, as if the doctrine were pictured and painted out before the eyes of men. Therefore the Church of Rome deals wickedly in keeping the Scriptures in an unknown tongue. For this is to cover that from the people, which is to be painted before the eyes of their minds. Again, that kind of preaching is to be blamed in which there is used a mixed kind of variety of languages before the unlearned. For this is a sign to the unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). And in this kind of preaching we do not paint Christ, but we paint out our own selves. It is a by-word among us: "It was a very plain sermon." And I say again, the plainer, the better.

The second property of the ministry of the word is that it must be powerful and lively in operation, and as it were crucifying Christ within us, and causing us to feel the virtue of His passion. The word preached must pierce into the heart like a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). True prophecy judges men, discovers the things of the heart, and causes men to say: "The Lord is within you" (1 Cor. 14:25). The scepter of Christ whereby He smites the nations is in His mouth (Isa. 11:4), that is, in the ministry of the word (Jer. 15:19). And it is the same ministry which shakes heaven and earth (Hag. 2:5–6). By this it appears that to take a text, and to make a discourse upon something in the said text, showing much invention of wit and much reading and human learning, is not to preach Christ in a lively manner. It will be said: what then? I answer with Paul, "Who is sufficient" either for the speaking or doing of "these things?" Yet something may be shown. Know therefore that the effectual and powerful preaching of the word stands in three things. The first is true and proper interpretation of the Scripture, and that by itself. For Scripture is both the gloss and the text. The second is savory and wholesome doctrine, gathered out of the Scriptures truly expounded. The third is the application of the said doctrine, either to the information of the judgment or to the reformation of the life. This is the preaching that is of power. Let all the sons of the prophets think upon these things and study to be doers of them.

—William Perkins, ‘Commentary on Galatians’


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