alien righteousness

From John Webster’s the Grace of Truth

Taken from John Webster’s preface in his book of sermons titled “The Grace of Truth” published in 2011.

“Preaching is one of the principal ways in which the God of the gospel has dealings with us. The gospel’s God is eloquent: he does not remain locked in silence, but speaks. He does this supremely in the mission of the Son of God, the very Word of God who becomes flesh, communicating with human creatures in human ways, most of all in human speech. The Son of God comes as a preacher (Mark 1:38); this is a primary purpose and one of the most characteristic activities of his earthly ministry. His apostles, too, are summoned by him to preach the gospel: to speak from him and about him, to address their fellow creatures with testimony to the gospel. And this apostolic commission remains for the church. Paul’s charge to Timothy—“Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2)—extends to the Christian community now, and faithfulness to the changes is basic to the way in which the church fulfils its nature and mission as the community of the Word of God. The church of the Word is a church in which, alongside praise, prayer, lament, sacraments, witness, service, fellowship and much else, there takes place the work of preaching.

There are at least three elements to preaching. First: Holy Scripture. Scripture is the body of texts which God forms to be his “word,” his communication with us in human language. In these texts, God teaches us, gives us knowledge—of himself, of ourselves, and of his ways with us. Preaching is not any sort of public Christian discourse; it is the church saying something about the words of this text, on the basis of the words of this text, under the text’s authority, direction and judgement. Second: the congregation. At the Lord’s summons, the people of God gather in his presence. They gather in the expectation that something from God will be said to them—that however anxious, weary or indifferent they may be, the God of the gospel will address them with the gospel, will help them to hear what he says, and will instruct them on how to live life in his company. Third: the sermon. God speaks to the congregation through the human words of the one who is appointed by God to “minister” the Word, to be an auxiliary in God’s own speaking. The sermon repeats the scriptural Word in other human words, following the Word’s movement and submitting to its rules. In this, the sermon assists in the work of the divine Word, which builds up the church, making its life deep, steady and vital.”

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