Gospel Preaching 22

Romans 1:9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,

I Corinthians 2:2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They rely on these and other good books to get a sermon out of them. They do not pray; they do not study; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. It is just as if there were no need to read the Bible for this purpose. They use such books as offer them homiletical helps in order to earn their yearly living; they are nothing but parrots and jackdaws, which learn to repeat without understanding, though our purpose and the purpose of these theologians is to direct preachers to Scripture with such books and exhort them to plan to defend our Christian faith after our death, against the devil, the world, and the flesh. (Martin Luther)

Luther made several good points in this passage, but one of the most powerful that speaks to the modern day is that men who use books alone and do not pray or study the Scriptures for their sermons are really nothing more than parrots. They use the books to learn what to repeat and yet they are repeating things without understanding what they are repeating. This can happen when men write out their sermons and when their sermons are more academic than spoken from the heart. This can happen when men have good memories and they memorize the sermon for the most part. But the point is that a man should not preach what he has not understood, or perhaps it should be said that a man should not preach what has not pervaded his heart by meditation and the power of the Spirit.

It is true that this type of thinking is built upon the idea that lecturing or speaking in some way information is the same as preaching. Martin Lloyd-Jones spoke of preaching as logic on fire. The fire, we can safely assume, was not the fire of human passion, but the fire of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the preacher. The one who is preaching cannot truly preach (as more or less defined above) apart from understanding and apart from the fire of the Spirit in the soul. It is true that the Spirit may not give fire at all times and is certainly not at the whim of man to empower his preaching as the man pleases. Nevertheless, there is no preaching apart from a preacher who has been taught of the Spirit and so has some understanding of what he is preaching.

What does it mean to understand Scripture? It is the Scriptures that the Psalmist cries out for understanding for. It is the Scriptures that the Psalmist said he meditated on day and night. It is the Scriptures that make us wise for salvation. But what we must understand is that the Scriptures cannot be truly understood apart from the Christ who is revealed in them. There is no understanding of the Scriptures in any spiritual sense apart from the work of the Spirit in enlightening men to understanding the glory of God in Christ. A man may know much of the Scriptures as to the letter of them, but he will still be deeply ignorant of them if he is ignorant of the Christ that the Scriptures were given to manifest.

The scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees were learned men regarding the letter of the Scriptures. Yet Jesus told the Pharisees that they were “mistaken not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mat 22:39). The issue, as usual, goes back to the nature and power of God. Not only did these learned men not understand the Scriptures, they did not understand the power of God. They probably had many arguments and discussions about the nature of God, but they did not understand Him. Understanding is more than the intellectual arguments; it has the idea of discernment and spiritual sight in the soul. An understanding of the heart also includes the affections.

We can see something of this from John 20:9 where it says “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” They had been with Jesus and heard from Him that He would rise from the dead, but they did not understand the Scripture. This should teach us that Gospel preaching must come from men who understand the Scriptures in a scriptural way. They must be taught of the Spirit and they must understand the Gospel with their whole being in order to be a Gospel preacher who preaches the true and understood Gospel.

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