What is Preaching?
We affirm the teaching of our Larger Catechism that the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word of God, together with the sacraments and prayer, are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, made effectual to the elect for their salvation by the Spirit of God (WLC 154-155).
The Word preached is inseparable from the Word written and the Word Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ being not only the pre-eminent Preacher (Heb 1:1-2) but also pre-eminently that which is proclaimed in Scripture (Luke 24:27), both the Messenger and the Message. All true Christian preaching, being grounded in the apostolic witness, derives its substance, authority, and power from the Divine Preacher, our Lord Jesus Christ, working through His Spirit (1 John 1:1-4).
Therefore, the preaching of the Word of God is to be regarded and received as the Word of God (1 Thes 2:13).
Accordingly, the public preaching of the Word of God is central to the worship of his church. The minister of the Word is to preach sound doctrine faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God. He is free to invent neither doctrines nor applications not warranted by the Word (Deut 4:2, etc). In aid of this, all preaching should be expository, and should normally expound an entire book in sequence (lectio continua), although occasional sermons and series (lectio selecta) may be appropriate at times.
Preaching should be approached with diligent and learned study and conducted with great reverence and propriety, not flippantly or casually. The minister of the Word is to preach diligently, plainly, wisely, zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people, and sincerely, aiming at God’s glory, and the conversion, edification, and salvation of his people (WLC 159).
The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office (WLC 158). That is, except in extraordinary circumstances, only lawfully ordained ministers of the Word may preach.
The preaching of the Word must be faithful to the preaching of Christ as it has been committed to us by the apostolic witness (2 John 10). To wit,
- It must proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Preaching which does not proclaim the centrality of Christ and his work of redemption, or which bypasses the cross of Christ in order to inculcate moral lessons is futility and no gospel.
- It must not favor any one portion or Testament of Scripture over any other, Christ being preached plentifully throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures, to which the Apostles bear abundant witness (1 Pet 1:10-12).
- It is, in accordance with the preaching of Christ, the eschatological proclamation of Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 4:17; Luke 4:21), the mystery which has been revealed to the Church at the end of the ages (Eph 3; 1 Cor 10:11).
- It proclaims thereby the mighty saving acts of God in history as they are consummated in His Son and it is therefore covenantal and redemptive-historical in its interest and orientation, laboring to convince us of our participation in these mighty saving acts (Acts 2:14-39; 7; 13:14-41; 17:22-34).
- It therefore speaks directly and authoritatively to the Church’s contemporary context without reference to the passing fancies of the present day, there being no redemptive-historical gap between the Apostolic age and our own, namely, that the Church is the colony of heaven in the midst of this present evil age out of which she has been delivered while she awaits her Savior (Phil 3:20; Gal 1:4).
- Such preaching is by its very nature ecclesiological, its imperatives necessarily grounded in the Church’s covenantal union with Christ her Head, with whom she is seated in the heavenly places (Col 3:1-5).
- Such preaching is by its very nature doxological, redounding to the praise and glory of God (Rom 16:25-27).