In 2011, the deacon of the church I pastor, Jack Roberts, received his eternal reward. He was a praying man, and he loved to pray for his pastor. Many times throughout a sermon, you could hear him praying for souls to be saved, believers to be strengthened, and for the sermon Holy Spirit to continue working through the minister as they preached. In many ways, he was a great encouragement to me in my early years.
When he finished his race, I had a great sense of loss. He was a partner in ministry that regularly lifted me up in prayer, and it made such a difference. I came to a place where a felt burnt out. It seemed that no matter how much I studied, prayed, and preached, there was a barrier that could not be overcome. That continued for several months, and the Lord reminded me of Who called me to ministry and why. In a dark hour of the night, God illuminated His Word through a book I came across in seminary written by Peter Adams, “Speaking God’s Word.” Now, I would like like to share my thoughts from Scripture and the theology of preaching with you.
First, God spoke (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Verse 21 is especially enlightening, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Second Timothy 3:16 is also important to keep in mind, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Inspiration in the Greek literally means, “God-breathed.” We serve a God who speaks. Along with several of the Old Testament prophets, the Psalmist pointed out that a difference between the Christian God and the idols of the world is that our God speaks (cf. Psalm 115:3-8; Isaiah 41:21-23, 25-28).
Yes, we serve a God who speaks, and when He speaks, things happen. This is important for preachers to remember. The Apostle Paul worded it in 1 Corinthians 2:4, “And my speech and preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of Spirit and of power.” It is important for the minister to study and prepare their sermon, as to preach clearly and with authority. Do not forget that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
As the Word of God is proclaimed, work is being done in the hearts and lives of people. The minister is to be faithful to perform their God-given task. God will do the rest. Even as we preach to a congregation that seems unmoved, God is at work. When people are confronted by the Word of God, it penetrates deep into their soul. It brings them into the presence of God, and they will either rejoice, repent, or reject His Word. When God spoke, the world was created. When Jesus spoke people were healed, and sins were forgiven. Today, God’s Word is still potent.
It was written down (Jeremiah 30:2).
We do not preach our opinions and make religious speeches. Preaching is the proclamation of what God has revealed to holy men of old. Paul wrote in Romans 15:4 that, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The Bible is our preachment. God has given His Word authority over our lives. Any sense of authoritative preaching comes from the power invested in the Word of God from on high. It is because God has spoken it and because it is still alive and active today.
God spoke and revealed Himself to specific people, in specific places, at specific times, for specific reasons. His revelation was written down to be preserved for future generations.
Scripture is full of God’s commands to write His Word down (cf. Exodus 24:4-7; Joshua 1:7-8; Isaiah 30:8; Jeremiah 36:2; Habakkuk 2:2; Revelation 1:11). When we preach, we may use our Words to interpret, contextualize, and teach, but it is God’s own Word that convicts and comforts the hearer. Though it was written down thousands of years ago, Scripture remains incredibly relevant.
Moses, the first writing prophet, and many other may have had their focus on their current situation, but God’s instructions to write down His Word was also intended for future generations. In other words, when the writing prophets and apostles received revelation from God, they may have thought they were receiving mail intended solely for them. Instead, the Word they received from God was our mail too. God spoke to their situation, and because that Word was written down, we know that it is for our time as well.
The Bible is God’s very own Word. It is trustworthy as God has preserved it throughout the ages. We can know beyond doubt that the Bibles that we hold in our hands and preach from is the Word of God. Jesus taught, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). First Peter 1:2-4 and 25 states, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
As ministers, we are to submit to the authority of God’s Word. We this because it is right but also as an example to our congregations. Many times the meaning of a passage of Scripture is plain and straightforward. Yet, preacher after preacher will undermine the simple teaching to change what was said. The problem with a pure and simple meaning is that it often goes against our current lifestyle. Instead of submitting to the authority of God’s clear instruction, we change the Word by inserting wrong opinions and interpretations until Scripture agrees with us. Imagine that if this is taking place in the pulpit, what it does in the pew.
Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
Paul’s charge to Timothy is something many ministers are familiar with from study and their own charge at ordination. Those three words, “Preach the word” are emblazoned on my pulpit as a reminder to the minister of the task before them. God has spoken, and it is written down forms the foundation for us to Preach the word. The Gospel of Christ’s kingdom has been given, and we are the Kings heralds.
We have discussed the theological foundations for preaching, but there is one thing to still add. Preaching is a calling from God. In my own experience, I had to remember that God is the one that called me to preach the Gospel. It was not the denomination that ordained me to preach, and neither was it the local church. Our calling is not the result of a nightmare and should not be the result of selfish ambition. God calls us into the ministry and enables us to carry the Gospel, His spoken Word that was written down. We are charged before God and man to bring God’s Word. Ministry is a high calling because it deals with eternal matters: the Word of God and the souls of men and women.
To preach the Word, once again, we must personally submit to its authority and power. The Bible lays claim to us, and we are held accountable to it. Whether we agree with that or not speaks volumes to how we will interpret the Bible. If we are prone to feel that the Bible has a divine authority over our lives, then we are more likely to live by its standards whereas if we feel that the Bible has no teaching rather than living accordingly to our fleshly desires.
There are typically three views on the Bible as the Word of God. There is the view that the Bible is the Word of God, another states that the Bible becomes the Word of God. The last says the Bible merely contains the Word of God. While Most Christians would agree that the Bible plays a unique role in connection with the relationship between God and man. They question what kind of role it is, and what the precise nature of the Bible’s consequent authority is. Depending on a person’s presuppositions will determine how they interpret and apply the Bible to their personal life, regardless of being a minister or laymen.
The view that the Bible just becomes the Word of God as we believe it or contains parts of God’s Word to us argues that the text is nothing more than another human writing. Another way of understanding this particular viewpoint is that the preacher or student of God’s Word takes it upon themselves to determine what passages are Scripture and what pieces are not. This view can only lead a person to wrongly dividing the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).
To view that the Bible is the Word of God gives the scripture great authority over our lives. If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase authority of scripture, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that power belongs to God and God has invested that power in scripture. The scripture has authority because God claims it as His Word.
So, what does this mean for me?
As we preach the Word as God’s Word, the authority has over our life is passed on to those who hear us. God’s authority lays claim to them, and they are responsible for their reaction to Him. If we are not faithful to preach the fullness of God’s counsel from Scripture, the blood of people is on our hands. If we are faithful to preach the fullness of Scripture, the consequences of their response are upon themselves. This is a strong message from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (3:17-21, 33:1-9).
This responsibility upon the hearer is also recorded in the New Testament as Jesus concludes His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:24-27). The story of the wise and foolish builders relay to us the importance of what we do with God’s Word. Those who do God’s Word are like a wise man that builds on the rock, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (vs. 25). Those individuals who hear the Word of God but do not obey are likened to the foolish man who builds his house on the sand, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (vs. 27). As far as we know, the two men used the same blueprints for their homes and were identical in every way except one, their response to God’s word (the foundation) was different. In the judgment, we will give an account to our response to God’s revelation of Himself through the written Word. We will stand if we build on God’s Word, but we will fall if we do not.
Preacher, remember the Words of Paul to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can trust that God’s Word is His Word. We can rest that as it was transmitted through the years that the Holy Spirit preserved it for us today. Hence, now to every preacher I say with the apostle Paul, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2:1-2).
The Preacher’s Library
Studying Scripture and the role of the Holy Spirit
Adams, Peter (2004) Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL