What is the essential role of preaching, and the preacher in the life of the believer? This is a necessary question, with a necessary answer that every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ needs to have settled in their mind, in order for God’s purpose for preaching to have it’s full effect in our lives. There are some settled certainties from the New Testament that can help us get a razorback grip on the answer to this question.
Before we do, however,let’s ask the question in a different way. If a believer has the Holy Spirit of God in him; and the believer has a Bible; and the believer understands his priesthood; what then does preaching provide that is not covered by the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the Priesthood of the Believer? These are questions that some Christians are asking that need to be answered, and need to be answered from the Word of God, not the traditional practices of man.
Furthermore, let’s ask another question about the Preacher/Pastor/Elder. Do they have something other Christians do not have? Is there something special in the life of the Pastor/Elder that is not present in the life of other believers?
This question also must be answered from the New Testament, and not merely from preferred practices. I want to share some scripture that I believe will spread some light on answering them.
First of all, there is something imperative that we need to remember. The same New Testament that teaches us about the Priesthood of the Believer is the same New Testament that teaches us about “teachers/preachers/pastors/elders.” Never get the idea that the truth of the priesthood of the believer trumps the rest of the New Testament. Nothing could be more dangerous than for someone to think that because they have personal access to God on their own, the rest of the New Testament has no authority over their life. Every priest is subject to the Word of God.
Second of all, we need to recognize what preaching does not do. It does not replace personal Bible study, the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit, the priesthood of the believer in prayer, and understanding. For far too many people, the preaching hour “constitutes” their interaction with the Word of God, and the Spirit of God. Preaching replaces nothing in the spiritual arsenal provided directly to the believer by God.
Then what’s the need? Why do preachers preach, and why should believers listen, and listen under the authority of it?
Let’s look at three reasons and purposes from the scripture.
1.) Regular Spiritual Maintenance - There are five actions listed in Scripture in the Apostle Paul’s instructions to preacher Timothy concerning the “act” or “action” of preaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 1 Timothy 6:15 – “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”
From these passages we see that sitting under the act of preaching provides the believer four necessary influences that God has placed under the dynamics of listening to a proclamation of the Scriptures. Reproving, Rebuking, Exhorting, and Charging were to constitute the purpose of Timothy’s sermon, while the Word of God was to constitute the substance. These physical, audible influences cannot be experienced alone, nor should they be recieved from just anyone. The rebuking, reproving, and exhorting of false teachers, demon spirits, and just plain old ugly breathed, and sour minded people are to play no role the health of our spiritual maturity. Assuming all things right for the sake of argument, these influences are to come from the people who fit the description of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. God has placed these necessary influences for our lives into the act of Biblical preaching.
Paul’s charge to Timothy is exemplified in his own actions at Thessalonica. I can think of no better example of the practice of preaching in the New Testament than what we see in 1 Thessalonians. In that text we see a “fifth” necessary influence that is to come from the preaching of the Word. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” Now preaching is not the “sole” resevoir of comfort, but it is one source that God has provided, and it would be foolish to dismiss as unneeded.
2.) Natural Strengthening Exercise - What is true Biblical preaching? It is saying what God has already said. Any preaching that is not saying what God has said is not Biblical preaching. Biblical preaching is “incarnational preaching.” Jesus was a preacher. The Bible says that “he came preaching.” He said Himself that “I am appointed a preacher . . .” Real preaching is to be the Bible in a Body. Now preaching does something for us that reading does not. In the reading of the Bible we get the Word through our eyes. In the preaching of the Bible we get the Word through our ears. It is a double dose of God’s Word through sight and sound. For time and space I will not go into all of the role that preaching has placed throughout all of the scriptures, from Noah’s time until now, but it is certain that ” . . . after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” One of the truths of scripture that thrills my heart is just a few verses before that, when Paul said, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” It is through preaching of the Word that God saves the lost, and through the preaching of the Cross He empowers the saved.
Inevitably someone who doesn’t like preachers very much, will always point to 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (Which I think is funny, because the subject matter is not letting “false teachers” teach you.) In their illogical mind they are essentially (mis)using this verse to categorically dismiss the rest of New Testament teaching. Just four books earlier, the same New Testament says in the book of Hebrews to people who are not as mature as they think they are spiritually, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. ” This is what I mean when I say that it is foolish for anyone to categorically dismiss the need, and role of Biblical teachers based on the doctrine of the believers priesthood. Those Hebrew believers were just as much a priest as Peter, and yet they still “had need of a teacher.”
3.) Plain Scriptural Obedience - The scriptural fact is that God has instructed certain men to preach, and for saints to listen. Now let me say this, and I’ll come back to that statement. Inevitably someone will say, “how do WE know who God has instructed to preach? – 1st Timothy 3. When you can find a man that fits that role, (not perfectly sinless) but the, design, doctrine, duties, and qualities of his life, fit that passage of scripture, you have someone that God has called. Very often false preachers like to misquote, Hebrews 13:18 – “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Of course this verse is categorically true. However this verse follows Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” The substance of their sermon AND the character of their lives are what undergird the authority of their preaching.
Now that being said, preachers are instructed to preach. Otherwise they would not be called “preachers.” Preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word. (Not the discussion of it.) That does not mean fallible men can’t be wrong, they can. But it is not their duty, or calling to proclaim some touchy feely maybe something, that leaves your minds so open your brains fall out and trash falls in. It is the duty of the preacher to declare the doctrines of the Word. Titus 2:1 – “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:”
Preachers/Pastors/Elders/Undershepherds are to “feed the flock of God the Word of God.” I doubt then it is too much of a stretch to say that the “flock of God is to eat the Word of God fed to them by the preachers/pastors/elders/undershepherds.” At the close of Hebrews, the writer instructs his audience of believers; “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. ” In other words, allow yourselves to be exhorted, and by implication reproved, rebuked, charged and comforted. Allow the dynamics of the spoken Word to have their effect on your lives.
Now I haven’t got time or space here to address the “rule” or the “role” of the Pastor/Preacher/Elder in the life of the believer. What I have spoken to briefly here is the overall act of preaching, and the role that it plays, and the niche that it fills in the life and growth of the believer. Obviously it is not exhaustive. We have merely scratched the scratches on the scratches of the surface. Lord willing, in the next article we will address what role, authority, position, a pastor/elder/preacher has in the life of the believer if any.
Understanding the role that preaching plays in our lives is much needed, not only in the pew, but it also needs to be rightly understood in the pulpit as well. Recognizing God’s plan for it each of our individual lives is a change worth making.
(disagreement with points in the article will be accepted; sarcastic, mean spirited, or abusive responses will not be posted)