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Two Voices

17 September 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 68. Are the elect only effectually called?
A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.

Preachers long for one Sunday in a thousand: the sermon seems as effective in the pulpit as it was in the study. The tongue doesn’t trip over the lips, illustrations are clear, and the Spirit seems to bless. But when that day comes, nothing happens. The post-church ritual of “Nice sermon, pastor,” is unchanged, and everyone wonders off to the parking lot, and the pastor returns to his routine.

A preacher may have a great burden for one lost sinner in the congregation. He wants that soul to reach heaven, and so he crafts his sermons to touch the precise points which that listener needs to hear. Again, nothing happens. The target audience smiles pleasantly on the way out of church, and the pastor’s heart sinks.

Then one day the preacher leaves the pulpit shame-faced. Such poor preaching must indicate inadequate preparation. The right word constantly eludes him, the illustrations miss he mark, and everything ends in an uncertain muddle. But on this day some timid soul comes quietly and says, “Pastor, I need to sit down and have a talk with you. I need to know the Lord.”

Why are men saved under mediocre preaching while extraordinary preaching so often accomplishes little? The answer is that there are two voices in every true sermon. One is the voice of the pastor, known in Scripture as “the ministry of the Word,” which on its own cannot touch the heart. The other is the voice of Christ, who speaks through preaching, or, to put it another way, “by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightens their minds, renews and powerfully determines their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.”