preach

A Theology of Preaching

(This is Part 3 of a 4-Part Series on A Theology of Preaching)

How Do We Preach?

We preach empowered by the Holy Spirit as He illumines and anoints for the purpose of exposing the truths of Scripture to all the world.

First, we preach Spirit-empowered. To preach without a vital connection to the Holy Spirit is to preach powerless sermons. Greg Heisler explains that “Spirit-led preaching calls us to align our preaching with the ministries of the Holy Spirit revealed in Scripture.”[1] The “how” of preaching must find its power in the Spirit himself. Heisler adds, “Spirit-led preaching comes into alignment with the Spirit’s ministry of glorifying Jesus Christ by proclaiming the written Word in order to glorify the living Word.”[2] But to simply preach the Word does not guarantee Spirit-empowered preaching. The preacher must begin with prayer, seeking the Spirit’s illumination during his study. The preacher must continue praying and seeking the Spirit’s anointing all the way through the proclamation of the Word. Piper explains that this requires a preacher to have humility throughout the process. He writes, “Until we learn how to rely on the Word of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit in all lowliness and meekness, it is not God who will get the glory in our preaching.”[3] Thus we desire to be humble and meek in our study as well as our pulpits seeking only to glorify God and not self. As Heisler aptly phrases it, “In terms of preaching, the Word is the source and substance of our preaching, and the Spirit is the supernatural power of our preaching.”[4] This is the desire of a Spirit-empowered preaching ministry.

Scripture agrees that this connection with the Spirit is vital. Jesus promises the presence of the Spirit to believers (John 14:16–17). But the Spirit will do more than simply be with us. Jesus says, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26). Paul’s desire was to preach in demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He writes to the Corinthians:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1–5, emphasis added)

The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles in the first writing of the Scripture (Mic 3:8; Isa 61:1–2; 2 Pet 1:21). The Holy Spirit also anointed the teaching ministry of Jesus (Mt 12:18; Luke 4:18–21; John 3:34). The apostles preach in the power of the Spirit (Acts 4:8–12; 13:4–5; 1 Thess 1:5; 1 Pet 1:12). And the Spirit teaches and applies the Word today to those who hear it (John 14:26; 1 Cor 2:13). To preach any other way is to negate the work of the Spirit.

Second, we preach expositional messages. Meyer explains expository preaching this way: “The way to preach an expository sermon is (1) to share what the point of the passage is, (2) to show why that point is the point from the passage, and (3) to shepherd the flock according to where the text leads when applied to the present circumstances of the congregation.”[5] In other words, expository preaching teaches what the Bible teaches. And a good expositor not only teaches what the Bible teaches, he shows why by pointing it out in the text. Meyer captures the importance of exposition when he writes, “If Scripture is God preaching, then it follows that we should make his main point and purpose our main point and purpose.”[6] Similarly, John MacArthur asks rhetorically,

Should not our preaching be biblical exposition, reflecting our conviction that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God? If we believe that “all Scripture is inspired by God” and inerrant, must we not be equally committed to the reality that it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17)? Should not that magnificent truth determine how we preach?[7] If we believe in a God who speaks and a God who inspires, then we must preach those inspired writings. This is the heart of expository preaching.

Scripture supports such an expository method of preaching even though the word is not found in the Bible. Ezra 7:10 captures the essence of exposition: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” The preacher is to study, practice, and teach the Word. Paul reminds the Romans of the importance of faithful preaching. He writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). The word of Christ is the Scriptures. Thus, the way people will come to faith is through hearing those words proclaimed! This is why Paul gives such commands to preach and teach the Scriptures (1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 2:2; 4:2; Titus 2:1). A major goal of expository preaching is to preach the Bible in such a way that people hear, understand, and apply the Scriptures. Mohler summarizes it well: “To preach the gospel of the Son who saves is to forfeit all claim or aim to make communication technique or human persuasion the measure of homiletical effectiveness. Preaching is effective when it is faithful. The effect is in the hands of God.”[8] While communication techniques and human persuasion are important, they pale in comparison to the importance of simply preaching the Scriptures to the people.

We preach empowered by the Holy Spirit as He illumines and anoints for the purpose of exposing the truths of Scripture to all the world.
This is the means by which we preach!

[1] Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery (Nashville: B&H, 2007), 60.
[2] Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching, 55.
[3] Piper, Supremacy of God in Preaching, 43.
[4] Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching, 62.
[5] Jason C. Meyer, Preaching: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 258.
[6] Meyer, Preaching, 260.
[7] Richard L. Mayhue, “Rediscovering Expository Preaching,” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), 23.
[8] Mohler, “A Theology of Preaching,” 17.