Driving the distinctives?
Big-group Bible study?
What is preaching?
The Apostle Paul understood that preaching is a proclamation of the Word of God by heralds or ambassadors called to speak the very words of Christ in an official capacity. The preacher is to bring forward the Word of God; not just the Word of God written—the Bible—but the Word of God proclaimed—which is preached. Faithful preaching is to be received as the Word of God.
When you sit under the preaching of God’s Word by a man who is qualified, examined, and ordained to the task, the hearer must realize that it is not just the preacher speaking from the pulpit. There are two voices. Jesus Christ himself is speaking to his church. In Ephesians 2:17, the Apostle Paul told the Church at Ephesus that Jesus Christ came to them and preached.
“…He came and preached to you…” Who is the he? It is Jesus.
Either Jesus traveled 1500 miles post-resurrection to preach face-to-face or he preached through the means of an ambassador speaking his words. We know it is the latter.
A Westminster—and more fully, a confessional reformed—understanding of biblical preaching is that preaching is Christ’s message to his church. The last time I wrote on preaching, I encouraged the hearer to be properly prepared as a “Westminster hearer,” and the hearer also needs to listen as if one is hearing Jesus Christ as the messenger and the message of preaching.
The Westminster Larger Catechism asks in Question 160, “What is required of those that hear the Word preached? The answer is, “It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they…receive the truth…as the Word of God…” (Obviously the answer is heavily edited for emphasis.)
Did you read that correctly? Preaching is to be received as the Word of God.
Is this your attitude as you sit under the faithful preaching of the Word of God from week to week? Do you sit worshipfully asking what Jesus Christ has to say to you, or do you just hear critically?
“I wish the sermons were shorter.”
“He needs to have more application.”
“Why’s he make that strange noise?”
“Why can’t he preach like so-and-so?”
There are so many critiques.
Receiving preaching the way the Scriptures speak of preaching will change your hearing as well as your spiritual life. The worshiper who hears the words of Christ will hang on the preached Word. As you sit in worship, hearing the Word of God opened and expounded, do you receive that faithful sermon as the very Word of God or is it received as merely the opinion of your pastor?
A Westminster hearer listens to and for the words of Christ.
Preachers are ambassadors sent by Christ to speak his Word. Behind the sent preacher is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to his flock.
Christ is comforting you.
Christ is teaching you.
Christ is challenging you.
Christ is warning you.
Christ is loving you.
“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God,” said Professor Mark Beach of Mid America Seminary. He goes on to write, “Or to state it more accurately, preaching, when accompanied by the Spirit’s presence and power, is Christ’s living voice to the church…Christ is really present in the preaching of the gospel.”
The living voice of God.
This doctrine of preaching is also seen in Romans 10:14-17 quite clearly:
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 unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of God. Paul calls the preaching of the Word, the word of God that brings salvation. Faithful preaching is the means that Christ speaks to his church.
Hughes Oliphant Old, in his seven volume (5000 plus pages!) magnum opus on the history of preaching said:
‘Faith comes by hearing’ is a corollary to a strong…theology which believes that it is essentially God himself who reaches out to his people in the preaching of the word, and therefore it is what God does in and through these means of grace which makes them effective. That faith comes by hearing follows naturally from the doctrine of grace …when the word of Christ is truly preached, then Christ is present.
Westminster hearer, do you desire to hear Christ? Do you desire to have God himself reach out to his people?
Listen to his voice. And listen for it.