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Preach the Word


"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season" (2 Tim.4:2).

Introduction Before we discuss preaching as a Christian activity we must ask the question, "Is preaching relevant in today's world?" Our answer to this question should help preachers and congregations appreciate preaching to be one of God's ways of speaking and ministering to people.


Defining homiletics
Homiletics is the science of preaching. It is the study of the principles that underlie effective preaching. Homiletics investigates the elements that contribute the making of a good sermon. Klaas Runia comments: "We have to take [sermons] seriously for what they really are: human attempts to communicate the gospel. Homiletics is quite simply the study of this kind of communication, and as a kind of communication it has to be tested by the laws of the science of communication" (The Sermon Under Attack).

Objections to homiletics
Homiletics has been objected to for a number of reasons. It is sometimes said that methodology rules out the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Some believe that concentration on the sermon and its delivery gives undue importance to the sermon. Views like this must be faced and evaluated.

Is preaching out of date?
Clyde Reid claims: "Preaching does not communicate" (The Empty Pulpit). We have to admit that some boring sermons support this observation! Those who do not believe the Bible to be God's Word question the value of preaching. So do those who want to place a social gospel before a preached gospel.

Are evangelicals minimising preaching?
Disbelief in sermons, giving praise and worship a primary place, replacing preaching with discussion groups, drama and epilogues are some of the things that may marginalise the preached Word.


Scripture and Church history confirm the fact that the preaching of the Word accompanies every move of God (see Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 11:1; 19:20).

Preaching in the New Testament
The New Testament (NT) opens with the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus. The Great Commission contains the mandate to preach the good news to all creation (Mk.16:15). Preaching was central to the life of the NT Church. This is emphasised by the many words used for preaching in the NT.

Some biblical terms used of preaching
The major NT Greek terms for preaching are:

  1. 'Preaching' (euangelizesthai, to evangelise) is used of preaching the gospel (e.g., Rom.1:15).

  2. 'Proclaiming' (kėrussein, to proclaim or herald) has a royal feel about it (e.g., Acts 8:5).

  3. 'Witnessing' (marturein, to witness) includes apostolic attestation (1 Cor.15:15).

  4. 'Teaching' (didaskein, to teach) involves moral and spiritual instruction (e.g., Rom.12:7).

The importance of the preached message
The rendering of 1 Corinthians 1:21 in the Authorised Version of the Bible led many in the past to place an incorrect emphases on preaching itself. Obviously it is God's message that saves and ministers - and not its mode of delivery. "God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save" (NIV).


Luke makes the point in the Acts that Christ continued (and continues) his mission through his people, the Church. God's method is people - people called to preach the Word and share Christ.

The preacher
What is the NT picture of the preacher? He or she is someone called by the Lord (Jn.15:16), empowered by him (Acts 1:8), and sent by him (Acts 9:15; Rom.10:15). We must know this in our hearts. Without a sense of vocation our preaching will be unconvincing.

The preaching
The preaching of the gospel is divinely ordained! Jesus commanded: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mk.16:15). Klaas Runia indicates: "True preaching is an event. Paul calls the gospel a 'power unto salvation' (Rom.1:16). When the gospel is preached, something happens. Preaching announces the love of God through Christ to men". Preaching should be aggressive - it is true spiritual warfare.

The proclamation
We must lay down a few basic principles for preaching. Preaching should be:

  1. Scripture-based. We are called to preach the Word (1 Tim.4:2). So, the sermon should be expository, using a text or Bible portion.

  2. Structured. Powerful sermons have pointed aims. A sermon should have a commencement, a continuation and a conclusion.

  3. Spirit-inspired. We must seek to deliver God-given, Spirit-anointed sermons. Well prepared sermons can die in the pulpit without the Lord's presence. See Zech.4:6.

The passion
Preachers must have a burden for the Word they preach, and a passion for those they preach to. God's prophetic word was often a 'burden' to the Old Testament (OT) prophets and to the NT apostles (consider Isa.13:1; 1 Cor.9:16,17).

The power
As with the Lord Jesus, the preacher's ability must be found in the Holy Spirit, and their authority should find its source in the written Word (Lk.4:18; 1 Pet.1:12). The minister of the new covenant must minister life (1 Cor.2:4; 2 Cor.3:6). We must expect the Lord to work as we preach the Word (Mk.16:15-20; Acts 10:44). We should exercise faith as we preach.


Re-evaluate what you think about preaching - and take your time to do this. There is a mysterious element in preaching which involves the preacher (and his or her personality), the sermon (including the Scriptures), the Holy Spirit, the congregation, and the circumstances. Most of us will have sensed the Lord's presence and living voice through preaching. Preaching should be a dynamic communal event. To quote Klaas Runia again:

"No sermon, whatever its form, will be really dialogical when it takes the congregation with its joys and sorrows, its questions and doubts, its aspirations and frustrations seriously, by letting the light of God's redemptive Word shine upon them. Preaching that takes account of both the message of the text and the reactions of the congregations and that tries to incorporate reactions into the exposition of the text will be truly biblical preaching and therefore also relevant preaching" (The Sermon Under Attack).

Recognition of the communal nature of the sermon should lead us to educate our congregations to be proactive listeners. For a start, those who appreciate the Bible as God's Word should listen to its exposition with open Bibles (see Acts 17:11). Further, a sermon should not be a lecture! .

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Copyright © 2007 Vernon Ralphs

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