Preaching (2)

Reprinted from the mission newsletter circulated in the UK by Covenant PRC.

The most important thing that the Bible says about preaching is that it is the way in which God’s people hear the voice of Christ Himself. Jesus tells us that we do hear His voice and must hear it in John 10:27.

That we hear His voice in the preaching, is clear from other passages (Rom. 1:16, 17; 10:13, 14; I Cor. 1:18, 23, 24; Eph. 2:17). Notice, for example, in Ephesians 2:17, that it is Christ who comes and preaches peace both to Jews and Gentiles. Even in the Old Testament it was the Spirit of Christ who spoke through the prophets (I Pet. 1:10, 11).

This is of the utmost importance. If Christ does not speak through the preaching, no one will ever be saved by the preaching of the gospel. No man’s voice can convict sinners and lead them to repentance. Only Christ’s voice can do that. No one has power to convert sinners and bring them to God. Only Christ can (Jn. 10:27).

Because Christ speaks through the preaching and causes His voice to be heard, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Indeed, the gospel is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:23, 24).

That Christ speaks through the gospel also explains the fact that the gospel always has a two-part effect. It not only saves, but it also hardens. It is not only a savor of life, but also of death (II Cor. 2:14-16). No one can come so near to Christ as to hear His voice and be neutral! He will either by the grace of God love that voice and desire to hear it always, or he will hate its very sound and shut his ears and heart to it (Isa. 6:9, 10).

When people stumble through unbelief, they stumble over Christ! He is the stone of stumbling and rock of offence—not the preacher, at least not if the gospel is preached and preached properly.

In order for Christ to be heard through gospel preaching, however, several things must be true. In the first place, only the Scriptures must be preached. They, and they alone, are Christ’s Word to His people. Anecdotes, jokes, entertainment, and the preacher’s own thoughts, however valuable they may be, are of no value in preaching. The Word alone must be preached!

Second, the preaching must be expository. Really that is just another way of saying that it is the Word which must be preached, but it needs emphasis, because so much preaching is only hung on a text of Scripture and Scripture itself is never explained, nor the text preached. There is a great lack of true expository preaching today.

Third, as we noticed in the last issue, the preacher must be sent (Rom. 10:15), that is, authorized and ordained by Christ’s church (Acts 13:1-4—notice that the sending by the church is equated with the sending of the Holy Spirit in verse 4). If the preacher is not sent neither he nor his audience have any guarantee that Christ will use him and speak through him, and what use is preaching in that case?

May God grant that Christ’s voice be heard once again in the churches!