Christian Preaching as Redemptive Encounter: So What? (Series Conclusion)

Ministry, Preaching, The Church, Theology, Worship

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The burden of this series has been to argue that Christian preaching is a redemptive encounter between God and man wherein the Lord Himself is Spiritually present, active, and authoritative through the means of the Word preached. Having established the historical precedent which places such statements completely within the Reformed tradition, and having sought to win the conscience of the reader through the examination of the Scriptures, all that remains is to briefly observe three practical applications which will conclude this study.

A Zealous Rededication to the Bible in Preaching

Whether or not our preaching is blessed with the Biblical realities this series has demonstrated will stand or fall in large measure with our fidelity to the Scripture. To once more reference the 2nd HC, it is only the preaching of the Word of God which can in any sense be considered the Word of God. John Stott wrote in his classic work on preaching, Between Two Worlds,

To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view… In expository preaching the biblical text is neither a conventional introduction to a sermon on a largely different theme, nor a convenient peg on which to hang a ragbag of miscellaneous thoughts, but a master which dictates and controls what is said (pp. 125-6).

Taking to that quote everything that has been observed in this series on the presence, activity, and authority of God in Christian preaching, and realizing that these glorious realities depend primarily on Scriptural fidelity, let any who would preach zealously rededicate themselves to the Bible in that endeavor. Let them not seek to be novel nor notable, but rather strive above all else to be Biblically faithful. To quote one of Pastor Al Martin’s classic axioms on preaching:

The proclamation, explanation, and application of scriptural truths must constitute the heart and soul of all preaching.[1]

An Increased Humility Married to an Increased Effort When Preaching

The complex interplay between the divine and human activity in preaching has been observed several times already, and now that complex interplay must be applied to our practical applications. Simply put, preaching is an activity that requires maximum human effort, yet in which man is powerless to achieve any real spiritual effect without divine assistance. God calls the preacher to put his very blood into the sermon and then give all consequent glory to Him. The preacher must undertake his task with the utmost fervor and tenacity, yet he must happily own the fact that any blessing which result from his efforts are because his hearers have had a redemptive encounter with Someone else. Paul captured the ethos of this reality in 1 Cor. 15:10b-11:

I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

A Deeper Confidence in God to Do His Work Through Preaching

God has uniquely promised to build his church through preaching. Though all the world may compete for her loyalty, the assertions of this series ought to guard the church from having a wandering eye. Let the church be bound heart and soul to the preaching of the word, and let her have a renewed and deeper confidence in God to accomplish his purposes through the means he has ordained and promised to personally attend. This is no depreciation of all the other wonderful things the church can and even must do, but it is a plea for preaching to be central in more than name only. When James Stewart reflected on decisive factor in the victory of Christianity he identified it as

The presence in the proclamation of the living Christ. For what men heard, listening to the apostles, was not simply a human testimony: it was the self-testimony of the risen Jesus. They did not say, “This is the truth: we will learn it, and it will instruct us.” They said, “This is the Lord: we have waited for Him, and He will save us…” For the crux of all evangelism still lies in that one dramatic paradox, which some scholars disparage and discount as unpractical mysticism and apostolic rhetoric, but which in point of fact is vibrant with the most practical and decisive force in all the world: “I, yet not I, but Christ.” To be thus taken command of, so that our testimony, when we go to speak of Christ, is not ours at all, but Christ’s self testimony- this is our vocation and the hope of our ministry. It is God’s great promise and demand to every preacher of the Word. Here, in all reverence and humility, the disciple may take upon his lips the saying of his Lord: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.”

Christ, whom has been given all authority, is present and active in the building of his Church. May her ministers be richly encouraged to preach like they truly believe this.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

[1] Brian Borgman, My Heart For Thy Cause, p. 131.

 

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