Why Preach? (Part 2)
In my last post, we began looking at preaching. We considered the 1. Purpose of Preaching and the 2. Command to Preach. In this post I want to add three more aspects of preaching: 3. Preaching under Fire, 4. God’s Word has Power and Authority, and 5. Stewardship of Preaching.
3. Preaching Under Fire
In part 1 we looked at the fact that preaching is a command in Scripture. This doesn’t mean that preaching is always received. Preaching has always been under fire. Some of Paul’s final words to Timothy were “preach the word when it’s popular and unpopular”( 2 Timothy 4:1-2, My translation). The apostles experienced this attack when they were commanded not to preach in Jesus’ name. To which Peter and John said they cannot stop preaching (Acts 4:18-20). This then drove the disciples to prayer for boldness to preach and not succumb to outside pressure to desist (Acts 4:29). The pressure to stop preaching continued, but they were resolute in their obedience to God’s command. The religious leaders arrested and beat the Apostles being strictly commanded not to preach in Jesus’ authority, to which they said they must obey God’s command to preach his word and not man’s command to cease from preaching (Acts 5:27-29).
I would argue that the devil wants the word of God to cease being preached; therefore, he will use any means to hinder its going forth. At the outset of Acts 6 as the church began to grow, so did the needs of the young flourishing church. These needs were legitimate financial needs of poor widows in the church. But according to Acts 6:2, the Apostles recognized that “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” They did not let this great need eclipse their call to preach God’s word. Rather than their preaching of the word being diminished, they quickly mobilized the church to establish ‘deacons’. Acts 6:7 records the result, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.” You can see why the devil would want to stop the preaching of the word. God’s word preached transforms lives.
4. God’s Word Has Power and Authority
Why is preaching God’s word ordained by God? Why is preaching God’s word commanded? Why is preaching God’s word attacked? God’s word is the source of our power and our authority.
Before the church preached it’s first sermon, Jesus commanded the church to wait for power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). This is power to show and proclaim God’s truth. There was power in the word preached that Pentecost Sunday as 3,000 fell under conviction of sin being pierced to the heart. The word preached is the power of God. This is why Paul is so eager to preach to the Romans (Romans 1:15-16). Paul also points to this preached word powerfully changing the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:18). Our longing to see lives changed and transformed is good, but to divorce this longing from the power that accomplishes it is folly. Regardless of our desire to see lives changed, the power is in God’s word not our own.
Our preaching must be filled with God’s word because it is authoritative. In Acts 5, the Jewish council attempted to exercise authority over the Apostles when they commanded them not to preach. Yet the Apostles recognized a higher authority and were unmoved by the Jewish council (Acts 5:28-29). God was their authority. Religiously, Jerusalem was under the authority of the council opposing them, but they freely preached in good conscience against this pseudo-authority because they were preaching God’s unchained word (2 Timothy 2:9). Jesus holds all authority in heaven and earth, and he commands his church to preach in that authority everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). Even Jesus in his earthly ministry when preaching God’s word claimed its authority saying in John 8:28, “I do nothing of my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” We do not get to plot our own course exercising our own authority. All of our authority is derived from God’s commission to steward his word. Preaching this word, we preach with God’s authority.
5. Stewardship of Preaching
When we preach God’s word, we are recognizing its power and authority. Isaiah 66:2 reminds us that we should tremble before such a powerful and authoritative word with humility. We should count it as no small thing, but as an immeasurable privilege. Jesus who was the word of God incarnate (John 1:14), commissions us with stewardship of this great word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). We preach the word with power and authority, giving understanding of God’s good gospel unto salvation and sanctification. We honor God living in obedience to the high imperative to preach the word. We preach it in times when it is attacked, when popular and unpopular. We preach the word of God because it is God’s power and authority. Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
Good stuff, Matt. Thanks. Do you think that there are any trends within evangelicalism that are moving away from preaching?
Hi Tim, we’ve been away at Creation Fest here in the UK, so haven’t really been able to respond.
Yes, I do think there are some trends moving away. Here are the ones that come to mind.
1.) Entertaining vs. preaching – a speakers ability to make a crowd laugh (nothing wrong with humour itself) is valued above a clear presentation of God’s truth. In trying to make church enjoyable, we can fail to allow the gravity of God’s truth to pierce us.
2.) Therapy vs. preaching – meeting surface (felt) needs instead of deep rooted idolatry. Things like 5 ways to fix your marriage, which may be engaging, and actually helpful and apply biblical principles, but I think the goal of preaching is proclaiming the good news of Jesus. If we are giving therapy, people will come to get their fix, but if we are preaching Jesus, people will come to be transformed.
3.) Ranting vs. preaching – a lot of conservative evangelicals rant rather than preach. They gripe and complain about society and it’s evils (although error needs to be pointed out), they do not bring things to the hope of the gospel which is the good news we preach.
4.) Motivating vs. preaching – Preaching ought to motivate us to action, but some have left the good news out of their message in their attempt to bring about action. This is found a lot in some social justice emphasises.
5.) Moralism vs preaching – Preaching the gospel is proclaiming good news. Moralism is really bad news. Many call the church to a man centred gospel by calling man to change himself. But the foolishness of preaching for transformation and empowered change puts the emphasis back on the work of Christ.
6.) Dialogue vs. preaching – In some more grass roots circles, the idea of a man heralding the good news is replaced by dialogue. Although dialogue is not wrong, and in fact is absolutely right in some contexts, it is not necessarily for every context. If we move too much in the direction of dialogue (only), then I think something of the power of proclaiming and the authority coupled with it gets lost behind varied opinions being expressed.
Those are just some thoughts that I had.
Thanks, Matt – do you see this in CC?
I have seen it, and in a movement as big as CC, there is bound to be some. I have heard all but the last one in CCs, but if I’m honest, I have done most of these myself in one message or another. I think a danger for us could be another one, pet doctrines vs gospel preaching, especially in terms of over-emphasised eschatology (i.e. every sermon is ultimately about the rapture or great deception). I’ve seen this too, but these certainly wouldn’t be earmarks of CC.
Having said that, I haven’t listened to a large spectrum of preachers. These are just dangers / over-emphases that I have heard across evangelicalism.