December 18, 2017

The Need to Preach on Preaching (2)

Mark Minnick

Part One ♦ This is Part Two  Part Three

Introduction (From Part One): All preachers preach, and for that reason sermons are constantly on their minds. But in the main, this is probably true only of those sermons they’re delivering from week to week. It’s another matter entirely to think not about the product of preaching (sermons), but about the thing itself. That is, about preaching as an activity, a phenomenon, or, if you will, a recurring event in the life of the Church.

For many years I’ve been constrained by force of circumstances to think about preaching in this more philosophical way. Not only because I preach, but because it’s been my lot to teach preaching on the university and seminary levels. As a result, I’ve enjoyed the happy obligation of reading scores of books about preaching. The other day I counted 65 in my own library, not to speak of the many I’ve borrowed from others. Not all are good, but all have forced me to think about preaching philosophically. So have the several hundred biographies of preachers that stand on the shelves across the room from me even as I write.

It may, therefore, have been this calling to teach preaching that first motivated me to preach to my people about it. But somewhere along the line I came to realize that my church actually needed to hear preaching on the subject of preaching. That realization has become a conviction that the Lord’s people have a genuine, spiritual need to hear this topic unfolded just as scripturally, exegetically, and applicationally as any other Bible theme. So through the years I’ve done so frequently, perhaps even once or twice a year.

Preaching about preaching may seem a novel idea, perhaps even a self-serving one. It strikes people as something especially suited to the preacher’s needs, not his people’s. But there are compelling reasons for confronting them also with this subject.

Our People Need Understanding That Preaching Uniquely Glorifies God.

Something that is unique is something that is the only one of its kind. Things are not “sort of” unique. They are either unique or they are not, like Mount Everest, or the Dead Sea, or a fingerprint, or a snowflake. Among the forms of verbal communication, preaching is unique in the way it glorifies God. It is uniquely doxological. This is a logical deduction from the fact that God does everything ultimately for His own glory. And He is the One who chose preaching above other oral styles.

He has “in due times manifested his word through preaching” (Tit. 1:3). “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach…” , Paul insisted (1 Cor. 1:17). “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” he explained (1 Cor. 1:21). “How shall they hear without a preacher,” he asked (Rom. 10:14). So “preach!” he exhorted Timothy (1 Tim. 4:2). Though it’s easily overlooked, we must never forget that “Preach the word” assigns not only our content (“the word”) but mandates the method by which it is communicated (preaching). “Preach!” This is God’s idea, God’s method, God’s command, and it must, therefore, be the most excellent verbal means of giving Him glory.

Let’s explore that for a moment. What is there about preaching that excels any other form of private or public speech in its glory-giving to God? Why is it uniquely God glorifying among oral communications?

Have you ever reflected on the fact that while a preacher is speaking nobody else gets to talk? Nobody gets to interrupt, interject his own opinion, or even ask a question. Preaching is a monologue. Even more significantly it’s an authoritative monologue.

That’s because preaching is not man’s word. It’s God’s. Not on the same level as inspired Scripture, of course, but in the sense to which Paul testifies when he expressed his thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ reception of his preaching: “When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Someone may argue, “But wasn’t Paul inspired when he preached? Isn’t that why the Thessalonians received his preached word as God’s word?” The Scripture never says apostolic preaching was inspired. Nor does it ever speak of inspired Prophets or inspired Apostles. It reserves the word “inspired” for the Scriptures alone (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

But when a Spirit-filled preacher has those Scriptures as his predominant content, God expects that people should receive it as nothing less than His word. Not the preacher’s word. His word. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could say truthfully that those who had the rule over those early Jewish believers “have spoken unto you the word of God” (Heb. 13:7). In fact, this is not merely something that can be true of a preacher’s preaching, it’s something he must ensure is true of it! God commands it. Through Peter He admonishes, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).

Don’t overlook that word “oracles.” It’s a form of the word “logos,” the Greek term translated “word” in expressions like “word of God” and “the word.” It occurs just three other times in the New Testament. Acts 7:38—Moses “received the lively oracles to give unto us.” Romans 3:2—unto the Jews were entrusted “the oracles of God.” Hebrews 5:12—the readers needed someone to teach them “the first principles of the oracles of God.” In all three of these passages, the “oracles” are unmistakably the “words” or “utterances” of God as they are found in the Holy Scriptures.

It’s absolutely astounding, therefore, when God then commands that if any man is going to speak, he must speak as God’s very own oracles! His utterances!

That’s how the glory-giving takes place in the very preaching moment. It gives both God and man their only appropriate places. God is supreme. He is authoritative. He is the Sovereign commanding. Man is made subordinate. He listens silently and submissively. He is the commanded.

No other form of oral communication so impressively creates this situation. This is the genius of preaching— it puts both God and man in their places because it is nothing less than the authoritative public proclamation of the very words of God to His creatures. No wonder, then, that among all the forms of oral communication, it uniquely gives God glory.

The third point of three in this article will follow next week.

Dr. Mark Minnick is the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and serves as adjunct professor of preaching and exposition at Bob Jones Seminary.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2002. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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