A Concise Theology of Preaching

PREACHING DEFINED

Preaching is declaring God and His message by opening the Word of God and relying on the Holy Spirit to help clearly explain the truths found therein, so that listeners may clearly understand God’s message in order that God’s glory is seen and that His will may be obeyed.

OUTLINE

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to His Calling

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to God’s Nature.

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to Man’s Nature

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to God’s Work of Salvation

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to the Church

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to Sanctification

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to Inspiration

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to Eschatology

The Responsibility of the Preacher in Response to Cultural Relevance

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO HIS CALLING

The preacher of God’s Word has quite the responsibility. Jesus’ brother James realized this and wrote in James 3:1 that not many should become teachers of God’s word because teachers will be judged with greater strictness. Yet, there is a specific call to preaching. The call to preach is not a personal desire or choice. It is not carrying on the “family business.” It is not a way to gain favor with God. The call to preaching is given by God, and the obedient servant of God will accept His calling. It will be a delight to the redeemed individual called to preach because he understands that even though preaching is foolishness to the perishing, it is the power of God to those who believe (1 Cor 1:18). Preaching is the method that God has chosen to proclaim His message to all the earth (Isa. 34:1). Preaching is the method that pleases God to save those that believe (1 Cor 1:21).

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 that God does not typically give the call to preach to those who are wise according to worldly standards, nor to those that are powerful or of noble birth. God chooses the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to shame the strong, the lowly and despised to bring down those who are high and lofty. He does all this “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (v. 29). The individual called to preach is to respond to God’s calling to preach in humility. He is to realize that he was not chosen for his uniqueness or worth. He was chosen so that he may have the awesome responsibility to proclaim the gospel to the world. This individual is not to boast in his own ministry, for Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18). He does not need the preacher. The call to preach is a privilege and an honor. The preacher has a responsibility to his calling. It is to understand his role in the ministry of God. He is to happily accept his responsibility, and if he is to boast, he is to boast only in the Lord (1 Cor 1:30).

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO GOD’S NATURE

The purpose of preaching is to bring glory to God. Therefore, the preacher has a responsibility in his preaching to explain God in a way that brings out God’s nature and His attributes. The Bible is full of explanations of who God is and how He relates to mankind on a personal level. Because the Bible is full of explanations of who God is, it should not be hard to bring out those aspects in preaching, if the preacher is preaching expositionally. If one is preaching through a certain book of the Bible, one should be careful to address God’s nature and make it applicable to the listeners. For example, when preaching Romans 8, the preacher should not overlook the nature of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus Christ as man’s intercessors. When preaching Genesis 1, the preacher should not fail to show God’s omnipotence and eternality. When preaching Hebrews 4, the preacher should make sure to show the Jesus was sinless, although He was “tempted in all points as we are” (v. 15).

Good preaching will always teach the listener something about the nature of God and about the nature of mankind. When the preacher draws truths about God’s nature expositionally from the text of the Bible, reverence and the fear of the LORD will be natural results, and many times repentance and revival will follow. Also, preaching about God and His nature keeps the preacher from focusing on himself or his own stories. Therefore it is much easier to successfully accomplish the goal of preaching, which is bringing glory to God.

Because the nature of God is so prevalent throughout the Bible, a series of expositional sermons on a specific aspect of God is also a good way of remaining faithful to the purpose of preaching. Discussing God’s nature draws the attentive listener out from his own life and into the realm of the heavenlies. This increases the listener’s appreciation and love for God and how God deals with mankind. Thus, the Christian matures and God receives the glory.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO MAN’S NATURE

While preaching God’s nature, man’s nature will naturally also come to light. Ultimately, for man to repent and turn to God, man’s nature must be addressed. So the preacher has a responsibility to address man’s nature. Just as the Bible is full of explanations about God and His nature, the Bible is also full of explanations about man and his nature. Man is naturally sinful. There is none righteous on their own account (Rom 3:23). The only way to be accepted of God is to be redeemed by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-10). Proper preaching will address man’s nature. This will also naturally lead to preaching about the need for a Savior, which is solely found in Jesus Christ. For no other name under heaven given among men can save an individual from his deserved eternal damnation (Acts 4:12).

When preaching about man’s nature and his reliance upon God for salvation, the individual either is humbled before God or grows more hard-hearted toward him. In either case, the preaching of man’s nature brings no glory to man, but gives all glory to God for His gracious dealings with mankind. This fulfills the purpose of bringing the glory to God in preaching. This style of preaching may not be appropriate every week, because it is direct and offensive to the proud, but it must be addressed from time to time because it calls sinners to repentance. This is perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of preaching, and when listeners are responding and coming to faith in Jesus Christ it is easy for the preacher to think he is very successful. But it is very important to remember that the preacher is merely a mouthpiece of God, and therefore all glory and credit should be given to Him for His grace and for the power of the Holy Spirit.

Preaching about man’s nature sometimes can be intimidating knowing that it will offend some people. But the preacher is called to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and this is one aspect that is a necessity of a successful preaching ministry of God.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO GOD’S WORK OF SALVATION

Perhaps the most exciting part and the most crucial aspect of preaching is discussing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ toward mankind. If while preaching about salvation the glory is given to mankind, then the preacher has failed to properly present God’s work of salvation. If a preacher preaches a sermon and the listener hears and thinks that he can be redeemed and can continue to freely sin, the preacher has failed to properly present God’s work of salvation. When preaching about salvation the preacher has a responsibility to make sure that the listener can clearly understand that salvation is by grace through faith alone, and not that of works lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-10). This removes any glory or pride from the individual and gives God the glory He rightfully deserves.

God has chosen preaching as His method of declaring His salvation to mankind. It is not through visions, angels, or mysterious workings in the spiritual realm. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). If Christians are not faithful in declaring God’s work of salvation, not only have the Christians failed to fulfill one of their main purposes of being left as ambassadors in this world, but the world would have no hope of salvation. The world is always one generation away from being completely unregenerate. The preacher has a responsibility to declare the Gospel throughout all the world so that whoever might call on the LORD can be saved (Rom 10:13). Paul asked important questions to the Romans about this very issue in Romans 10:14-15a. He said, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” The preacher has a responsibility to preach about God’s work of salvation, and to do so brings God glory.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO THE CHURCH

The church of God is not a building. The church is a body of believers. Jesus Christ said that He would build His church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:19). The church is the pillar and ground of truth, and therefore truth must be declared among it (1 Tim 3:15). The church body is built up of individuals who have individual needs. The preacher, most often the pastor, is responsible to address these needs and feed his “sheep.” Therefore, it is many times tempting for the preacher to address certain topics and issues that he feels are relevant to specific sheep within the congregation. This may seem logical at first, but is usually very dangerous.

The preacher has a responsibility to declare all of God’s word. In preaching topically the preacher will more than likely avoid tough passages and is susceptible to “hobby-horse” preaching. Preaching topically also makes it very easy to pick and choose verses which can be pieced together to make a sermon. Doing so often rips the verses from their true context and allows for the Bible to say things it really is not intended to say. Therefore, preaching expositionally is essentially the “safest” way of preaching. It allows for continuity. The Bible is great to take book by book, verse by verse. Doing so allows for the church to grow in knowledge of the Bible and in spiritual maturity. The preacher is not alone in his preaching, for the Holy Spirit is great at taking the passage preached and addressing it to a multitude of personal needs throughout the church. Also, when preaching expositionally it is much easier to address the passages in their original context and be able to correctly apply them to current culture and life issues. Therefore, when keeping the continuity of the Bible as God intended and keeping the verses in context, respect and authority is given to God’s word, not the preacher. It is also easier for the preacher to give the glory to God, rather than give the glory to himself.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO SANCTIFICATION

Sanctification is vital in the preaching ministry. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. The preacher himself has a responsibility to be sanctified out of the world. It is a requirement for the preacher of God’s Word to be blameless (1 Tim 3:2). This allows for the preacher of God to be more “invisible” to the hearers. If the preacher is set apart for the glory of God, God is then able to use him as a mouthpiece to proclaim His word.

Within every sermon there must be a reverence for God. Sunday service is not stand-up comedy hour. The preacher must exemplify the fear of God is both his own demeanor and within his speech. God takes sanctification very seriously. Moses and Aaron were not allowed into the Promised Land because they failed to sanctify God properly before the nation of Israel (Num 20:12). The preacher must exemplify holiness if he expects for his sermon to be taken seriously, and if he expects to be taken seriously himself. God demands holiness (1 Pet 1:15-16, 2 Cor. 6:14-16). Holiness is not a decision the believer makes for himself, it is a decision that has already been made for Him. Therefore, one has a responsibility to preach in a sanctified way.

The Bible is a sanctified book. It is the final authority for all areas in life, and both the content and the delivery should treat the Bible as such. If the preacher is set apart from this world, sanctifies God in his preaching, and treats the Bible as the one-of-a-kind book that it is, then glory will be given to God. Preaching that is done in this way will challenge the congregation to live set apart unto God themselves. Preaching done in this way also leaves little room for the preacher to receive the glory for his labors. It will be obvious to the congregation that he goal is not to be popular, or to get people to laugh, but to give God the proper fear and reverence that He  expects and commands from the whole earth. As Psalm 33:8 says, “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO INSPIRATION

As already stated, the Bible is the final authority for all people in all aspects in life. The Apostle Paul, toward the end of his own ministry, told young Timothy to “Preach the word. Be instant in season and out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim 4:2). The Word is to be what is preached. The preacher’s message should not come from psychology books, Christian books, or himself. The message preached is from God Himself. “For all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17). The preacher does not have to add anything to the Bible to make it more complete. The Bible is sufficient for all people at all times.

When preaching the Bible should be treated for what it is: God’s word. The Bible many times is not clear to the unbeliever. However, it is not the preacher’s job to defend the Bible, but to declare it. The Holy Spirit will draw men unto the truth presented in the Bible. It is the preacher’s job to stay faithful to the Scriptures. The Spirit is able to use a message that remains faithful to the Word of God.

When preaching, one should make sure to take the Bible for what it says. It should not be overly spiritualized. It should not be interpreted in an overly analogous way. It should be interpreted literally, understanding that the Bible was written to a specific people in a specific time period with specific customs and idioms.

Every word of God is powerful and important. The Psalmist said in Psalm 12:6, “The words of God are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” When the preacher has the right view of interpretation and of the Bible’s authority, God is given the glory.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO ESCHATOLOGY

Jesus could return at any moment. The way one preaches should acknowledge this. Preaching is a vital ministry as the church anticipates Christ’s return. The church is to make sure that they are meeting together, and exhorting one another, especially as Christ’s return is anticipated more and more (Heb 10:25). Understanding that the LORD can return at any moment will result in preaching with urgency.

The preacher must have a proper understanding of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this earth. There is a balance that must be established, and this can be done through proper preaching. The preacher should be convinced of the reality that Jesus could come at any moment. This should drive the passion for preaching, and help the preacher understand its importance to relaying the truths of God to the congregation. The preacher is an ambassador in this world (2 Cor 5:20). His sermons should be focused on the eternal future of the souls to whom he is ministering. When he looks at the congregation he should see sheep that need shepherding.

Preaching with a correct understanding of eschatology in preaching will naturally emphasize the urgency for the hearer to either to accept or reject God’s message of grace. No matter how good the preacher is, or how clear his message, there will always be those who are rebellious in heart and reject Christ’s free gift of salvation. This has been the case since the beginning of time, and will even continue through to the end of Christ’s millennial reign on earth (Rev 20:8).  Also, having this urgency in preaching helps keep away the natural tendencies of the preacher to take credit for his work and for his preaching. It draws the attention to God’s coming judgment of sin, and draws men to repentance. Therefore, the preacher has a responsibility to understand eschatology and to make it a way of bringing the glory to God and not to himself.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IN RESPONSE TO CULTURAL RELEVANCE

In preaching, one must stay faithful to the word of God. This means that he must understand the context and the historical setting of each passage he preaches. Yet, sermons are not to be merely factual lectures or lessons. Sermons must enable the listener to understand God’s specific will and how to obey it. This requires the ability to apply the material from the setting of a world two-thousand to six-thousand years old to today. This can be a challenge, especially in dealing with books like Leviticus or Numbers. But, it should be done, and can be successfully accomplished without taking things out of context.

The Bible is relevant for today, and God has much to say in response to the day to day lifestyles of all people, whether it be a tribe in Papua New Guinea or to businessmen in Japan. The preacher is to help people understand the relationship between historical Israel and today’s modern world. God is alive. He cares and loves all people and offers salvation to all people (John 3:16). It is the duty of the preacher to proclaim this good news to all people.

The preacher should not overburden himself to try to make everything fit into modern lingo or dialogue. The Holy Spirit is the illuminator of God’s word. The preacher is simply the proclaimer of God’s Word. This is once again so that God receives the glory when one is able to understand and apply the Bible to one’s daily life.

God’s standards have not changed since the foundation of this earth. Salvation by grace through faith has remained a constant since the fall. Although people might think there are new issues, new sins, and new ways of thinking, Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), and there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9,14). The preacher should not feel pressured to address “new” issues when the issue of sin and man’s responsibility to God still remains an everyday relevant message to be dealt with and preached. To God be the glory.

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