Why Did God Choose Preaching As His Means?

From Thomas Goodwin’s Works, 11:362:

But why of all things else hath he chosen his word to do this?

Ans. 1. He hath chosen preaching of the word, because it is the weakest means of all others, and therefore his power would the more appear unto his own glory in it. What is weaker than a word? and yet God created the world by it, for he only said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’ &c. But you will say, That was his own word spoken by himself. I answer, that now to manifest his power the more, he will take the voice of a frail man speaking his word for him; and what is weaker than a man’s breath? Indeed, ‘in the word of a king there is power’ (as Solomon speaks), but what power is there in the words of a mean and weak man? Yes, there is a great power, and the reason why God chose this means is given, 1 Cor. 1.18 to ver. 28. It is to shew his power and wisdom unto his own, and to confound the world. They know not God in his wisdom, by reason of their own wisdom which they are so full of, and by reason of their high esteem of worldly learning and eloquence, accounting the plain, naked, and slow style of the word to be but foolishness; that is, a foolish and an empty doctrine, contrary to their reason, and utterly unlike to work any great matter (as the Athenians thought); but God chose it the rather: ‘It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe,’ ver. 21, to shew that his foolishness is wiser than men’s wisdom. And if his foolishness be so, then what is his wisdom? He sent his apostles forth, a company of poor fishermen; and were they likely men to conquer the world by commanding living men to believe on one crucified, especially when the conditions were such as these, that men rich, and learned, and great, should wholly deny themselves and their own wisdom, and become fools; was this ever likely? Well, but see, ver. 20, how the apostle triumphs upon this occasion: ‘Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer?’ They are clear put down, they have lost ground both among Jews and Gentiles by this foolish and weak means, this preaching of Christ crucified; all their wit and carnal arguments could not prevail so much as one of the apostle’s sermons. And so when Luther, Calvin, and those other divines came once to preach, where were the schoolmen and learned of the world? Popery fell down before preaching, like Dagon before the ark of God. And God appointed this way, that his wisdom might appear to the confusion of the wise, that so his power might the more appear to the praise of his grace towards them that are called, and to the confusion of Satan, and, ver. 25, to shew that ‘the weakness of God is stronger than men.’ If God can by a word work such effects as all creatures are not able to work, then what would his strength do if put to it? What will that power do for his elect in another world? And this means did God appoint, thereby also to confound the power of Satan, as the strength of Jericho was subdued by the blast of ranis’ horns. Thus, Ps. viii. ver, 2, it is said, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.’ Through the weakest means God hath ordained the greatest strength; and why? ‘To still the enemy,’ to confound Satan, that he should not boast of his conquest. God therefore chose preaching, that it might be his own power unto salvation.

Expository Preaching

What took me a couple of hours to teach on last week’s Dividing Line broadcasts, Shai Linne sums up in just a few minutes:

Preacher: Preach the Word (Part 1)

Preacher: Preach the Word (Part 2)

Hermeneutics & Preaching Resources

In expository preaching, the meaning of the passage is the message of the sermon. To understanding the meaning of a passage or text it is necessary to be engaged in exegesis (drawing out of the text what is actually in the text). To do this with accuracy involves hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation). Here are 4 teachings I did on Dr. James White’s Dividing Line show which give a basic introduction to the subject:

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION SERIES (4 SHOWS)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (1)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (2)

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (3)
We started with Rich Pierce providing commentary about PC&D’s new song ‘Jesus, Only Jesus,’ and how this song exposes the Oneness views of this group. Then the rest of the show was the continuation of my teaching series on ‘rules of interpretation’ discussing the end times, the book of Revelation and why we need to avoid hyper allegorical methods of interpretation.

KEYS TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (4) – APPLICATION
Rich Pierce started off today’s Dividing Line show with a brief (approx. 10 minutes) follow up regarding his comments from Tuesday regarding PC&D and the song “Jesus, Only Jesus.” Then I concluded the series on biblical interpretation by taking the rules we have discussed and applying them to John chapter 3.

RECOMMENDED LECTURES:

From the Master’s Seminary:

Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Steve Lawson: The Fundamentals of Expository Preaching (10 lectures) – at this link.

Dr. Steve Lawson: The Mechanics of Preaching (13 Lectures) – at this link.

Dr. Steve Lawson: Expository Preaching of the Psalms (12 Lectures)
at this link.

The Pulpit

THE PULPIT

The pulpit, therefore…
(and I name it filled with solemn awe, that bids me well beware with what intent I touch that holy thing)

The pulpit…
(where the satirist has at last, strutting and vaporing in an empty school, spent all his force, and made no proselyte)

I say the pulpit…
(in the sober use of its legitimate powers)

must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand, the most important and effectual guard, support, and ornament of virtue’s cause.

There stands the messenger of truth.

There stands the legate of the skies;
His theme divine
His office sacred
His credential clear

By him the violated law speaks out its thunders
And by him, in strains as sweet as angels use,
The gospel whispers peace.

He ‘stablishes the strong, restores the weak,
Reclaims the wanderer, binds the broken heart,
And armed himself in panoply complete of heavenly temper,
Furnishes with arms bright as his own,
And trains, by every rule of holy discipline, to glorious war,
The sacramental host of God’s elect.

– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Poet Laureate of England, Friend of John Newton

Expository Preaching (Quotes)

John MacArthur: The message finds its sole source in Scripture. The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis. The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context. The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture. The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today. (Preaching)

Bryan Chappell: The main idea of an expository sermon the topic, the divisions of that idea, main points, and the development of those divisions, all come from truths the text itself contains. No significant portions of the text is ignored. In other words, expositors willingly stay within the boundaries of the text and do not leave until they have surveyed its entirety with its hearers. (Christ-Centered Preaching)

John Stott: Exposition refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor opens what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed. (Between Two Worlds)

Alistair Begg: Unfolding the text of Scripture in such a way that makes contact with the listeners world while exalting Christ and confronting them with the need for action. (Preaching for God’s Glory)

Haddon Robinson: The communication of a biblical concept derived from and transmitted through a historical-grammatical and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher then through him to hearers. (Biblical Preaching)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire and that the chief end of preaching is to give men and women a sense of God and his presence. (Preaching and Preachers)

David Helm: Expositional preaching is empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text. (Expositional Preaching)

John Piper: Expository exultation. (The Supremacy of God in Preaching)

Albert Mohler: Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible . . . all other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. (He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World)

Mark Dever: Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached. (Preach: Theology Meets Practice)

Tim Keller- Expository preaching grounds the message in the text so that all the sermon’s points are the points in the text, and it majors in the texts’s major ideas. It aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible (being sensitive to systematic theology). And it always situates the passage within the Bible’s narrative, showing how Christ is the final fulfillment of the text’s theme (being sensitive to biblical theology). (Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism)

Expository Preaching – The Cure for Anemic Worship

MohlerBy Al Mohler (original source sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A. W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

Traditional norms of worship are now subordinated to a demand for relevance and creativity. A media-driven culture of images has replaced the word-centered culture that gave birth to the Reformation churches. In some sense, the image-driven culture of modern evangelicalism is an embrace of the very practices rejected by the Reformers in their quest for true biblical worship.

Music fills the space of most evangelical worship, and much of this music comes in the form of contemporary choruses marked by precious little theological content. Beyond the popularity of the chorus as a musical form, many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.

In terms of musical style, the more traditional churches feature large choirs—often with orchestras—and may even sing the established hymns of the faith. Choral contributions are often massive in scale and professional in quality. In any event, music fills the space and drives the energy of the worship service. Intense planning, financial investment, and priority of preparation are focused on the musical dimensions of worship. Professional staff and an army of volunteers spend much of the week in rehearsals and practice sessions.

All this is not lost on the congregation. Some Christians shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.

Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper and baptism are honored as ordinances by the Lord’s own command, and each finds its place in true worship.

Furthermore, music is one of God’s most precious gifts to his people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth. The hymns of the faith convey rich confessional and theological content, and many modern choruses recover a sense of doxology formerly lost in many evangelical churches. But music is not the central act of Christian worship, and neither is evangelism nor even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the word of God.

Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God. John Stott’s simple declaration states the issue boldly: “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” More specifically, preaching is indispensable to Christian worship—and not only indispensable, but central.

The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8 we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Ezra and his colleagues stand on a raised platform and read from the book. When he opens the book to read, the assembly rises to its feet in honor of the word of God and respond, “Amen, Amen!”

Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him “read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply and carefully proclaimed the word of God.

This text is a sobering indictment of much contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?

In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service.
As Michael Green so pointedly put it: “This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.”

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.