Biblical Preaching is Centered on the Word of God
I want you to do me a favor next week sometime. You see a group of people you know, family friends or co-workers. They are standing around and talking about what they are going to do over the weekend. Some people are doing some pretty cool stuff. Walk up there with your chest puffed out and enthusiastically tell them this weekend I am going to listen to an hour long sermon- ya! There are probably some mixed thoughts about now. No one is going to high five me for that. Others are still caught up on the hour-long sermon. What- an hour.? Come on isn’t 40 minutes enough. That was just an attention getter. We live in a day that says preaching in the church is boring. It is outdated. A message cannot be more then 20 minutes. We need other forms of communication to relate God’s Word. I am not against using other forms of communication to help communicate the Word of God, but preaching is not outdated! I would have to wholeheartedly agree with John Stott who says “preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” The preaching of God’s Word is not only indispensable to Christianity it is a vital sign for a healthy biblical church. As a matter of fact, if we get this part wrong in the church it is hard to get other biblical mandates for a local church right. Another name for Biblical preaching would be expository preaching. Expository preaching is bringing the meaning of a specific text to light and applying it to the lives of God’s people. A commitment to hearing the Word of God is central to worship; therefore carefully explaining it’s meaning and applying it to the congregation is very much a priority in the life of the body of Christ. A key text for this is 2 Timothy 4:2 “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV) At the very outset we see that Biblical Preaching is centered on the Word of God. Paul says preach the Word! The word “preach” means “to preach like a herald.” In Paul’s day, a ruler had a special herald who made announcements to the people. He was commissioned by the ruler to make his announcements in a loud, clear voice so everyone could hear. He was not an ambassador with the privilege of negotiating; he was a messenger with a proclamation to be heard and obeyed. This is the picture that would have been brought to the mind of Timothy and he would have understood the seriousness of the command. He was to preach a message from the King of kings. He was charged with bringing the Word of God to the people of God with authority and sincerity. You will notice that the content of this message was the Word. That meant the whole Word of God. This is what Paul did. He told the Ephesian elders in (Acts 20:27 ESV) “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Of course that means that the preacher and the church must be vitally concerned with everything found God’s wonderful life-giving book. And there will be times when the message will not be popular. But if a church has a commitment to the authority of Scripture, then preaching the Word of God will be a priority. Scripture becomes the rule and authority for everything in all parts of the believers life, Church life, personal and in the work place. Nehemiah 8:7-10 also shows biblical preaching. Let me set the stage for you. The people have not been back in the land for too long. Ezra is reading the Law of God to the people. They in a sense had been without the Word of God for 70 years while in captivity in Babylon. We will pick up half way through verse 7: “the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep. For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:7-10 ESV) A couple of things that you will notice about this passage that are applicable to the preaching of the Word of God.
1. The Word was Explained!
The phrase says that they helped the people to understand the Word. It literally means that they explained it. The Levites (the Levites were assistants to the priests in the Old Testament) were explaining the law of God to the people so that they could understand and apply it to their lives. And this happened from early morning to midday. It was no quick 20-minute message. They didn’t put on a skit, sing a hymn and call it a day. They took serious explaining the Word of God. A few months back I was having a conversation with someone about biblical preaching. His question was what about people who are preaching on Sunday, but not preaching expositioanlly, meaning they are not taking the Word of God and explaining it. These people might read a passage, but they spend little time if any in the text. Sometimes you will have someone do this and they will not say anything unbiblical. Here is my response: it is possible to preach an unbiblical sermon without saying anything unbiblical. Preachers, Pastors, Elders are commanded to preach the Word of God. Nothing more, nothing less. Let me try to explain further. You and I could have a conversation about the Bible. Neither one of us could say anything unbiblical as we discuss God’s Word. This happens and it is a great encouragement for God’s people. But that is not preaching. Me taking something like and talking about truths apart from expounding God’s Word is not preaching. There is a place to discuss God’s Word for the growth of all of us, but it is not on Sunday morning when the Word is to be preached. We cannot replace the preaching of God’s Word with other forms of communication, no matter how beneficial they are in other situations, because God says to preach His Word when God’s people gather together for worship.
2. The Word Brought Grief!
At the end of verse 9 it says that all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law. The Word of God will still do that today! That’s great, why do I want a result of preaching to be grief, because that grief is intended to bring joy. We should all be able to recall times that God’s Word pierced our heart, brought grief, but the result was not that we stayed in that condition of grief, but that we found joy in Christ.
3. The Word Brought Joy!
Nehemiah tells them to quit weeping because the day is holy to the Lord. The end of verse 12 says that the people went away to make a great festival or to plan a big celebration because they heard and understood the Word of God. The Word of God will bring and should bring conviction, sometimes to the point of tears of grief because of the sin we have committed. But that grief should turn to joy because of God’s grace, forgiveness and love. AMEN! In the next post we will explore more about the content of the preaching of God’s Word from 2 Timothy 4:2.