Lesson One
WHAT GOD HAS SAID ABOUT PREACHING
by Given O. Blakely
                               
INTRODUCTION


You may be tempted to think of preaching in terms of a career. If that is the case, there are a variety of  approaches to the subject, designed give you a successful career. This approach to preaching is fraught with  danger. If we address our subject from this perspective, we will be faced with several arresting  considerations. First, there is a lack of emphasis on God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures. Second,  a high value is placed upon the wisdom of men. It does not take a wise man to see the jeopardy of approaching preaching in such a manner.

  There is an entire nomenclature that characterizes this approach to preaching. The terms employed are not found in the Word of God, nor are the ideas represented by them related to preaching in God's Word . I will name a few of these terms. They will be familiar to you. Homiletics (expression of thought or feeling in speech), Hermeneutics (a branch of philosophy dealing the theory of interpretation or understanding), Exposition (explaining or clarifying), Apologetics (defense and proof of Christianity), and Exegesis (something that serves to explain or interpret).

   These are good words, and represent legitimate fields of interest. However, they are not adequate when it comes to defining preaching the Word of God. When we "handle" God's Word (2 Tim 2:15), we are in a different arena. We leave the philosophical realm and enter the domain of revelation. In this domain, Divine initiative is fundamental. If God does not make matters pertaining to life and godliness known, they will remain hidden to men. What is more, the wisdom of men cannot unlock the revelation of God. There are individuals that will contest this statement, but they cannot negate it.

   If the wise men of the world could not decipher the revelation of God enfleshed-the Son of God-, their interpretive techniques cannot Clarify the mind of God. This circumstance is affirmed in 1 Corinthians 2:7- 12. "No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him'--but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us" (NIV).

  We will approach preaching from the Word of God. There, the substance of preaching is  defined, as well as who can engage in the activity. In Scripture we will find a relationship of this noble work to God Himself, as well as to the salvation of mankind declared therein. In Scripture, preaching is affiliated with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, truth, the Gospel, and God's Kingdom. These are the realities that sanctify preaching, making it powerful, effective, and gratifying. If you approach this holy work scientifically, you will rob it of its power and effectiveness!

   God has spoken on the subject of preaching. What He has said takes the precedence over everything men have said. It is to your advantage to not only know what He has said, but to allow it to dominate your thinking on the subject. You will never be a good preacher unless you please God, even though men may applaud your efforts! The one who speaks for God is to endeavor with all of his heart to present himself  "to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). You must have God's approval! It is imperative that you have no cause for shame when you stand before Him! It is essential that you handle His Word "correctly." These perceptions will guide our approach to this subject.

  When you stand to preach the Word of God--in particular the Gospel of Christ--you have God's attention! The Son of God pays close heed to what you say. The Holy Spirit is ready to undergird your proclamation--to the degree it is in harmony with the will of God.  Angelic hosts also have an intense interest in what you say. God Himself will underwrite your preaching if it pleases Him. The Lord Jesus Christ will dispense what you need to preach in power. The Holy Spirit can use your words to convince the hardest of sinners of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8-11). Angels want to see God's great salvation delineated in your preaching. They have an intense interest in the Gospel of Christ (1 Pet 1:12).

    Your objective is to please God, glorify Christ, and make men conscious of God's Word in your preaching. If this does not take place, you have wasted your time, and the time of those that hear you. Preaching is not entertainment. It is not religious marketing,  or a means of establishing a career path. It is the most noble work in all of the world, unexcelled among the activities of men! Approach it with faith, sobriety, and reliance upon the Lord. There is no reason why your preaching and teaching cannot be blessed by God. He has ordained preaching, and He will bless it!


  WHAT IS PREACHING?

There are a variety of words translated "preach" in Scripture. Each word shows a slightly different aspect of preaching. One emphasis is WHAT is proclaimed, i.e. "Good News." Another is the NATURE of the communication, i.e., a proclamation, or announcement. Additionally, the SUPREMACY of words is declared, as compared with gestures or visible evidences.

   The concept of "preaching" assumes something has been accomplished--something that can be declared. Preaching is more affirmation than explanation, more declaration than interpretation. I do not want to over- simply this matter. In preaching, affirmation and declaration are insightful; i.e., the proclaimer has seen the truth he is proclaiming. In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul described this circumstance in these words. "The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops" (2 Tim 2:6). In the words of Peter and John, "For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20)

.   In these first lessons, we will emphasize preaching from the standpoint of proclamation. It is reporting the news, not making the news. It is making realities known, not providing self-conceived explanations of them.

  In preaching, the message is more important than the technique.
A proclamation assumes there is something to declare.
Something to report is essential if reporting is to be done.
An announcement is imperative before there is announcing.

Angels desire to peer into the Gospel that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit. They are not impressed by messengers with no message, proclaimers with nothing to proclaim, reporters that have no news, and announcers with nothing to announce. Fanciful expositions and hermeneutical wizardry are no substitute for the lack of a message! Human methodologies and etymological expertise cannot compensate for the lack of a message.

  Preaching is the report of reconciliation. It is the proclamation of propitiation, and the preaching of peace. We are talking about the sounding of Divine satisfaction, and the announcement of amnesty! God has accomplished salvation in Christ, and it is to be proclaimed with power. Never be ashamed to announce the Gospel. It is the catalyst for faith and hope, without there is no salvation.

  WHAT GOD HAS SAID ABOUT PREACHING  GOD'S GOOD PLEASURE

When we speak of preaching, or proclaiming, we are dealing with a most sacred subject. Here the wisdom of Almighty God is made known, and it is wonderful! "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1:21). I personally prefer the word "preaching" to "what was preached." Technically, they mean the same thing. "Preaching," in this case is a noun, not a verb. The word used literally means "the proclamation," i.e., a specific message, made known by announcement.

  Note, this is the means God has chosen to save "those who believe." The reason for the choice is specified. It is because the "wisdom of God" cannot be appropriated by "the world through its wisdom." Mind you, before the Law, the world's wisest men were faced with the very creation of God. In the Law, they were provided a glimpse of God's mind. The prophets declared coming redemption, and John the Baptist identified the precise time of His arrival. In Jesus, God Himself was made known--brought within the range of human senses. Yet, the world's wise men did not grasp the truth! They could not unravel Divine mysteries or correctly interpret providential workings.

  Those that believe, cannot be saved by the wisdom of men, even if it wears a religious garb. You may call it exposition, apologetics, or hermeneutics--but it still cannot save "those who believe." God has already made His decision, and it has been made in strict keeping with His "eternal purpose." From the first to the last, believers will be saved by the proclamation of the Gospel.

  God is pleased with this arrangement--with preaching being the means through which believers are saved. For you to be effective in the Kingdom of God, you also must find pleasure in this Divine appointment. 

THE EXAMPLE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST As always, the personification of God's will is found in the Person of Christ. Our Lord unveiled His mission in the very town in which He was raised. In an appropriate setting, He revealed His mission--one appointed by His Father.

  Reading from the 61st chapter of Isaiah, Jesus defined His mission. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:18-21).

  If you ever doubt the power of preaching, hear the words of Jesus again. He was sent to "PREACH GOOD NEWS . . . PROCLAIM FREEDOM . . . AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT . . . TO PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD'S FAVOR." Freedom cannot be "proclaimed" unless an amnesty has been accomplished! In what other realm can the "recovery of sight" be "proclaimed"!

   Jesus did not say men OUGHT to be free! His message was not one declaring men ought to have sight! He announced the time of the Lord's favor--a time when God Himself had brought salvation to humanity! He did not come to enforce a moral code, but to announce Divine accomplishment. The power of that message would accomplishment what the Law "could not do" (Rom 8:3).

 

AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE POWER OF PREACHING

The book of Ezekiel affords us a supreme example of the power of roclaiming a God-given message. You may recall the prophet's vision of a valley of dry bones (Ezek 37). There were "very many" bones, and they were "very dry," bleached and lifeless. There was no human science or realm of knowledge capable of resurrecting these bones. The bones were not in skeletal form, but were scattered and dispersed throughout the valley. When asked if he thought these bones could live, Ezekiel replied to the heavenly spokesman, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know" (v 3). The words of the Lord are arresting.

  "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD'" (v 4-6).

   Look at Ezekiel's message closely! It contained no commandment! There was no assessment of the reason behind the circumstance. Ezekiel did not sound an exhortation, or provide a scientific explanation for the condition of the bones. Instead, he simply announced what God was going to do--no more. The "dry bones" were summoned to "hear the Word of the Lord."  It was not an impersonal word, but one directed "to these dry bones." 

"I will . . . you will . . . I will . . . I will . . . you will . . . you will know ." If you wonder concerning the power of such a message, recall what occurred when it fell from the lips of the prophet of God. "As I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them" (v 7-8). Later, as directed by the Lord, the prophet called for the Spirit to breathe upon the slain. They sprang to life, a great army (v 10).

  This incident is not unrelated to our subject. It provides an appointed illustration of the power of the Gospel of Christ--the affirmation of what the Lord has done. This is why Paul was not ashamed to proclaim a message totally out of harmony with the wisdom of men. It brought results--the only results God will accept. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Rom 1:16). 

Our approach to preaching will honor the power of the Gospel. It will not applau
d or rely upon the wisdom of men. For this, I make no apology. God has appointed the means of bringing men to believe, and keeping them  in that blessed state. Determine in your mind now, to be first and foremost a proclaimer--a preacher! Settle it in your mind that what God has accomplished in Christ is worthy of your hearty and energetic efforts! 

THINK OF SINGLE WORDS (15) YOU ASSOCIATE WITH PREACHING

Think of preaching from a Scriptural point of view. Use words related to the content of preaching. Think of the objective of preaching. Consider the effects of preaching. Ponder the motivation for preaching. The vocabulary employed in preaching is also vital. You will find that when you focus your attention on this subject--with the Word of God dominating your thoughts--it will be remarkable how much you already know about the subject.

   As we consider preaching, we are on holy ground. Because of this circumstance, you must take care not to allow mere men to form your concepts of the subject. You must permit  the lamp of God's Word to shed light upon this glorious theme. Do not think to ask successful preachers how they became "successful." It is God that ordained preaching, and He is the One that has provided the message to be preached. He is the One that will ultimately evaluate your preaching before an assembled universe. If you preach within the circumference of Divine influence now, you will not be ashamed then! 

SOME INSIGHTFUL REMARKS ON PREACHING FROM HISTORY

Great men of God have frequently spoken on this subject. They knew its centrality in God's Kingdom, and marshaled their mental and spiritual resources in their consideration of preaching. 

A holy clumsiness is better than a sinful eloquence. Saint Jerome (c. 347 c. 420).

He that has but one word of God before him, and out of that word cannot make a sermon, can never be a preacher. Martin Luther (1483 1546)

The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not "What a lovely sermon," but, "I will do something!" Saint Francis of Sales (1567 1622)

Actors speak of things imaginary as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things real as if they were imaginary. Thomas Betterton (c. 1635 1710)

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of God upon the earth. John Wesley (1703 1791).

I don't like to hear cut-and-dried sermons. When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees. Abraham Lincoln (1809 1865)

A preacher should be a live coal to kindle all the church. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 1882)

  Preaching is thirty minutes in which to raise the dead. John Ruskin (1819 1900)

A man's nose is a prominent feature on his face, but it is possible to make it so large that eyes and mouth, and everything else are thrown into insignificance, and the drawing is a caricature and not a portrait; so certain important doctrines of the Bible can be so proclaimed in excess as to throw the rest of the truth into the shade, and the preaching is no longer the gospel in its natural beauty, but a caricature of the truth. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 1892)

You can preach sociology or psychology or any other kind of ology, but if you leave Jesus Christ out of it, you hit the toboggan slide to hell. Billy Sunday (1862 1935)

God's Word is as a seed. The seed-thought is one that preachers and evangelists need to remember. We imagine we have to plough the field, sow the seed, reap the grain, bind it into sheaves, put it through the threshing machine, make the bread all in one discourse. Oswald Chambers (1874 1917)

The best sermon is preached by the minister who has a sermon to preach and not by the man who has to preach a sermon. William Feather (1889 1981) 

We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A. W. Tozer (1897 1963)   

FIRST ASSIGNMENT

       Our textbooks are of Romans and First Corinthians. In these books, we will find the message of the Gospel, and the means of proclaiming it, defined. Our next lesson willdeal with "Focused Preaching." Our purpose is to show the value and necessity of having and maintaining focus in the development and preaching of your subject. We will allow time for several presentations by those attending the sessions. As a group, we will also evaluate the presentations. This will be done charitably, and with a mind to help each  of us to become God-blessed proclaimers. 

TEXTS FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE


   Choose one text.

   Develop a five (5) minute presentation. Target a presentation with that exact duration.

   Identify the core thought of the text, and put it in a few succinct words.

   As you have opportunity, show the relationship of other statements in the text to the core thought.

   Think in terms of God's revealed purpose in Christ. Do not get lost in the text.

Romans 1:16-17, Romans 2:28-29, Romans 3:21-23, Romans 4:5-6, Romans 4:20-24, Romans 10:9-10 

Remember, you are not developing a sermon, but a thought. Good sermons are made up of good thoughts. Your thought is to identify the central idea of a text. Do not develop an extensive commentary of the passage. That exercise will come later. 

You will find it more difficult to state things in a few words. It will require more discipline, and a better understanding of the text you are opening to us. Your job is to find the door into the central room of the text, and open it for us. Present it so an intelligent and profitable discussion can be based upon your remarks. Do not be afraid to be innovative in your approach. You are an individual, use your individuality in your preaching--but do so in a manner that pleases the Lord.

Get your text firmly into your mind, then ask the Lord to help you see it. Profitable thoughts are the result of spiritual insight--and God can give it to you.

  With my heart, and without any reservations, I tell you what Paul told Timothy. "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything" (2 Tim 2:7, NASB).

Given O. Blakely