Preaching as a Means of Grace to Sanctify

For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:21). When most Christians begin to understand the salvation of God, they perceive the necessity of preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. To have faith, the unbeliever must first hear the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). Salvation does not end with conversion nor justification, however. Therefore, preaching continues as an instrument in the process of sanctifying the saint, unto glory (Rom 8:30; 15:16).

Preaching is foolishness to the Gentile (1 Cor 1:23), but every believer knows how essential the Bible, the Word of God, is to the continuation of growth in the Christian life (Jn 17:17). The same means of grace that began the spiritual life of the born again (Rom 10:17; Phil 1:6), is the same means of grace that works the saint to spiritual maturity (2 Tim 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18). Paul emphasized this means was pleasing to God (1 Cor 1:21). Obviously, God would not ordain a means that produced a wrong or deficient result.

Preaching is a like a needle in the hand of a doctor, who pushes the contents into the needy recipient. Believers and unbelievers will listen to the Word/Gospel (contents). The Word has its good effect, when it produces faith (Rom 10:17; Phil 1:29). It has no effect on those who do not belong to Christ (Jn 10:26). Without the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9), the Word will not find good soil to generate life (Mt 13:8, 23). When the Spirit directs the imperishable seed of the Word to an elect soul (1 Pet 1:23), it will be the efficacious grace of God that generates the new, spiritual, eternal life in the born again (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3).

Christians know that God’s Word is living and active (Heb 4:12). The work commences and it continues. The Christian life is sanctification (set apart to be holy), and it is the Spirit who sanctifies (1 Thess 3:12; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). It is the indwelling Spirit, who works grace in the adopted child of God (Rom 8:9, 11, 15, 23). Grace is unfailing because it is the work of God, for the benefit of His chosen ones (Eph 2:8).

The Spirit delivers the Word through the preacher and the same Spirit receives and applies the Word in the believing hearer. The Word washes and purifies (Eph 5:26); it nourishes and satisfies the Christian’s hunger and thirst for righteousness. The healthy Christian has a growing appetite for the spiritual things of God (1 Cor 2:15). The Spirit and the Word, alone, can satisfy.

The Spirit is the believer’s guide into the truth (Jn 16:13) and his Teacher of sound doctrine. He is the Spirit of grace (Zech 12:10; Heb 10:29) and the Spirit of holiness (Rom 1:4), who inspires the Christian’s love for the Bible. Why does one man have no interest in the study of the Scriptures, while another man is a voracious reader of holy Writ? It is the Holy Spirit working grace in one and not the other.

Grace positions one to hear good preaching, and it is grace that grants faith for the one who believes because he was baptized by the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). Hearing good preaching then stirs the hearer to go home and read the Bible for himself. This is daily reading, the taking in of daily bread, God’s Word.

To truly savor God’s Word, one is also inclined by the Spirit to meditate on the Scriptures. Preachers naturally do this when preparing a sermon. Every Christian is encouraged to focus on portions of the biblical text. Like a free throw shooter practicing basketball, he thinks through form, mechanics, and game situations. The one who meditates on a certain passage will ask questions of the text, consider the grammar, and the original languages, if possible. He will then correlate this passage with others that help him form a foundation of sound doctrine for himself (1 Tim 4:6; 6:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).

Meditation is much like communion, during the Lord’s Supper at a church worship service. The holy sacraments are the Gospel message in illustrative form. Just as grace is present, in hearing and receiving Gospel preaching, so there is grace in the receipt of baptism and the elements of the Lord’s Table. In these, we contemplate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, and we proclaim His death until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26).

In addition to teaching us knowledge, there are the promises of God to be mused over. The promises give strength to the believing hearer/reader. The promises are for believers and their children (Acts 2:39). God’s Word of promise reminds us that His Word is sealed with an oath and covenant (Lk 1:73; 2:30; Heb 6:17). God will do what He said He would do for His own.

Every Christian can also testify of a preacher seemingly knowing our recently committed sins, as we sit in shock of the Spirit, granting us warnings of the dangerous consequences of sin. Love speaks discipline to children (Heb 12:4–11). Believing the Word of truth, and then seeing the consequences of sins in other’s lives, the child is compelled to the obedience of faith.

It has pleased God to preserve His people, through the means of preaching, and with the content of His gracious Word to His beloved children. Therefore, it always behooves the saint to seek out and sit under Gospel preaching, as often as he can. Every Christian needs to be reminded of God’s promises. He needs to receive a steady dose of encouragement and warning because of the trouble he endures in the world.

Efficacious grace never produces a careless or licentious Christian. The very objective is to produce holiness and godliness. Grace is not just God’s provision, as a needle with medicine in it, sits on a shelf. Grace is God applying the medicine of the Word, to its intended effect, in those for whom it was intended to work.

Preaching, without the Word, is like getting poked with a needle, filled with a placebo. It is powerless. The Word, without preaching, is medicine that does not find its proper place, to render its positive effect. This is why Paul pressed Timothy to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2). Here is God’s means to minister His grace unto sanctification (1 Thess 4:3), giving life to the new believer (Jn 3:1–8), and for sustaining the abundant life (Jn 10:10), in those who were called to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps 1:2).

Preaching is the means that pleases God, and this is the grace that perfects the saint, to the end of sanctification. Revel in this each time you sit under good preaching. God placed you there, and for your never-ending good.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

November 2, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher