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Luther and Preaching


Here Carl Trueman speaks about Luther's doctrine of the Word and our need, today, to recover a theology of preaching.

The Word of God transforms the reality of the world. That is the power of preaching, that is the power of the pulpit...

I'm convinced that while much time is spent at seminaries, rightly, teaching the technical aspects of preaching... it is equally important that preachers understand the nature of the theological action which they perform when they stand in a pulpit.

It's a vital, vital need.  I think evangelicalism would be transformed if we came to a deep appreciation of what preaching actually is.

Here's my effort on Theology Network to bang that drum....

It is often said that the real issue in preaching is not ‘How to?’ but ‘How can?’  How can a preacher stand before a congregation and dare to speak ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’?  The ‘How can?’ is by far the more pressing question.  And yet, in the textbooks, at the conferences and in preaching groups it seems the ‘How to?’ is the perennial concern.  Notes or full script?  Powerpoint or no?  Topical sermons or lectio continua?  These questions abound.  Even issues like ‘how to address the heart?’ or ‘how to preach wisdom literature?’ threaten to drown out proper theological reflection.  All the while the ‘How can?’ question stands above our practice demanding an answer.

Our silence on this issue could simply reflect the pragmatic spirit of our age.  We want to know what ‘works’ so we can copy it.  But I suggest there is a deeper problem.  Fundamentally we have an impoverished theology of revelation which fails to appreciate what evangelicals from another age held dear – namely that God Himself addresses us in preaching.


Seminars on Luther's Theology of the Three-fold Word

4 thoughts on “Luther and Preaching

  1. Brian Midmore

    'The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and received by the faithful.'

    Does that mean it is impossible for the lawfully called preacher to preach error? I found an important aspect of maturing as a christian was to sit and discern what was preached and if necessary reject it. Isnt there a danger in equating the preachers opinions (and I'm sure he'll many about a number of theological issues) and God's word.

  2. Brian Midmore

    How do women fit in. In the OT there were prophetesses eg Deborah. If the preacher is the inheritor of the OT prophets mantle as the video claims surely we must allow women to preach.Surely women should be more emancipated after Christ than before. If we say no they cant because of Paul words in Timothy doesnt this question the claim that the preacher is the inheritor of the prophethood? (I dont think there is much Biblical evidence to back this claim and plenty against).

  3. Glen

    Hi Brian,

    The link at the end of the article deals with your questions about weighing erring preaching: "Seminars on Luther’s Theology of the Three-fold Word" Absolutely preachers can and do err and we are to play the Bereans (Acts 17) and test the spirits (1 John 4) - but we are also to *expect* God to speak to us in preaching (1 Thes 2:13).

    As for women and prophecy/preaching - well within the NT and since it, preaching has been thought of as prophecy (see William Perkins' "The Art of Prophesying" which is a preaching manual). Therefore certainly verses like 1 Cor 11:5 come into play. But I'd have thought that in both Old and New Testaments the far greater majority of those exercising such word ministry have always been men.

  4. Brian Midmore

    I suppose my gripe is when preaching is understood as being the exclusive mode for prophecy to manifest itself. If we are in a church grouping that says women cannot preach then are we saying that women cannot prophesy? If we do arent we exchanging a biblical understanding for a traditional one for surely in both the OT and NT women do prophesy.

    I listened to your audio presentation. I agree that the gospel is a proclamation of Christ rather than a system of how to get saved. If we look at Acts 10. 34-43 the vast majority of what peter says is about Jesus' life, death and resurrection with almost an afterthought of how to be saved (43b). THis is very much what Tom Wright has been saying. It is his claim that the gospel does not contain the explicit idea of Justification by faith alone. (Of course the moment you say this people will accuse you of denying the idea of sola fide itself). While sola fide is important it is not essential to the proclamation of the gospel I think some of your problems with other evangeical presentations may have come from the fact that sola fide is being pressed. (How are we to be saved, it is by faith alone, so you must believe or else the fires await) There is, i believe a much closer connextion between the gospel preached by Jesus and that offered by Paul once we understand that Paul's Gospel is not essentially 'how to be saved by sola fide'. Both are essentially about the coming of the kingdom of God with Jesus of Nazareth as Israels Messiah and the world's King. For Paul the gospel is extended to include Jesus' death, ressurection etc but it is not a radical departure from Jesus' gospel of the kingdom.

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