As one who has listened to preaching for more than 50 years, studied it for more than 40 years, and taught it for 30 years, I am always thankful for those who faithfully preach the Word. However, many of today’s pulpits are filled with their fair share of curiosities, mediocrities, and even some atrocities.
I’ve heard texts eisegeted rather than exegeted. I’ve seen preachers skirmish cleverly on the outskirts of a text, like a magician who keeps reaching into an empty hat, and extracting a handful of nothing. I’ve heard texts bludgeoned and battered; twisted and tortured into submission. I have sometimes felt when the preacher completed his sermonic surgery, he failed to rightly divide the Word of truth, and I half hoped that the text would rise up and sue the negligent preacher for exegetical and theological malpractice. It goes without saying that proper hermeneutics and exegesis are foundational for good preaching content.
Oddly, some listeners are willing to overlook these planks in the eye, (or should I say the mouth) of some preachers. Instead, they get all worked up over the stylistic speck in the eye of those preachers who don’t emulate a particular preaching style. Preaching styles have and always will vary.
I am less interested in your preferred style of preaching and more interested in your theology of preaching. As far as I’m concerned, regardless of style, every preacher and every listener should operate on the following four principles:
1. The Divine Source
- God has spoken and speaks in Christ and Scripture.
2. The Divine Authority
- “God, having spoken of old to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language we can understand.
Scripture is inspired, inerrant, and sufficient.
3. The Divine Content
- “All Scripture is God-breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16). As J. I. Packer said: “Scripture is God preaching.”
- Preaching must be “text driven” and “Christ-centered.” Since God himself speaks in and through Scripture, it is incumbent on preachers to expound the meaning of Scripture to their people. In so doing, they are preaching Christ through the very words of God and Christ in Scripture.
4. The Divine Mandate
- “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead. . . .” (Acts 17:2-3)
- “Preach the Word.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Preaching is much more than a commitment to some sermonic “form” or “style.” Every time we preach, eternity is at stake.
- With every sermon we are not only spiritual surgeons, “rightly dividing the word of truth,” but are ourselves under the probing knife of the very Word we preach, as Hebrews 4:12-13 says. The razor sharp scalpel of the Word penetrates us, and becomes a “critic” (Greek – kritikos) of our thoughts and intents — including methods and motives in both preachers and listeners. The author of Hebrews warns in 4:13: “everything is naked and open before the eyes of Him, before whom we must give an account.” Or, to express the Greek wordplay of the author, “He to whom the Word has been given shall one day be required to give a word in return to the One who is Himself the Word of God.”
- Those of us in the pew must hold our pastors accountable to a high standard for preaching God’s Word, all the while remembering that we too are being probed by the Word. If we all did this, I suspect next Sunday’s sermon time during the worship service would no longer be business as usual.
- Preaching is God’s method of heralding the Gospel to a lost world. Preaching is God’s method of teaching His church doctrinal and ethical truths.
Preach the Word!