The qualifications of a preacher, according to Calvin, arise out of this single-minded, single-hearted adherence to Scripture.  The first is humility, and that in two senses.  Faith, or trust, in Scripture implies submission.  As we have seen, it involves subjecting the reason even to anything that seems irrational.  And, what is submitted to inwardly is also treated as sovereign in the pulpit.  To preach one’s own idea is a mark of pride; not simply in that it implies that one is more clever or better informed or more spiritual than the congregation but, far more, in relation to God, as showing that we know better than the Bible and, thus, than God.  For Calvin, the message of Scripture is sovereign, sovereign over the congregation and sovereign over the preacher.  His humility is shown by his submitting to this authority.  A sign of Calvin’s awareness of this in his own preaching appears in his almost exclusive use of the first person plural and not the second, so that he does not address the congregation from some remote spiritual eminence but is ranked, with them, under the pre-eminence of the message of Scripture.  This trait will, no doubt, have been noticed in the quotations we have given.

The second qualification is the outward practice of the inward submission.  The preacher must, himself, be obedient to the teaching which he is urging on the congregation…

Thirdly, the preacher needs courage – not courage to believe but courage to proclaim the truth, however unpalatable, and to rebuke where rebukes are necessary…

Authority, the fourth of the qualifications, belongs strictly to the message and not to the preacher.  Any human authority he may possess (seniority, learning, managerial experience, etc.) is very different from the authority which Calvin has in mind…

From: Calvin’s Preaching by T. H. L. Parker (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), pp. 39-40.


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