We have all heard the saying: “Practice what you preach.” Early in my ministerial training, I became convinced of the importance of the truth that Christians, particularly preachers, should practice what they preach. After several years of working to ensure that I was practicing what I was preaching, I was confronted by a wise, old pastor who challenged me. He said that if I, as a minister, only practiced what I preached, then I could never faithfully serve the Lord in ministry. He explained that a minister is called to live a holy life before God and man, and that if I am to serve the Lord faithfully, I must first be concerned with preaching what I practice, not practicing what I preach. He said that my life must conform to the life of Christ so that I am not disqualified in calling the people of God to conform their lives to Christ.
Not very often do we find people who preach what they practice. Throughout the history of mankind we find only one man who consistently preached what he practiced, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we are able to find great sins in the lives of many in history who have served the Lord, we see how the Lord has established certain men and women to serve as examples to His people. At the beginning of the twentieth century we observe such an example.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921) was a staunch defender of the faith. First and foremost, he was a servant of the Lord who was called to teach the Word of God. In his tenure at Princeton Theological Seminary as the Charles Hodge Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, Warfield continued in the great tradition that had been established by his predecessor Charles Hodge. For many years he served as the editor of what became known as the Princeton Theological Review. By writing on the inspiration and authority of Scripture, he boldly took a stand against the theological liberalism of his day. He labored to help those in ministerial training understand what it means to be a faithful preacher of the Word of God, and for nearly four decades he cared for his invalid wife day and night, tending to her every need and setting aside time to read to her every day.
In all these things, Warfield defended the faith in word and deed; in his ministry, he proclaimed the Gospel, and in his life, he manifested its power. He stood firm in his confession and sacrificially gave of himself, living coram Deo, before the face of God.
Dr. Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and serves as senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla. He is editor of Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace. He is on Twitter at @BurkParsons.