Several years ago someone took me out to dinner and asked me, “Why have preaching in a church service?” I was challenged on theological and biblical grounds. That conversation always stuck with me. I think we do need to know why we have preaching of sermons in a church service, and I think there is an excellent theological and biblical case for preaching.
He is there and He is Not Silent. This was the title of a wonderful little book by Francis Schaeffer. It articulated the Biblical worldview that we worship a God who speaks. God speaks in two ways: 1. Natural Revelation and 2. Special Revelation. Natural Revelation is how God reveals Himself to us in the world around us (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). Special Revelation is how God reveals Himself to us through propositional content, words communicated to us and recorded in the Holy Bible (2 Tim 3:16).
Our God is a “talking” God, a God who communicates with us His people. He has told us who He is, what He is like, what the world is like, the solution to our greatest problem, what will happen at the end of history, how we can live for Him now. God communicates through human agents to proclaim His message. Noah was a preacher (2 Peter 2:5); Moses proclaimed God’s Word to the people. Throughout the OT we see God inspire His prophets who proclaim God’s message to His people and teach them the words of Scripture (David, Solomon, Isaiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jeremiah, etc). We also God’s priests teach the people (Nehemiah 8:8); they do this by helping God’s people understand God’s Word which has already been written down.
When we get to the NT, we see John the Baptist preaching and pointing people to Jesus (Matt 3). Jesus is God the Son, who came to Earth to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21); he has “made God known” (John 1:18). Jesus had a high view of Scripture (Matt 5:17) and spoke with the very authority of God (Matt 7:28-29). His ministry was one of healing, but also one of preaching (Matt 4:23-25). He called to himself 12 apostles, and sent them out to preach (Matt 10). He promised that after he ascended into heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to fill the apostles and bring to their minds what they need to remember (John 14:24). This took place at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles (Acts 1:3)
As we look at the ministry of the apostles, we see that it was a preaching ministry. The apostles preached the gospel and the Early Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). Their writings carried the authority of the OT writings (2 Peter 3:16).
Part of the apostles’ ministry was planting churches and seeing qualified elder pastors who would lead and oversee the churches. These pastors are spoken of as a gift to the church from Christ (Eph 4:11-14). One of the qualifications an elder is that he is able to teach (1 Tim 3:2). It was expected that Christians to gather regularly with one another to pray, take the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor), hear the Scriptures read (1 Tim 4:13) and the Word of God preached (2 Tim 4:2).
The Reformed tradition, in particular, places a high value on preaching. Preaching always has a vital and central part in the corporate worship gathering. John Calvin once said that the church of God is present wherever the sacraments are rightly administered and the Word of God rightly preached. In preaching we hear God’s voice, we behold Him in our hearts, we are taught the gospel and instructed on how to live out the gospel.
All of this together persuades me of the theological and biblical reasons for preaching.