What is the purpose of the preaching event? What should the listener expect when listening to a sermon? How should the faith of a listener be directed to maximize the effect of sermon? These questions and more are the subject of today’s post. By the word “Preaching,” I mean the Scriptures expounded to God’s people. This is so that they might hear his voice, know His will, know Him from the word, be deeper in love with Him, increase in obedience and decrease in pride and selfishness; all this as a result of hearing the Scriptures explained and illumined.
John Stott wrote a book on Preaching titled, “Between Two Worlds.” The title informs us that in the Preaching event there is a communication from Heaven to Earth, from God to Man, from Creator to Creature, from Redeemer to Redeemed, by an inspired human instrument called a Preacher.
How different this sounds to the modern understanding of a preacher. Hear Stott.
The passage of Scripture is the voice, the speech of God; the preacher is the mouth and the lips, the congregation is the ear in which the voice sounds. Only in order that the Word may advance – may go out into the world, and re-create God’s paradise in the soul of the hearer.
This understanding of preaching elevates the pulpit to a high place in heaven’s economy. Preaching is one of the means God has designed that His “will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.” One of my favorite preachers, Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818-1902), who was featured in previous posts, called his pulpit, “the sacred desk.” It was from the sacred desk through Palmer, that God revealed Himself to His people.
A child of God should have this expectation from a sermon. Assuming the preacher is expounding the scriptures, and not just using them as a reference to prove what HE wants to say, the Christian should expect to have God revealed to him with all the attending joys already listed above. We can only know God from the Scriptures; the Scriptures reveal to us who God is. This is why the main subject of preaching is the man, Christ Jesus. He is THE WORD through whom God has revealed Himself to us.
If a Christian is coming to the preaching event to simply be moved emotionally and feel something, they are misdirecting their faith and will be disappointed. There is nothing wrong with feelings or experiences but you cannot trust them to know God. The Holy Spirit confines Himself to illuminate the Scriptures to us that we might know the God of the Bible. The preaching event is one of the ways this grace is dispensed to the Body of Christ.
Much of the modern Church is still under the influence of Karl Barth (1886- 1968). Barth contended, influenced by the enlightenment, that the Bible is not the objective, permanent, “Word of God,” but only a channel through which God sometimes reveals Himself in an experiential wordless manner – but that contradicts Biblical teaching. “Revelation” then, according to Barth, is a wordless encounter which resembles a mystic, existential experience for the believer. In the Charismatic meetings, there were times when we thought it was spiritual to skip the Preaching event, “because the Spirit was moving.” This is misdirected faith. Our faith should be directed to receiving revelation from the Scriptures expounded by a capable expositor of our God and Savoir, Jesus Christ. This direction of faith is far superior to simply feeling things in a meeting and thinking that through those feelings, we have come to know God.
Dr. Steven J. Ottolini is President of Covenant Leadership Training Institute. MA Theology, Covenant Seminary, St Louis, MO. Ph.D. Theology, Trinity Seminary, Newburgh IN. Celebrating 32 years of Christian ministry. Married to Molly 35 years, father of 3 and grandfather to Eleanora Jayne Ottolini, 12 months.