Preaching Well




“No man
preaches his
sermon well
to others
if he doth not
preach it
to his
own heart.”

John Owen


The Spirit’s Glorifying Work

“[The Holy Spirit] reveals to the souls of sinner the good things of the covenant of grace, which the Father has provided, and the Son purchased.  He shows to us mercy, grace, forgiveness, righteousness, acceptation with God; lets us know that these are the things of Christ, which he has procured for us; shows them to us for our comfort and establishment.  These things, I say, he effectually declares to the souls of believers; and makes them know them for their own good – know them as originally the things of the Father, prepared from eternity in his love and goodwill; as purchased for them by Christ, and laid up in store in the covenant of grace for their use.  Then is Christ magnified and glorified in their hearts; then they know what a Savior and Redeemer he is.”  (John Owen, Communion with the Triune God; p. 377)

Christian Liberty

Liberty, in the Christian life is not a freedom to do whatever one pleases; but a freedom from the domination of sin and a freedom to live in holiness.  At first this kind of liberty may not seem appealing – especially when given the caricatures of the joys of a life in self-indulgent sin and the stuffy and boring life of holiness.

Yet, when the reality of life sets in, a person discovers that the pursuit of pleasure in the realm of sin leaves a person spiritually bankrupt, unfulfilled, and doing damage to oneself and others.  Holiness, other the other hand, is a living that can partake of many of the same delights – success, relationships, relaxation, exploration, etc – and yet do so in a way that can be uplifting to the individual, to others, as well as spiritually fulfilling.  God is not a cosmic party-pooper, but rather the Heavenly Father who truly knows what is best for humanity and the best ways of obtaining and living out the pleasures of life in spirit, soul, and body.

John Owen, a Puritan theologian, describes the contrast between the liberty in the family of God and the life of bondage outside of the family of God in his book Communion with the Triune God:

[There] is a liberty in  the family of God, as well as a liberty from the family of Satan.  Sons are free.  Their obedience is a free obedience; they have the Spirit of the Lord: and where he is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17)… Now this liberty of our Father’s family, which we have as sons and children, being adopted by Christ through the Spirit, is a spiritual largeness of heart, whereby the children of God do freely, willingly, genuinely – without fear, terror, bondage, and constraint – go forth unto all holy obedience in Christ (p. 342).

It is from life; that gives them power as to the matter of obedience.  “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets them free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).  It frees them, it carries them out to all obedience freely; so that “they walk after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1)… There is, then, power for all living unto God, from Christ in them (p. 343).

Children have liberty in duty… The object of their obedience is represented to them as desirable, whereas to others it is terrible.  In all their approaches to God, they eye him as a Father; they call him Father, not in the form of words, but in the spirit of sons (Gal. 4:6)… Their motive unto obedience is love (2 Cor. 5:4)… The manner of their obedience is willingness… The rule of their walking with God is the law of liberty, as divested of all its terrifying, threatening, killing, condemning, cursing power; and rendered, in the blood of Jesus, sweet, tender, useful, directing – helpful as a rule of walking in the life they have received, not the way of working for the life they have not (pp. 343-345).

I Have Been with the Lord Jesus…

“I have been with the Lord Jesus…I have left my sins, my burden, with him; and he has given me his righteousness, wherewith I am going with boldness to God.  I was dead, and am alive; for he died for me: I was cursed, and am blessed; for he was made a curse for me: I was troubled, but have peace; for the chastisement of my peace was upon him.  I knew not what to do, nor whither to cause my sorrow to go; by him have I received joy unspeakable and glorious.”
(John Owen, Communion with the Triune God; p. 319)

Given the power of encountering Jesus, John Owen makes a series of bold statements.  Owen’s words are not intended simply for his life with Christ, but are intended to be the declarations of all Christians:

“[Given the results of having been with the Lord Jesus,] if I do not love him, delight in him, obey him, live to him, die for him, I am worse than the devils in hell (p. 319).”

“Now the great aim of Christ in the world is to have a high place and esteem in the hearts of his people; to have there, as he has in himself, the preeminence in all things – not to be jostled up and down among other things – to be all, and in all [Col. 3:11].  And thus are the saints of God prepared to esteem him, upon the engaging themselves to this communion with him (p. 319).”

Purchased Grace – Part 3

The Puritan theologian John Owen spent a short chapter exploring the nature of purchased grace (the grace “purchased” for us by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) in his book Communion with the Triune God.  Owen opened up three aspects of purchased grace: (1) grace of acceptance with God, (2) grace of sanctification from God, and (3) grace of privileges with and before God (p. 289). Previous posts covered the grace of acceptance and grace of sanctification from God.  This post will touch on Owen’s presentation of the grace of privileges.

This purchased grace consists in privileges to stand before God, and these are of two sorts – primary and consequential.  Primary is adoption – the Spirit of adoption; consequential are all the favors of the gospel, which the saints alone have right unto…These are the things wherein we have communion with Christ as to purchased grace in this life.  Drive them up to perfection, and you have that which we call everlasting glory.  Perfect acceptance, perfect holiness, perfect adoption, or inheritance of sons – that is glory.

Purchased Grace – Part 2

The Puritan theologian John Owen spent a short chapter exploring the nature of purchased grace (the grace “purchased” for us by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) in his book Communion with the Triune God.  Owen opened up three aspects of purchased grace: (1) grace of acceptance with God, (2) grace of sanctification from God, and (3) grace of privileges with and before God (p. 289). A previous post covered the grace of acceptance.  This post will take a glimpse into the vast world of God’s grace of sanctification.

Sanctification, the process of making holy, is massive, complex, and wonderful.  On the one hand, we are made perfectly holy upon our salvation; on the other hand, we are in the process of being made holy. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).  In essence, in time we are being changed from the inside out to match what we already are in Christ through the eternal and perfect work of Christ.

John Owen touches upon sanctification within the paradigm of purchased grace – the grace “purchased” for us by Jesus Christ on the cross:

Grace of Sanctification from God

The second is grace of sanctification.  He makes us not only accepted, but also acceptable.  He does not only purchase love for his saints, but also makes them lovely… He does not only justify his saints from the guilt of sin, but also sanctify and wash them from the filth of sin. The first is from his life and death as a sacrifice of propitiation; this from his death as a purchase, and his life ans an example. (So the apostle, Heb. 9:14; as also Eph. 5:26-27.)  Two things are eminent in this issue of purchased grace: (1) the removal of defilement; (2) the bestowing of cleanness in actual grace.

For the first, it is also threefold: First the habitual cleansing of our nature.  We are naturally unclean, defiled – habitually so… The grace of sanctification, purchased by the blood of Christ, removes this defilement of our nature (1 Cor. 6:11)… Though the sin that does defile remains, yet its habitual defilement is taken away…Second, taking away the pollutions of all our actual transgressions.  There is a defilement attending every actual sin… Besides the defilement of our natures which he purges (Titus 3:5), he takes away the defilement of our persons by actual follies… Third, in our best duties we have defilement (Isa. 64:6).  Self, unbelief, form drop themselves into all what we do… He is as a refiner’s fire… Whatever is of the Spirit, of himself, of grace – that remains; whatever is of self, flesh, unbelief (that is, hay and stubble [1 Cor. 3:12]) -that he consumes, wates, takes away…

By bestowing cleanness as to actual grace.  The blood of Christ in this purchased grace does not only take away defilement, but also it gives purity; and that also in a threefold gradation: First, it gives the Spirit of holiness to dwell in us… Second, he gives us habitual grace – a principle of grace, opposed to the principle of lust that is in us by nature.  This is the grace that dwells in us, makes its abode with us… Third, [there is an] actual influence of the performance of every spiritual duty whatever… He must “work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  And in these three, thus briefly named, consists that purchased grace in the point of sanctification, as to the collating of purity and cleanness, wherein we have communion with Christ (pp. 291-293).

Purchased Grace – Part 1

Grace.  Often defined simply as “unmerited favor.”  Another focus when defining grace could be something along the lines of “God made real to us through the Person of Jesus Christ not due to any merit on our part” (John 1:12; 14).  In either case, or in whatever other definition of grace me might come up with based upon the Bible, we may be in the bad habit of not exploring the depth and mechanics of God’s grace.

On the one hand, having a simple definition of God’s grace is enough to grasp an understanding of what it means to have received and enter into the enjoyment of God’s grace.  On the other hand, exploring the composition of grace in detail can bring a person into a greater awe of the Giver of grace and deepen the appreciation of what we have received through Jesus Christ.

The Puritan theologian John Owen spent a short chapter exploring the nature of purchased grace (the grace “purchased” for us by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) in his book Communion with the Triune God.  Owen opened up three aspects of purchased grace: (1) grace of acceptance with God, (2) grace of sanctification from God, and (3) grace of privileges with and before God (p. 289).

Owen’s study of grace is worth reading and contemplating.  As with most of Owen’s work, the reader will miss out on some biblical gems if the writing is simply skimmed.  So, we will start off with some of his thoughts on the grace of acceptance with God:

Of acceptation with God.  Out of Christ, we are in a state of alienation from God [John 3:36; Ephesians 2:12-13], accepted neither in our persons nor our services.  Sin makes a separation between God and us… The first issue of purchased grace is to restore us into a state of acceptation.  And this in done [in] two ways: (1) by a removal of that for which we are refused – the cause of the enmity; (2) by a bestowing of that for which we are accepted.

Not only all causes of quarrel were to be taken away, that so we should not be under displeasure, but also that was to be given unto us that makes us the objects of god’s delight and pleasure, on the account of the want whereof we are distanced from God:

It give the removal of that for which we are refused.  This is sin in the guilt, and all the attendancies thereof.  The first issue of purchased grace tends to the taking away of sin in its guilt, that it shall not bind over the soul to the wages of it, which is death [Romans 6:23]… By his death, Christ – bearing the curse, undergoing the punishment that was due to us, paying the ransom that was due for us – delivers us from this condition.  And thus far the death of Christ is the sole cause of our acceptation with God – that all cause of quarrel and rejection of us is thereby taken away.  And to that end are his sufferings reckoned to us; for, being “made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21), he is made “righteousness unto us” (1 Cor. 1:30).

But yet further; this will not complete our acceptation with God.  The old quarrel may be laid aside, and yet no new friendship begun; we may not be sinners, and yet not be so far righteous as to have a right to the kingdom of heaven… [We] must not only have a negative righteousness …not guilty of anything; but also a positive righteousness…

This, then, is required, in the second place, to our complete acceptation, that we have not only the not imputation of sin, but also a reckoning of righteousness.  Now, this we have in the obedience of the life of Christ… The obedience of the life of Christ was for us, is imputed to us, and is our righteousness before God – by his obedience are we “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19)…

These two things, then, complete our grace of acceptation.  Sin being removed, and righteousness bestowed, we have peace with God – are continually accepted before him…Christ [has] dealt with that which was against us; and not only so, but also he puts upon us for which we are received into favor (pp. 289-290).