God sends anointed preachers into the world, to proclaim the excellencies of Christ, found in the whole counsel of God’s Word, the Bible. In the service of worship to God, the gathered church prays and sings, in accord with the holy Scriptures. The centerpiece of the worship service is the preacher’s sermon.
A preacher is a man of God, called of God, to be a man of the Word. He must be given to the study of the Bible (Ezra 7:10), above the rest of the congregation. He must be a gifted thinker and speaker. His task is weighty, and there is much for the people of God to know and apply.
The man of God is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the sovereign King of glory (Ps 24; Rom 1:16). The preacher must believe what he preaches, for his message will be deemed foolishness by men (1 Cor 1:18, 21). He must rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), which is spiritually equated with the wielding of a double-edged sword (Heb 4:12).
The Scripture, being the content of the sermon, is inspired by God, to powerfully serve as the instrument giving faith to believers (Rom 10:17), which is the gift that apprehends salvation (1 Tim 4:16). Psychology, philosophy, or sentimentalism are unacceptable substitutes. Only the truth of God, in His revealed Word, discriminates the preacher to be a prophet of God.
Today’s prophet has the Word, from God, in the Canon of Scripture. He prays for wisdom to know the passage and its embedded doctrines to be explicated. To illumine doctrine from the biblical text is to expound the light of truth.
The chosen text is read, and a brief introduction will help the hearers know what the preacher is there to accomplish. The singular motive in the preacher’s heart is love for the people, who God’s Spirit has gathered to hear him. The preacher has the Word of life to tell, and he must be plain with his words, so the least of his hearers can follow what he is saying.
Edification of the saints is not just the gaining of knowledge, but they are sheep, and they must be told what their Good Shepherd requires of them. Thus, we move from what the text says, to what the text means, to what the people should do. This includes exhortation and dehortation.
The people must be warned of false teachers and their false teaching of false doctrines, but this must not be the main thrust of the sermon. How susceptible the congregation is to falling prey to error, should determine how much time is allocated to every portion of a sermon.
Exegesis typically follows the introduction. This is the focus on what is in the text. Key words are highlighted with discernment. Original languages are not plain to the understanding of the hearers, so allusion to words or sentence grammar should be quite rare and justifiably warranted.
Exposition is centered on theology, not grammar and language. What is set on the table to be displayed must have supports under the table. The table legs represent the exegesis, and the table top is the exposition.
Christian sermons must reach the mind and the heart, so to persuade the will. Just as fire has heat and light, so the sermon has passion and intellect. Wisdom cries out in the street (Prv 1:20). The preacher is a dying man, proclaiming an exclusive salvation to dying men (Jn 14:6). Sermons serve as solemn reminder of the vanity of this world (1 Jn 2:15–17), the need to redeem time, and the greatest problem of man, being resolved by God (Rom 6:23; Titus 3:5).
Although wisdom is essential to a sermon, it is not the wisdom of men, but the wisdom of God that transfers from preacher to people (1 Cor 2:4–5). Thus, the sermon is a demonstration of the Spirit of God on both ends. One end is the Spirit-filled preacher, who relies entirely on God indwelling and filling him to faithfully represent Christ. On the other end is the congregation of hearers, some of whom have the same Spirit of God at work, receiving and illumining the Word He Himself is bringing (Jn 16:13; 1 Pet 1:3). Both are fully dependent on the Holy Spirit to will and to do God’s good pleasure in them (Phil 2:13).
So, we have seen the centrality of the Christian sermon. As the key means of grace, used by God to bring sinners into reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18–19), we note its essential place for the redeemed (Jn 17:17; Eph 5:26).
A final thought is the place of prayer before and after the sermon. Prayer acknowledges the utter dependence for all involved in the sermon event. We pray for the preacher’s unction and for the congregation’s ready receipt. Both of these need grace to make them effectual (2 Cor 9:14; 1 Pet 3:7).
The prayer to finish the sermon is a petition for God to make the sermon points applicable, to whomever and in what portion He deems best. Knowing God’s Word does not return void (Is 55:11), our prayers affirm our faith that God will take the preacher’s fish and loaves offering and multiply them to feed His people bread from heaven (Mt 14:13–21).
The sermon is a supernatural event, where God speaks to the congregation of His beloved saints, to extend His life and love to them (Jn 6:33, 63; 20:31). He uses the same event, to add to the number of the company of believers (Acts 5:14).
The sermon is one test to see that we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Pet 1:7). We hunger and thirst for the Words of Christ and the Christ of the Word. For all these reasons, the sermon is the best thing in life…for some. How about for you?
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 3, 2022