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“I love the simplicity of the Scriptures, and I wish to receive and inculcate every truth precisely in the way, and to the extent, that it is set forth in the sacred Volume.  Were this the habit of all divines, there would soon be an end to most of the controversies that have agitated and divided the Church of Christ.  My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there.  I have a great jealousy on this head – never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.  I would run after nothing, and shun nothing. . . . The truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes. . . . I formerly read Aristotle, and liked him much.  I have since read Paul, and caught somewhat of his strange notions, oscillating (not vacillating) from pole to pole.  Sometimes I am a high Calvinist, at other times a low Arminian, so that if extremes will please you, I am your man.  Only remember, it is not one extreme that we are to go to but both extremes.”

Charles Simeon, quoted in H. C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon (London, 1956), pages 77-78.

My brother pastor, to preach with biblical fullness, rising above ourselves and our biases, let’s just preach through the Bible, passage by passage, letting each passage make its unique contribution, confident that over time the fullness of it all will serve people well with a massive vision of the Triune God.  But let us never force a passage to say what we think it ought to have said and thus complicate the work of God.

For example, if a biblical passage teaches imputed righteousness, let’s not “balance” it by inserting into the sermon a counter-emphasis on imparted righteousness.  And if a passage teaches imparted righteousness, let’s not “balance” it with a forced counter-emphasis on imputed righteousness.  That is not biblical preaching.

Humility allows God to speak through his Word, yielding to him passage by passage, Sunday by Sunday, so that he enriches us with one precious gospel gift after another, each one a new facet of the many glories of Christ.  This kind of preaching can raise up a wise and healthy church, thriving under the authority of Scripture, not limited by any pet doctrine.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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