A Reformation of Preaching – The Useful Applications of Scripture

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary has been doing some great work in the name of Lutheran Orthodoxy. A while back he published an article in Concordia Theological Quarterly Journal entitled “The Useful Applications of Scripture in Lutheran Orthodoxy: An Aid to Contemporary Preaching and Exegesis.” This work has been quite revealing on the way Lutherans have historically handed over the Scriptures in preaching to God’s people.

One of the best things about this work is that it revives a style of preaching that has not been taught in a long while in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. While some have become fond of a radical way to avoid the third use of the Law by being radically formulaic in their preaching of Law and Gospel, others have tried to come up with a new schema that exaggerates smaller concepts like the Two Kinds of Righteousness (and kinda sounds like Methodism). Dr. Mayes has simply shown in this work how our Lutheran Fathers preached the texts using two Biblical texts (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Romans 15:14) to put together a faithful way to both proclaim Law and Gospel, instruct in doctrine and life, and bring comfort to souls. His article demonstrates that for centuries this was the standard way of Lutheran preaching.

Having graduated from the same seminary I can say that this method is refreshing compared to the oversimplified Law/Gospel/(maybe third use depending on if you believe it) preaching that has dominated recent decades in Lutheran preaching (don’t forget to add on the Sacraments at the end). It also avoids the overreaction to the radical so-called “gospel” preaching that may lead to simply moralism or more Reformed styles of preaching. It shows how Lutherans used to preach.

In my pastoral ministry I have had the practice of picking a Lutheran Father’s sermons to read through the church year (+1 for the One Year Lectionary). Since graduating it has been quite noticeable that the way our fathers preached is not the same way that we were taught to do today. Dr. Mayes’ article explains why. Take the time and read it. Suggest it to your pastors to read and study. My circuit has been discussing this one for the past year and will continue to discuss this methodology of Lutheran preaching as we all strive to be better preachers.

Here is the paper from CTQ:


1 thought on “A Reformation of Preaching – The Useful Applications of Scripture

  1. Thanks, Rev. Scheer, for taking note of Dr. Mayes’ superbly done article. I hope many more pastors take a few minutes to read it through. I think we are discovering the real treasures of preaching from Luther, and all of our orthodox fathers, up to and including Walther, et al. I can’t put my finger precisely on when this idea of a sort of formulaic outline took such firm hold, but that it did is undeniable.

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