I have always stood in awe of preaching. This is probably why I am a preacher today. But the subject of preaching and its importance is not conditioned on my personal affinity for preaching. Although preaching is a subject that reaches deep into the soul of every biblical preacher, ultimately the rubric of preaching transcends the preacher. The reason why is because preaching is God’s idea not ours. He has chosen what many would regard as a foolish thing to bring His wisdom to bear upon the church and the world (1 Cor. 1.18-20). The simple application for God’s people is that preaching is essential for the spiritual lifeline of the believer. Although the minister of God does not possess sacerdotal powers per se— the power is in the Word of God. Preaching is powerful because it is an extension of God’s own revelation. Therefore, every believer and member of God’s church should not only care about preaching, but have the utmost reverence for this God-ordained act which communicates God’s Word to us in a unique way. There are several reasons this is so and they all have to do with what preaching is:
We should know preaching is special by the sheer fact that it is connected with the Word of God (2 Tim. 4.2). Preachers are not simply taking up any old subject they are taking up the Word of the Living God! The person who is regenerate, born again, and filled with God’s Spirit testifies to the immensity of the expositor’s subject matter. As Moses told the people, the Word of God is no mere trifle, “it is your life” (Dt. 32.47). This lends itself to understand something of the nature of preaching itself, its goal and its necessity. The goal of preaching is to herald the Word. That means that by necessity preaching cannot consists of political speeches, philosophical abstractions, or personal affinities— if rightly preached the Word of God will cause the preacher to mysteriously fade into the background. As Calvin put it, the more the Word is preached the less the preacher’s “fancies” should spoil the exposition. Preaching is a discourse worth listening to because it is particularly, supernaturally, and spiritually connected to God’s own Word.
Some of the best ways to know whether or not what you are hearing Sunday after Sunday is true preaching is to know what preaching is not. Preaching is not theoretical musings, private speculations made public, talking, personal testimonies, lecturing, or even merely teaching by imparting biblical data.
Preaching must have authority or it is not preaching!
Paul told Titus, a young preacher, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Tit. 2.15). This means, people cannot simply sample the preaching with a “take it or leave it” attitude. When preaching is done with authority there are only two options, the message is either true or false. Preaching also demands faith in the authority embedded in the calling to preach. The pulpit must be entered with fear and even trembling but not doubt. Peter exhorts us to speak with scriptural self-consciousness (1 Pet. 4.10). Preachers have to be totally cognizant of the supernatural event that is preaching (So much more can be said here).
More regrettable trends in preaching have surfaced of late which attempt to cast preaching in a lesser more normalizing light than what preaching really is (cf. Neh. 8.1-9). Continuing with what preaching is not; preaching is not simply engaging in monologue style conversation where the audience is made to feel that something much like what was happening at Starbucks and in the hallway of the church commons is happening in preaching— this destroys the transcendent spiritual majesty of preaching (Acts 4.8). Even worse than this normalizing of preaching, true preaching, where exegesis is not simply explained but exulted in, is substituted with stories, entertainment, the preeminence of music, loose talking, silly talking, uncritical thinking, and humor-laden propositions that
make laughter central and even essential to successful preaching. It is hard to see how, with this type of preaching-lite, can the horrors of Hell and the ecstasies of Heaven be sincerely sensed by the congregation any longer.
One the most precious aspects preaching is the tradition of preaching. The contemporary preacher enters the stream of Puritan preachers, medieval preachers, patristic preachers and apostolic preaching itself. Preaching is thus an art that is passed down from one generation of preachers to the next (2 Tim. 2.2). Yet, no matter how ancient the stream of tradition may be, preaching possesses a timeless quality that transcends culture and contemporary milieu in every age. Noah was a preacher of righteousness as was Peter, Paul, Spurgeon and by God’s grace those of this generation as well. Because of this, preaching can never yield to the social pressures of the present evil age. Satan would love nothing more than to have preachers take their cue from the world’s clever satire, base humor, glib triviality, humanistic psychology, and evolutionary anti-supernaturalism. True preaching resists the draw of the world’s apparent wisdom and actually preaches directly against it (1 Cor. 1.18-20). This is why the church can never preach a liberal gospel, social gospel, science gospel, moralistic gospel, pluralistic gospel, post-modern gospel— new gospel at all (Gal. 1.6-9).
Preaching is essential for the believer because of its sanctifying potential and power. Potential because the best of preaching, if it lacks faith from the hearers, will not profit (Heb. 4.2). Power because of its ability to transform (2 Cor. 3.18). Preaching shapes our minds and our hearts (1 Tim. 4.6; 6.3; 2 Tim. 1.13; Tit. 1.9). Effective preaching should become the kindling for sanctified affections and greater purity in our worship. Preaching protects, instructs, trains, exhorts, admonishes, and comforts. The Holy Spirit delights to attach His convicting power and ministry to the preaching of the Word of God (Acts 7.54). Personal and private bible study is never to be set at odds with the Word of God being preached— this creates a false dichotomy in the Christian life. True believers love to hear the Word, they are infatuated with the Word, they treasure the Word and are quick to hear it and obey it as God’s Word (Ps. 119.11; 1 Thess. 2.13; Rom. 6.17). It is enough that God has chosen the instrumentality of preaching to mature His people into Christ’s image (cf. Eph. 4.11-16). With the knowledge of God’s designs for communicating His Word we should seek to obey His desires and examine ourselves to see if we have the right view of preaching, a high view of preaching, and the biblical view of preaching beginning with the preacher, for Christ’s sake.
Any true definition of preaching must say that that man is there to deliver the message of God, a message from God to those people. If you prefer the language of Paul, he is ‘an ambassador for Christ.’ That is what he is. He has been sent, he is a commissioned person, and he is standing there as the mouthpiece of God and of Christ to address these people.
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“O’ Heavenly Father and Sovereign God of the Word, I pray for Your church, that Your Word would be rightly loved here. I pray that with such a powerful revelation we would not trivialize the apocalyptic realities of Your holy prophecy. Let us be a people of the Word, mastered by one Book and intoxicated with the goodness of Your holy Law. I pray that from it we would ground all our ministries and with it we would fulfill our holy duties to one another. I humbly ask that Your people would pray expectantly for the preaching of Your Word and that the Scriptures would always be the source of divine light and guidance. Give us more authenticity in this pretentious age, I pray that Your Word would be preeminent in every heart. In the name of Your Son Jesus the great center and theme of Your Word. Amen.”
Soli Deo Gloria
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.
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