Christian Preaching as Redemptive Encounter Series (Introduction)

Ministry, Preaching, The Church, Theology, Worship

SP11For whatever else it may rightly be said to be, Christian preaching is fundamentally a redemptive encounter.[1] More specifically, it 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.[2] This truth is well expressed by Donald Macleod when he writes



“…the preached Word, like the written Word, points to the incarnate Word, and shows forth the presence of Jesus Christ with power to save.”[3]

W. E. Sangster expresses a similar idea when he writes that

“Preaching… [is] ‘a manifestation of the Incarnate Word, from the Written Word, by the spoken word’… It is a showing forth of the Reigning Christ… It is a deed, not of man merely or chiefly, but of God.”[4]

This concept has found perhaps its simplest and most sublime historical expression in the Second Helvetic Confession’s classic statement that

The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.[5]

Today I’m starting a series exploring this glorious topic. The following posts will cover three basic steps. First, the historical precedent will be established. Second, the three key words from the above explanation of Christian preaching as redemptive encounter will be expanded upon (God’s presence, activity, and authority in Christian preaching). Third and finally, some practical applications will be recommended. In all these things may the Word of God Himself be the highest guide, and may He be glorified in what is written here!

Tomorrow, we’ll start by examining the historical precedent for thinking of preaching as a redemptive encounter, especially that perhaps curious statement that The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.

Like Doug did with his series on Christ in the Old Testament, I’ll update this first page with links to the whole series as I go along.

UPDATE: Here is the working table of contents:

Christian Preaching as Redemptive Encounter: Introduction (You’re on this page!)

The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God

The Presence, Activity, and Authority of God in Preaching

Practical Applications of Christian Preaching as Redemptive Encounter (Coming soon!)

(By: Nicolas Alford)

[1] Three sources have been highly influential in the theology of preaching presented in this paper. Those three sources are John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Word of God, Pierre Ch. Marcel’s The Relevance of Preaching, and the relevant works of John Calvin via Ronald Wallace’s Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament. Citing every instance in which their fingerprint is present would bog down this series with constant citation. Thus, Calvin will be granted seniority and quoted liberally.

[2] Although this series will argue that preaching has a unique and central role as “redemptive encounter” between God and man, that fact should not be taken as a denial or depreciation of the various other means God uses to save and sanctify his people. It is beyond the scope of this series to define or defend these other means, but three brief points can be stated: 1. The Reformed Confessions affirm the reality that God is not bound to work through preaching exclusively, see the 1689 LCF in 14:1, 2. Simple experience tells us that there are many people who are drawn to faith in Christ and further strengthened in that faith through means other than preaching per se, and 3. The fact of something’s centrality does not of necessity diminish non-central things, nor dispose of them. In fact, the very nature of centrality presupposes other legitimate means among which the central thing is to be held as just that- central.

[3] This quote is drawn from Macleod’s essay in the book Homiletics, pp. 64-5. Although Macleod writes that this quote is from The Directory for Worship, this writer could not locate the original quotation in either an antique hard copy of the Directory or in online searchable editions. As of yet this mystery in unsolved, and so credit has been given to Macleod while recognizing he is purportedly quoting The Directory for Worship. Anyone who can help solve this mystery will be most favored among men.

[4] Sangster, The Craft of the Sermon, p. 4. This quote also includes Sangster’s quotation of Bernard Manning, which is not cited in the original beyond the giving of his name.

[5] Famously rendered in the original Latin as Praedicatio verbi divini est verbum divinum.


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