In the afterglow of the Spokane Spurgeon Fellowship’s Conference (4/22/2021), The Pastor and Preaching, presented by Dr. David Farley, I wish to muse on the subject matter. To profile the exemplary preacher is my objective.
As a preface, I believe in the primacy of preaching God’s Word in the life and practice of the local church. I believe that faith comes by hearing, which means that visuals are a mere distraction during a preached sermon (They are ok for teaching). Finally, the impetus to preach the Word is ongoing, so the effort to make a sermon or all sermons, memorable, is unnecessary. God knows what He is doing and how to grow His people in the knowledge of Christ, who is the truth (Jn 14:6; 2 Pet 3:18).
As an introduction, there are several key characteristics that identify the exemplary preacher. My reader should note that my list is extensive but by no means is it exhaustive. My hope is that all my readers will have greater discernment in knowing who is worthy to listen to on Sunday morning.
First, an exemplary preacher begins the sermon by opening his Bible and reading the selected passage. This seems obvious, but it is remarkable how many sermons do not begin with the biblical text. A preacher’s message from God to God’s people must be rooted and grounded in the text of the Bible. A word from God only comes from the Word of God.
Second, the exemplary preacher will pray before He preaches to the congregation. The prayer for the sermon is a demonstration of the preacher’s utter dependence on the Holy Spirit, to give the preacher unction and to open the ears, even hearts, of the gathered assembly.
The Spirit’s dual labors, in the preacher and in the hearers, are entirely at His discretion. The Spirit is our sovereign Lord who goes where He wants and does what He wants (Jn 3:1–8). Without the Spirit, nothing supernatural will happen. Information may be passed from speaker to hearer, but conviction, baptism, regeneration, indwelling, and sanctification are Spirit works. Simply put, it is not Christian preaching without the Spirit at work.
Third, the exemplary preacher will have studied the Bible to show himself to be approved as a workman (2 Tim 2:15). The man of God loves the Word of God (Ps 119:140). This should be evident in every sermon. He must also be a lover of souls (Jn 21:15–17). The pastor who does not know His people cannot effectively minister to the flock brought together by the Spirit. He must spend time with the flock. It is no advantage for the successful preacher to have a counselor on staff to do the work of the pastor.
Sermon preparation is laborious. It is a labor of love, however, for the man called of God and appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). It is the Word and the Spirit who sanctify the one for this work (Jn 17:17). In older language, the preacher was identified as a “holy man.” He is fully given to the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4).
Fourth, the exemplary preacher is called and compelled by God to doctrinal precision. The body of divinity is made up of Bible doctrines. Each doctrine is formulated from the text of holy writ.
As the preacher exposits a particular text, he explains how the word, phrase, or clause contributes to one or more doctrines of the Bible and how each biblical doctrine fits into the systematic theology to be believed. He gives reasons because this is logical work. Our God is not about confusion, for He Himself says, “Come, let us reason together (Is 1:18).”
Fifth, the exemplary preacher is Reformed. He maintains a high view of God and a low view of man, derived from the revelation of God and man in the Bible. God is holy. He is also sovereign over every aspect of everything. He made us. We did not make ourselves, nor did we make Him.
In addition, salvation belongs to the Lord in its entirety. Man is not a partner nor contributing participant. If God, according to His sovereign will, chooses to have mercy on one, then that man is a mere object of God’s mercy (Rom 9:15, 18). This is in contrast with the masses, who represent the reprobate of God (Rom 9:22).
Sixth, the exemplary preacher is a Gospel preacher. He proclaims the Person and work of Jesus Christ with special emphasis on the death of Christ at the cross. What God planned in eternity past, the Son of God executed in time, to be applied to God’s chosen people from every nation, by God’s Spirit.
The Gospel preacher heralds Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2), which is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe it, by the grace of God (Rom 1:16–17; Eph 2:8–9). The crux of our salvation is the crucifixion of the Son of God. The preacher will not travel far from this doctrine.
Seventh, the exemplary preacher will be a Bible expositor. His method is to preach verse by verse through predetermined swaths of the Scripture. This will include whole books of the Bible, in some cases. This can sometimes take years to complete.
The pace at which the material is covered is between the preacher and God who inspired both him and the biblical text. Knowledge of Christ should increase in the hearers, who are not just educated but who are also inspired to live as Christ (Gal 2:20), into whose image they are being conformed (Rom 8:29).
In summary, the called man of God performs a holy task of heralding Good News from God. He makes known sound doctrine, in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who fills the man for the work of preaching through the Bible verse by verse.
In conclusion, it is wise for you and your family to find a local church that has expositional preaching and Reformed theology brought forth from the pulpit, exemplified by heat and light. These are the elements of the Spirit-filled expositional preacher of God’s Word.
The frivolous chasing after the wind of every doctrine, by a topical preacher, is not profitable for your soul. Neither is the time given to the philosopher or psychologist, who has entered the pulpit to expound the wisdom of men. Flee from that unholy ground, as it not fit for transformation. Individuals and churches cannot change themselves.
Only the Spirit-led man of God can transform a preaching station to one of Evangelical orthodoxy. Once it has been established by a preacher, maintaining a Reformed pulpit with a subsequent Spirit-filled lover of God’s Word is also no easy task. These exemplary laborers are few, but they are to be prayed for and pursued by you…the exemplary hearer and lover of God’s Word, given to sound doctrine, for a holy life of spiritual growth.
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 26, 2021