Imagine you have a friend who thought of himself as a great fan of painting and decided to go to an art exhibit in town featuring many classic works of art. This friend, upon reaching the exhibition, learns that a guest art lecturer is offering his years of training to help those in attendance better understand and appreciate the works on display. Now consider what you would think if this friend of yours only stopped for a bit to listen to the lecturer’s presentation before again spending more time gazing upon the paintings before leaving. No doubt you would conclude your friend was firstly a fool, for not taking the opportunity to gain a better knowledge of the artwork on display; and secondly, you might be inclined to wonder if in fact this friend was truly very passionate about painting at all.
However, is this not how we approach hearing the preaching of the Scriptures? You may object to my analogy; but for a people who swear up and down that Scripture is the very word of God, we certainly act as if a short expository of twenty-five minutes was a great demand. And any suggestion that sermons go on longer or requests for other sermons during the week, might well be viewed as fanaticism.
To read the Scriptures oneself consistently is of course something that should be etched into the very being of any who dare call themselves a Christian. For it is in the Scriptures that we hear from God and learn about Him. So is it not natural for a Christian to want to hear his Pastor expound upon what God has said like the Prophets of old? I should certainly think so! If any think I am speaking in too exalted language about the activity of the preaching of the Word, I would have you consider the words of that great man William Perkins, who was one of the first of that great group of Evangelicals known as the Puritans, “Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ. Through preaching those who hear are called into the state of grace, and preserved in it.”
To read such statements from four-hundred years ago one would think this was the founder of some group of Charismatics, but these are the words of one who is among the Spiritual Ancestors of those in the Reformed tradition! How low is our view of being under the ministry of a preacher who faithfully teaches Scripture! I feel I must quote that great preacher of the 20th century, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this very subject, which should be of so much more interest to Evangelical Christians, “When people cease to be interested in preaching, they cease to be evangelical. If you put discussions before preaching you are beginning to deny your evangelicalism. The church starts with preaching. Revivals and reformations have always been great restorations of preaching.”
How can we marvel at the state of society, when those that take preaching seriously are regarded as boorish?! My friends, three things that should be viewed as primary in practice to an evangelical are: reading Scripture, Prayer, and being under the ministry of one who preaches God’s word. These three go together and if any one of these should fall into decay the results, as the past century have shown, are disastrous.
May God change are hearts to repent of our slackness in honoring the preaching of His Word, learn to delight in its preaching and make it one of our greatest delights. Amen.