An Exhortation to Preachers: Personal Application and Being Under Authority

In "Directions How To Hear Sermons" I made mention of Calvin's exhortation to pastors to first preach (apply) the Word to themselves personally before seeking to apply it to the lives of those to whom you preach. And if the preacher did not first apply it to himself, it would be better for him to fall and break his neck before preaching that sermon to others. Someone asked about Calvin's statement, which I answered in the comment but believe it is worthwhile to include here as well.

T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s Preaching (Edinburgh, Scotland: T & T Clark, 1992), quotes Calvin’s own writing on this issue. The pastor/preacher must be obedient, he must apply the biblical truths to himself in his own life before he attempts to do so to those to whom he is preaching. “It would be better for [the preacher] to break his neck going up into the pulpit if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God” (40).

In a sermon Calvin acknowledges a similar truth about the importance of being under the authority of the Word like the others to whom he is preaching, that he was preaching to himself as well as to others: “When I go up into the pulpit it is not only to teach others. I do not withdraw apart; for I must be a scholar and the word proceeding out of my mouth should be of service to me as well as to you; or woe to me!” (40).

These are powerful and convicting reminders that we are all under the authority of God and His Word. No one is exempt, including pastors/preachers!

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