Preaching The Third Use And Encouraging The Saints

As pastors consider how to apply the text to the congregation, can we not let the final word be the comfort of the gospel as folks head out into their week?

“As pastors consider how to apply the text to the congregation, can we not let the final word of the sermon be the comfort of the gospel for the sheep as they head out into their week? Without careful reflection on the nature of application, on the question of how the application relates to law and gospel, in the rush and press of pastoral ministry, it is easy for the preacher and the sermon to make the final exhortation of the sermon more legal than it needs to be.”

 

What about preaching and the third use of the law? Preachers often end their sermons with a moral application of the text. This practice has a long and honorable history in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Certainly pastors should preach the third use of the law. Certainly they should follow the text of holy Scripture wherever it leads and trust the Spirit to do his powerful work through preaching of the Word. Nevertheless, I have a practical question about preaching.

As pastors consider how to apply the text to the congregation, can we not let the final word of the sermon be the comfort of the gospel for the sheep as they head out into their week? Without careful reflection on the nature of application, on the question of how the application relates to law and gospel, in the rush and press of pastoral ministry, it is easy for the preacher and the sermon to make the final exhortation of the sermon more legal than it needs to be.

Sometimes legal shading to the final exhortation is subtle and it is, it tends to cloud the good news that, we trust, was preached earlier in the message. I think this is due, in part, to the fact that we sheep most naturally hear with ears of law and merit-works and not with faith with hearts of gratitude. Also, it’s partially due to the preacher’s desire to be practical and make application of the sermon through appeals to personal responsibility and faithfulness and the law is truly practical.

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