Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.
Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers were raised up by God to lead this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived apostolic Christianity.
The same was true in the golden era of the puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wildfire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors — John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others — marched upon the British Empire with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken, and history was altered.
The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.
The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher of Westminster Chapel London, stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching — biblical preaching, expository preaching — is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.