Turretin on the Spirit's Work in Preaching
The following post was first delivered as a talk at the Westminster Conference sponsored by Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary last fall and then recently published in the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal. As Turretin masterfully develops how the Holy Spirit works in preaching, a subject that is important for all of God's people to understand, I share it with our readers here. Used by permission.
Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:22-26, ESV)
Of utmost importance in the practice of the chief mark of the church, that of the pure preaching of the Word of God, is a conscientious acknowledgement of, and utter dependency upon, the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit of God is the true author of the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21). He is the One who has made God’s truth known to us (John 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit grants illumination to the meaning of the text (1 Cor. 2:12-13). He is the One who empowers the preacher (Acts 1:8; Eph. 6:18-20). As Jesus said in John 14, the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father in the name of Jesus to bring God’s Word to His people. Those who keep that word know the love of God and become the place where the Trinity dwells. The Holy Spirit alone uses preaching to convict, convert, and consecrate. From beginning to end, preaching is a working of the Spirit of God.
Yet with this perspective, questions arise with respect to the Spirit’s manifestation in preaching. How does the Spirit’s primary authorship of the Scriptures relate to the church being the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)? How does the Spirit work with human reasoning in the preacher understanding and proclaiming a text, and the congregation receiving the Word preached? Are preachers helplessly reliant on the sovereign Spirit’s self-manifestation in their preparation and preaching, or do means exist to cultivate the Spirit’s activity? To further understand the Spirit’s work in preaching, perhaps no theologian strikes truer with the needed clarity as does Francis Turretin (1623-1687).