John the Baptist was the last Old Testament preacher (Luke 16:16), and Jesus became the first New Testament preacher. In fact, for preaching, John Stott (1982) wrote, “The only place to begin is with Jesus himself” (p. 16). Jesus, the quintessential person, finds Himself in the preacher’s shoes according to scripture. In relating God’s Word to us, it was all part of God’s plan (Heb. 1:1-2). Christ taught that His preaching was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Luke 4:16-21. In doing so, the people were confounded but were also amazed at the authority and understanding.
Jesus understands the purpose of God’s call to preach during His earthly ministry. He did not back down even when those who He taught were planning his death. Thus, “Preaching in the New Testament seems to emulate the authoritative style of the Old Testament prophets” (Berkley, 1986, p. 54). Jesus was unwavering in his message because He knew He was sent from God and the word He preached was given straight from the lips of God. Thus one of the most significant tokens of spiritual preaching is recognized authority not in one’s ability but in the originator of the message, God, and that the messenger has been deputized to spread it.
There is no doubt that Pentecost produced preachers. Peter being the primary example. Here we see that “Peter’s change from cowardice and denial to boldness and spiritual insight is another evidence that the age of the Spirit had dawned” (Utley, 2003, p. 27). Peter’s Pentecost sermon could arguably be the epitome of spiritual preaching since undeniably the spirit was on the scene. As Jesus shows the continuing authoritative sense of preaching from the Old Testament to the New Testament, Peter would be the advancement of it in the New Testament from Gospel to history.
The message starting in Acts 2:14 was impromptu. Peter did not have time to study as it was somewhat reactive to the crowd. Therefore, we see spiritual preaching was still a message straight from God. Secondly, Peter, the coward had a new uncanny boldness about him. His preaching had authority. Yet, there was a new dimension for spiritual preaching. The atmosphere was celebratory, loud, and to some apparently obnoxious as the participants in the Spirit’s descending were accused of being drunk. Peter’s reactionary preaching takes on a different tone than those possibly around him.
By standing up, Peter signified the control he had over his body. He was not intoxicated and had power over his physical capabilities. More than the physical, Peter also could speak openly and control his speech. It is essential to understand that Peter would have to “lift up” or “raise up” his voice in the situation that he was in. In short, the spiritual preaching that Peter practiced was precise and controlled. Even with a lack of preparation and experience, he maintained his composure. He did what he needed to do in that environment. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The final part of a spiritual preaching definition is that it fit the moment. Peter’s sermon not only portrayed the truth, but he also embodied that truth. Paul in his address at Athens has a philosophical flavor to it (Acts 17:16-34). It too was impromptu, reactionary, but still fit the setting perfectly. Spiritual preaching may create conviction, inspiration, hope and among other things, but it won’t create awkwardness. It will feel like it belongs and is a timely Word.
Stott (1982) wrote, “preaching as central and distinctive to Christianity has been recognized throughout the Church’s long and colorful history, even from the beginning” (p. 16). Spiritual preaching focuses less on academic content and more on the author of the message, the authority, and awareness of the environment of the preacher. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4 “and my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” And in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Biblically speaking to us, spiritual preaching is sharing a message from God to His people with diving authority and an awareness of the people’s needs.
Berkley, J. D. (Ed.). (1986). Preaching to convince. Carol Stream, IL; Waco, TX: Christianity Today, Inc.; Word Books.
Stott, John. (1982). Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. Grand Rapids, MI. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Utley, R. J. (2003). Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.