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A theology of preaching – part 6 (final part)

Christ must be proclaimed biblically.

Nothing has been said yet about the character of the preacher.  This has been deliberate.  It’s not the character of the preacher but the character of the word that is determinative.  It’s not ultimately the skills, gifts or even godliness of the preacher that will bring the word home to hearers.  The Second Helvetic Confession continues its article on preaching by saying...

... the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Whatever we say about the character, gifting or expertise of the preacher it must begin with these immovable indicatives.  The preacher is, first, recipient (and a thoroughly unworthy recipient) of God’s overflowing revelation.  We gratefully hear this word, knowing its divine source and character.  Preachers though find themselves carried along in the same movement to testify to this same Word that holds them captive. 

Thus the preacher is never a person capable of preaching.  Really the true mark of the preacher is that they are incapable of doing otherwise.

 “If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)



This paper has sought to provide an answer to the ‘How can?’ of preaching.  Hopefully, along the way, some of the ‘How to?’ has been addressed as well.  Yet, in the end, a true understanding of preaching should always propel us to the most urgent question: ‘How can we not?’ 

“I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16);

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak.” (2 Cor 4:13)

“The love of Christ controls us …  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us…  (2 Cor 5:14-21)


The whole paper is here.



2 thoughts on “A theology of preaching – part 6 (final part)

  1. Bobby Grow


    This point, in particular, reminds me of the "Church's" ex opere operato in light of the Donatist issue in the "Church's" past. I do agree that the Word is objectively powerful to point people to Christ; but I would also want to emphasize that in fact, I believe, that the pastor's character is indeed an very important thing . . . in fact so much so if we actually followed Paul's prescriptions we might rarely have men in the pulpit to communicate the scriptures, in the first place.

  2. Glen

    Good point - the last thing we want is an ex opere operato of the pulpit. What I'd say if I had more space on this point is that the indicatives precede the imperatives. The imperative must follow, you're right. What I'm highlighting in this paper is the indicative.

    Preachers *are* in a flow of divine revelation, they *are* gripped, constrained, compelled by God's word. Therefore they *should* be.

    And they *will* be to the degree they understand the prior indicative. That's kind of what I'm getting at.

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