The Ministry of Preaching
Preaching takes great courage... If you are called to preach, know this ahead of time, and as an ambassador of Christ, proclaim His word as one of the King's heralds.
I have gained much from Bryan Chapell's book, "Christ Centered Preaching." There he points out, amongst many other things that in 2 Tim. 4:1, 2, the word "preach" is the word for â€œheraldâ€ or â€œannounceâ€ or â€œproclaim.â€ It is not a simple word for teaching or explaining. It is what a town crier did when he cried out: "Hear ye, Hear ye, Hear ye!!" It was a message that demanded attention. As the King's herald we are to proclaim, "The King has a proclamation of good news for all those who swear allegiance to his throne. Be it known to you that he will give eternal life to all who trust and love his Son." That is exactly the kind of message we are called to preach.
Preaching is a public exultation. It is not disinterested or cool or neutral. It is passionate about what it says. Yet this heralding contains teaching. We can see this clearly as we look back to 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Scripture (which gives rise to preaching) is profitable for "teaching." We can see it also as we look ahead to the rest of 2 Timothy 4:2, where it says, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." So preaching is expository. True preaching is not the opinions of a mere man. It is the faithful exposition of God's Word.
Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
John 5:39, 40 - You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.
It is possible to have a high view of the Bibleâ€™s authority and miss the entire point of the Bible. Scripture is not telling us what we must do to complete ourselves or make ourselves acceptable to God. The Bible is not a Self Help Book. All the Scriptures are about one organic message â€“ Christ Himself.
If people are simply told that something they DO will fix their problem â€“ thatâ€™s not just SUB-Christian but ANTI-Christian. The Gospel is not â€œDO BETTER!â€ To proclaim the â€œThou shalt notsâ€ without the Source that enables their accomplishment, or His atoning work for us when we fail, is to HIJACK the biblical message.
1 Cor. 2:2 - For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Christ is integral to every passage (understood in its proper biblical context). The message was NOT Jesus Christ and what a good guy He is, or that you and I should act like Him â€“ but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Galatians 5:11 - But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
If what we preach would be acceptable in any synagogue, or mosque, or political party club meeting, there is something radically wrong with it! Moralism is not bad in and of itself, but if moralism is all that is communicated, it is a denial of the Christian Gospel. Our mission in preaching is not to offend, but true biblical preaching will offend some.
C. H. Spurgeon once commented, â€œThere have been many destroyed by poisons, given to lull them to sleep; many have been ruined by the cry of "peace, peace," when there is no peace; hearing gentle things, when they ought to be hearing things that convict their hearts. Cleopatra's asp was brought in a basket of flowers; and men's ruin often lurks in fair and sweet speeches. But the Holy Spirit's comfort is safe, and you may rest on it. Let him speak the word, and there is a reality about it; let him give the cup of consolation, and you may drink it to the bottom; for in its depths there is no residue, nothing to intoxicate or ruin; it is completely safe.â€ Elsewhere he said, "Little is that ministry worth that never chides you. If God never uses his minister as a ROD, depend upon it he will never use him as a pot of manna, for the rod of Aaron and the pot of manna always go together, and he who is Godâ€™s true servant will be both to your soulâ€¦ If you always enjoy sermons, the minister is not a good steward. He is not acting wisely who deals out NOTHING BUT SWEETS... Christâ€™s sheep will not be offended by Christâ€™s voice.â€
The true ambassador for Christ feels that he himself stands before God and has to deal with souls in God's stead as God's servant, and stands in a solemn place - a place in which unfaithfulness is inhumanity to man as well as treason to God.
Note Paul's attitude to preaching in his words recorded in 1 Cor 1: 22-24 - For JEWS DEMAND SIGNS and GREEKS SEEK WISDOM, but we preach Christ crucified, a STUMBLING BLOCK to JEWS and FOLLY to GENTILES, but to those who are CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, CHRIST the POWER of GOD and the WISDOM of GOD. (emphasis mine)
Paul did not take a survey of the region where he was about to preach to ask what it was that they wanted to hear. He knew exactly what they wanted to hear. He knew full well that the Jews in the area wanted to see signs and the Greeks wanted to hear wisdom â€“ yet He wrote, "but we preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED." What he preached was not something that was naturally desirable to the hearer. Yet for those with spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear, Christ indeed IS the true sign and in fact ultimate wisdom. In Christ are hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge. Yet it would take the miracle of heart regeneration for anyone to to see the beauty of Christ and embrace Paul's message concerning the cross of Christ. He knew long before he ever opened his mouth that what he said would be highly offensive - either a stumbling block or foolishness - to everyone who would ever hear him - except for the group known as "the called." Here is reformed theology with a vengeance. But let us not miss the important insight Paul's words here communicate to us. It is clear from this passage that for Paul, it was God Himself who determined what was preached and not rebel sinners!
John Calvin once remarked, â€œIt is a singular privilege that God deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in themâ€¦ Christ acts by his ministers in such a manner that he wishes their mouth to be reckoned as his mouth, and their lips as his lips.â€
Brothers, this Lord's Day, may the Lord Jesus Christ be center stage in our hearts, our minds, and our sermons. Let us be bold in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as heralds who accurately proclaim the message of the King as ones who will one day answer to Him as to how faithfully we carried out that task.