Article 1 in a Series on Preaching
by David Cook
Interact Magazine 1990
Volume 1 Number 1
Drama is much more appealing!
Dialogue is more appropriate!
Debate is less simplistic!
Klaus Runia, in his recent lecture series delivered in Australia entitled ‘The Sermon Under Attack’, says that preaching is under attack from –
1. Sociologists, who say society is now so complex that a simplistic sermon can’t solve any of its problems.
2. Humanists who claim that man has come of age and no longer needs to be taught; he has discovered his tongue and needs to talk, not listen.
3. Communicators, who say preaching is a one-way, inefficient means of communication, ‘a monstrous monologue by a moron to mutes.’
But the most crushing attack of all, he claims, comes from those in the pew who say preaching is boring. Since there is this wholesale attack, why should we continue to spend our week preparing to preach? Are we wasting our time? Let me answer with a resounding NO!! Such a situation calls not for less preaching but for better preaching.
What is Preaching?
In Acts 20 Paul uses 4 words to describe his ministry in Ephesus.
v.20, ‘I have not hesitated to preach….’ here the idea is of the faithful delivery of a message, an authoritative public declaration.
v.20, ‘but have taught you publicly and from house to house’. Note the concept of careful, systematic instruction.
v.24, ‘testifying to the gospel of God’s grace’. Here, the idea involves the personal experience of that which is being said.
v.27, ‘I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.’ The idea is one of public announcement and heralding of the message.
All these elements of public proclamation, systematic careful teaching, and the faithful delivery of a message are involved in our one word ‘preaching’.
Allow me to offer the following definition of preaching: ‘Biblical preaching exposes the text of the Bible, so that it speaks plainly to the listener and calls for a response of repentance and faith.’
Notice the significant words:
Preaching ‘exposes’ rather than imposes.
The ‘text’ or the portion of Scripture, rather than our own interests or theological bias, determines the content of the message.
There is a concern to speak ‘plainly’ rather than elevating the preacher’s intellect.
All preaching must not only expose but also generate a ‘response’ in the hearer.
So, Why Preach?
We will end up not doing it unless we have a theology of preaching. Our theology of preaching ought to include these concepts:
1. God enters into relationship with us by speaking through the prophets and lately through His Son (Hebrews 1).
2. It is God’s Word preached which brings life.
In Ezekiel 37:1-10 the miracle of life to the bones is not done independently of the preaching of Ezekiel but it is done through the preaching of the Word.
3. Between the speaking God and the listening world is the human mouthpiece through which God speaks His Word.
(1 Thessalonians 2:2,9,12,13) God makes his appeal through the apostle (2 Cor.5:18). ‘If ministers preach what is founded on the Scripture, their word, as far as it is agreeable to the mind of God, is to be considered as God’s. We ought therefore to receive the preacher’s word as the Word of God himself.’ Charles Simeon.
Luther saw the preacher therefore as the ‘mouthpiece of God’ and Bullinger claimed that ‘the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God’. Thus Paul says, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’, because it is through faithful gospel preaching that God continues to address mankind.
4. It is through the Word He has breathed out that the Spirit will do His work in bringing people to God.
The Word is powerful and as it is preached by human lips it will effectually achieve God’sintention for it.
The goal of the gospel is to liberate us, enabling us to be restored to the image of Christ. The gospel preached is the means God uses to bring about this goal, so Paul says in Acts 28:28 that for the gospel to go to the Gentiles is for salvation to go to the Gentiles.
Peter says that it is the preached Word of God which brings us to life (1 Peter 1:23-25). No wonder Paul charges Timothy to ‘Preach the Word’ (2 Tim.4:2)
In closing, let us remember these things:
The Word does not need to be supplemented by something else to make it powerful. It is powerful because it is God’s message.
God has commissioned us to be mouthpieces, to address His powerful Word to people.
Let us clearly and systematically set forth His whole counsel and not be turned aside from this central task.
We need to pray that God will accomplish His purpose as His Word is preached.
Remember Romans 10:14-15:
How can they call on the Lord to be saved
Unless they believe
Unless they hear
Unless there is preaching
Unless we are commissioned to preach?
Does your confidence lie in the God of the Word to accomplish His purpose through His Word?
Rev David Cook, a Presbyterian Minister, served in several churches before becoming Principal of Sydney Missionary and Bible College.
© Rev David Cook (1 March 1990)