God has spoken. God’s message is of utmost importance. The Word of God comes to people in written and spoken form. God walked and talked with Adam in the Garden. He spoke to Noah, who was a preacher (2 Pet 2:5). God preached the Gospel to Abraham (Gal 3:8). He spoke to Moses. God then told Moses to write down what He had spoken.
During the subsequent 1400 years until Messiah, God occasionally raised up men of God to speak and write His Word. These men were called, “prophets.” They preached and wrote. They were inspired by God to proclaim His message, opening their expositions with, “Thus says the Lord…,” and then they wrote down the words, carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Prophets both foretold future events and told forth God’s message. With Moses, God spoke the Law and brought forth the first written history of God’s dealings with His people. Later prophets, using various literary genres, documented the wisdom of God, recorded more history, and issued God’s call for Israel to repent in obedience to the revealed Law of God. God’s message of warning also came with a message of hope. Someone was coming to deliver God’s people from the tyranny of sin and darkness in this world.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers, in the prophets, in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son (Heb 1:1–2).” Jesus Christ is the Word of God enfleshed (Jn 1:14). When Jesus preached, it was the Word of God in person. His preaching revealed God the Father and the kingdom of God to the people of Israel. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, and various episodes in Israelite history, the Jews refused to believe the Word of God. Jesus, the God-man, was God’s message.
Although despised and rejected by men, Jesus, the Word of God did not return to heaven void. God’s Word enfleshed, validated the Old Testament Scriptures, revealed the character of God, proved true in every situation, and accomplished everything with perfection. Jesus preached the true Word because He Himself was the truth (Jn 14:6). “Truly, truly, I say unto you…” is His repeated conversation starter in the Gospels. Where prophets declared “God says,” Jesus declared, “I say.” Here is one view to His deity, through the way He preached. God has not hidden salvation from man, but He has fully revealed it both in the Word incarnate and the Word written down by Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
Therefore, the content of preaching is the Word of God. The apostle Paul wrote to the divisive church at Corinth, who all but excommunicated their estranged church planter, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).” For Paul, knowing Christ was the surpassing value, exceeding every other thing (Phil 3:7–8). It was not sufficient for him to just gather content, even though the process of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is joyful. Paul told the Corinthians, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel (1 Cor 9:16).” Paul was not just a hearer of the Word…He was a doer of it.
The burden to preach the Gospel, even without charge (financial cost) to others (1 Cor 9:18; 2 Cor 11:7), is the free will offering of a true preacher. The prophet Jeremiah expressed this weight in Jeremiah 20:9, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” A faithful preacher must be a believing man of God.
Many preachers today prove they are not true, by the content and method of delivering their message. They preach another Jesus (2 Cor 11:4). Often they are eager for sordid gain, as were the false shepherds described in Ezekiel 34. The difference between the true and false preacher is spiritually discerned by believers, who observe the life and message of the called man of God.
Men who believe the Word, will preach the Bible because they know it is God’s chosen instrument to save His people. They are watchmen on the wall, warning men to flee from the wrath to come (Ezek 3, 33); and they suffer to bring the Gospel to people (1 Thess 2:2; 2 Tim 1:8; 2:10).
The power of preaching is explained in 1 Corinthians 1. Paul was sent out by Christ to preach the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17), which he defined as the word of the Cross (1 Cor 1:18). This was the very message rejected by both the Jewish and Greek cultures around them (1 Cor 1:22–24). Preaching Christ and Him crucified, for Paul, was the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16–17). The Word of the cross is power. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
How will people hear the Word of truth without a preacher? How will they hear unless the Spirit of Christ opens the ears of the spiritually deaf? Millions upon millions have heard a sermon from a preacher, but only those who have had their ears opened by the Word and the Spirit can hear and know Who they are hearing. Jesus said, “He who is of God hears the words of God (Jn 8:47a),” and, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine (Jn 8:31b).”
The priority of preaching is clearly established by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14. In the Corinthians’ bent toward division, spiritual gifts were included in the dispute. After explaining spiritual gifts in detail in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reproved their schismatic spirit with 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter on love. Speaking the truth in love, so that people can understand what God is saying, is our supreme objective in preaching. God is love, and God’s Word is truth, brought forth by the Spirit of truth, through the Spirit-filled preacher (1 Pet 1:12).
Today’s church is filled with endless activities, but with little preaching and hearing. The devil is the source of every distraction, and his intention is to hinder the preached Gospel from entering the minds of men (2 Cor 4:4). The Word, preached in the Spirit, is not only the agent of justification, but it is also the agent in sanctification. Preachers do not preach only for conversion, but they preach for edification, too.
The presentation of the Gospel to sinners is called, “evangelization.” The evangel is the Gospel, the good news. Preachers are heralds of good news of what God alone has accomplished in redeeming a people, who are reconciled to God through the cross. They proclaim the truth about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for sinners. This is not a take it or leave it offer to all men.
God is calling out His people from the domain of Satan and sin through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They are lost in the kingdom of darkness, and the Gospel light causes some to come into the light as He is in the light. The command, not offer, is to repent and believe the Gospel message preached by the Spirit-filled man of God. It sounds like this, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31).”
Funding the preaching ministry is pressed in 1 Corinthians 9. The church would benefit immensely if we followed Paul’s priorities for Gospel preaching. Financially supporting a dedicated preacher, who actually believes the Gospel, who immerses himself in knowing the Scriptures, and who can ably handle himself and the Word of God, in front of people, should be our first financial obligation in the local church (1 Tim 5:17). Paul said it best, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the Gospel to get their living from the gospel (1 Cor 9:14).”
The geographical extent of preaching is given in Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” The book of Acts reveals a particular view to the first thirty years of activity in the church, and primary is the ministry of preaching to diverse crowds in various venues. Preaching does happen in the synagogue, but accounts are recorded from: the temple; marketplaces; private homes; stadiums; before kings and governors; prison cells; courtrooms; on boats; in carriages; beside rivers, and on seashores. The witness of the Holy Spirit, through preaching, extends to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
This Gospel must be preached by men and angels (Gal 1:8; Rev 14:6), to all nations (Mt 24:14; Mk 13:10), so that all nations might receive the promised blessing (Gal 3:8). When this has occurred, and all of God’s people have been gathered into His fold from every nation, tribe, and tongue, then the end will come. Until then, we preach the Lord’s death in Word and sacrament, until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26).
Why preaching? Here are a few reasons drawn from our brief study above. First, God has said something, and we should listen to Him. Second, God has clearly ordained preaching His Word, as the message and method to extend the knowledge of the kingdom of God. Third, God has called some men to undertake this work, based on gifting and appointment by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 3:2; 5:17; 2 Tim 1:11; 4:5). Fourth, it is the exclusive means (Word and Spirit) for the conversion and sanctification of a chosen people. Paul said, “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10).” Fifth, God’s wisdom and power are displayed in both the preacher and the saved hearers, which is to the glory of God. Sixth, the world will continue in its present misery until the work is done. Seventh, each one of us who believes, is the beneficiary of a preaching ministry, used by God to save us.
Our grateful response should be to join with the men of God in every generation to support and proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). May God grant us the grace to be found as faithful stewards of the mystery of the Gospel of God, by preaching this eternal Gospel in our generation.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 23, 2020