young minister was asked why he did not preach exclusively
from the Word of God. He replied indignantly, "Must a man be confined to
the Bible?" "Confined?" asked his questioner. "Do you mean to say that
you are pinched when you seek in the Bible for sermon material? That is
like the soft shell crab saying, 'Must I be confined to the Atlantic
Certainly we do not "Preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2) if we are guilty of "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men " (Matt. 15:9). And this is an ever-present danger. It is very difficult to escape the clutches of tradition. Each Christian, and certainly every preacher, should independently study and know each part of the Bible in the light of the whole Bible.
Neither do we "Preach the Word" if we merely do not say anything contrary to the Word. To "Preach the Word," we must do more than preach in agreement with the Word of God. Many "fundamentalist" sermons are only a combination of ideas and experiences that illustrate one or more truths of the Bible. Such sermons do not help anyone to know God's Word better. Neither does that type of sermon help its hearers to know more of the abiding power of "the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17). These sermons have too much of the word of men.
Proclaim With Authority
Greek word translated Preach in 2 Timothy 4:2 means "to proclaim,
to officiate as a herald." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon says
that his proclaiming of a herald was done "always with a suggestion of
formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and
obeyed." What a privilege! What a responsibility is ours to "Preach
the Word, " that is, "Proclaim God's message." It is not our
message but God's. We proclaim it not on our authority but on His. It is
not a message we spin out of our minds like a spider spins a web out of
its body. Rather, we are to proclaim the message of God.
If we truly "Preach the Word, " we therefore need make no apology for it. First, we should "Preach the Word" straight to our own hearts and then lovingly and humbly, but withal faithfully, to the people. "He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord"(Jer. 23:28).
How solemn is the apostle Paul's admonition to the young preacher Timothy: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
Explain the Word
read in the Book in the Law of God distinctly, and gave the
sense, and caused them to understand the reading " (Neh.
8:8). That is the way Ezra the scribe and his helpers sought to "Preach
the Word" to the whole congregation of Israel, the remnant that had
returned from the Babylonian captivity. They "read ... distinctly, and
gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." Experience
shows that the mere reading of a selection in Scripture in a church
service is of little profit. Unless the preacher reads distinctly and
gives the sense葉hat is, the explanation and connection葉he congregation
does not understand the reading and so are not profited. The reading of
the Scripture in many churches is considered both by the pastor and the
congregation to be a routine affair曜ust a "preliminary." This should
not be. It dishonors the Lord and His Word. The congregation considers
that the reading of the Scriptures is the time to take a mental joyride,
and they let their minds come back mentally and pay some attention when
the preacher himself has something to say.
Thus is missed a splendid opportunity to "Preach the Word" in the public reading of the Word of God. One of the most helpful services we have attended in a long time was in a church where the pastor did not miss the opportunity. It was a large church, and the congregation brought their Bibles. We should encourage our people to do likewise, as one Christian brother did in his advertisement. He said, "Three books are necessary for a good church service葉he Bible, the hymn book, and the pocketbook. Be sure to bring all three!"
For his sermon, the pastor mentioned in the above paragraph went through an entire chapter in the book of Hebrews with his congregation. First he read a few verses and explained them, and then he had the congregation read two or three verses, and he explained them. And so they went on through the whole chapter, which he summed up in conclusion and applied. God was honored, His Word was preached and the people were blessed. By having our people bring their Bibles and read with us, several things are accomplished: First, their attention to the reading is increased. Second, they gain a better understanding of God's Word. Third, difficulties are explained which would bother them in their private reading of the Scriptures. This encourages them to do more private reading of the Word and get spiritual food first hand. Sermon exposition of Scripture meets not one but many different spiritual needs. As a preacher friend used to say, "Every sermon should be like a turkey dinner. It provides something for all the family from Grandma to the baby."
"Declare All the Counsel of God"
wonderful treasure our gracious God has given us in His entire Word. Our
Lord Jesus Christ said we need "every word" of it. Quoting from
Deuteronomy 8:3, our Lord said "Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth
of God" (Matt. 4:4). With how much of God's Word do we feed "the
flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you (us) overseers" (Acts
20:28)? Paul had about three years (Acts 20:31) to "Preach the Word" in
Ephesus, and yet he told the elders in his farewell meeting with them,
"I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL THE COUNSEL
OF GOD" (Acts 20:27).
Most Christians, not to mention the unsaved, have as little understanding of God's Word as did the Ethiopian eunuch. You remember he was the treasurer of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. But he recognized that the treasures of the knowledge of God and salvation were greater than the treasures of Ethiopia. Therefore, he made the long journey to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel and paid a considerable sum to purchase a small portion of Holy Scripture葉he roll of the book of Isaiah. God took Deacon-Evangelist Philip away from a great revival meeting in Samaria to wait for this eunuch on the desert of Gaza, to explain the Scriptures to him and to lead him to Christ.
When the chariot came by, Philip drew near and heard the man earnestly reading from Isaiah the prophet. Philip inquired, "Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? " (Acts 8:30-31). He thereupon invited Philip to come up onto his chariot. Philip found the man was reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. This vivid word picture of the Messiah as the suffering Substitute for sinners is so clear that Jewish rabbis never read it in their synagogues today. But this Ethiopian treasurer did not understand it. And so we read, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus " (Acts 8:35). We once heard a great teacher of preachers comment on this Scripture as follows: "Brethren, preach as did Philip. First, open your mouth. Second, begin with the Scripture and end with it. Third, preach unto the people the Lord Jesus Christ."
Why "Preach the Word"
"Preach the Word" to our people, have we ever preached Christ as
revealed in the five great offerings of the book of Leviticus葉he Burnt
Offering, the Peace, Sin and Trespass Offerings? In the great prophetic
Psalms? In the striking prophecies of the Old Testament Evangelist
Isaiah? If we will do this, our hearts, and the hearts of our people,
will "burn within us," as did the hearts of those two disciples that
Resurrection morning on the road to Emmaus when the Lord Jesus drew
near: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He
expounded unto them IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES THE THINGS
CONCERNING HIMSELF" (Lk. 24:27)
Summing up now, briefly, here are five of the many reasons why we should "Preach the Word." First, because God commands us to do it (2 Tim. 4:2; Jonah 3:2). Second, God has promised to bless His own Word, not ours (Isaiah 55:10-11). Third, because it is by the preaching of God's Word that souls are saved (Acts II: 14). Fourth, because it is by the Word of God that believers are built up and their every spiritual need is met (Acts 20:32). And fifth, because it is by the Word of God that the Christian worker is "throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17).
As the nail remains in the board after the hammer that put it there has departed and as the imprint of the seal remains upon the paper after the seal that pressed it there has been removed, so, when we "Preach the Word," it will not be the sermon, but the Word, that remains deep in the hearts of the hearers, for God to bless and use for His glory.
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