You don’t have to be around our church for very long to realize that our church believes in preaching. Our pastors believe in preaching. There are a lot of great things that our church does in our attempt to fulfill our mission which is to “glorify God in all things, by proclaiming the gospel of Christ to all people, so their lives are transformed for all time.” That mission flows into our discipleship ministry, evangelism, fellowship, and social ministries like our church’s food pantry. But we believe that the most important thing we do as a church is weekly giving ourselves to the preaching of the Bible as the word of God.
Our pastors’ life verses could justifiably be 1 Corinthians 9:16 (“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”) and 2 Timothy 4:1-2 in which Paul writes these words to his young pastor friend Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” These verses sum up what we believe about the task of preaching and the primary task of the local church.
Notice again what Paul wrote to Timothy. First, his instruction was a “charge”. It was a solemn command. It was a passionate plea. It was a determined demand. Second, notice the seriousness of this charge. Paul invoked the truth and presence of God to describe the importance of this task. How importance is Paul’s charge? He makes this command in the light of who God is, who Jesus Christ is, and what he will do in the coming days, namely return personally to judge the world and to usher in the fullness of his kingdom. That’s a solemn charge.
I can remember my parents (once I had gotten old enough) leaving me at home with some chores and assignments. Those instructions would often go something like this: “Your room better be cleaned up and picked up when I get home!” I understood exactly what those words meant, and I knew that however long I might put my chores off, there was definitely coming a moment when I would have to give an account. A reckoning was coming. My parents would get home from work, and they would check to see if I had completed my assignment. The reality of their imminent return put me into action to complete the task they had left me to do. If that’s how I responded as a child to my parents, how much more serious is Paul’s charge to Timothy? He reminds the young minister that Jesus’ return is imminent. His judgment is coming. He will give an account, so he must get busy with the task that he has been given.
And notice, thirdly, what that task is: “preach.” Above and beyond every task that rotates around the office of the pastor or elder, the primary task to be completed is preaching. It is no little thing or historical oddity that oftentimes pastors have been given the simple and colloquial title of “preacher.” That’s what we are. That’s what we do. We are town criers who have been charged to deliver the best news in the world. We are heralds of a great king who has sent us with an official message of his dominion.
Fourth, and finally, notice the content of the task that Timothy is charged to accomplish. He is told to preach, but Paul doesn’t leave it at that. He doesn’t give Timothy any leeway to decide the content and parameters of his preaching schedule. He isn’t charged to preach what society and culture want to hear. He isn’t charged to preach his favorite topics and interesting hobbies. He is not called to ruminate on mere academia. No, Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word.” The word itself demands that it and it alone be proclaimed as the content of the church’s message. Preachers are to be men who “preach the word.” Back in 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul commented on the word of God and wrote that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” See here the origin of the word, God has inspired it, (literally breathed it out), and notice the power of the word. “It is profitable,” or competent, or powerful to achieve certain results, namely teaching, reproving, correcting, and training. That’s what the Bible does.
Then notice how that connects to Paul’s charge to Timothy. He is instructed to preach the word, that God-authored and God-powered word, and in so doing he, speaking forth the truth of the word, is to “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” As the preacher he is to reprove, rebuke, exhort, and teach. In other words, at all times and in all seasons Timothy is to unleash the full reservoir of the word’s power into the life of the church. The Bible is powerful to reprove, correct, and to train. Timothy, the one who brings the word to the people in his local church, is equipped by it and through it alone to reprove, correct, and to train in and out of season.
That’s why we believe in expository preaching. Expository preaching is preaching that seeks to make the content of a passage the message of a sermon. I read an article recently that included this wonderful definition of expository preaching from J.I. Packer. Dr. Packer wrote that, “The true idea of preaching is that the preacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, opening it up and applying it as a word from God to his hearers, talking only in order that ￼the text may speak itself and be heard, making each point from his text in such a manner ‘that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence’ (Westminster Directory, 1645).” In other words, we preach what the text says. Where the text speaks, we speak. Where the text is silent, we are silent. Our goal when we stand behind the pulpit (that “sacred desk”) and before our people is be among those who truly say “Thus saith the Lord!”
That’s what drove Ezra to preach in the Old Testament. We’re told that he was a man who “had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). That was his heart, and that was his practice. We’re told that Ezra gathered the assembly of God’s people together along with his associates and he preached. What did that preaching look like? Well, we’re told: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly; and they gave the meaning, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).
That’s expository preaching. They read the word of God to the people of God and preached in such a way that the people understood the meaning and application of the word to their own lives. We cannot improve on Ezra’s method and we dare not seek to improve upon Paul and Timothy’s mission.
That’s why I’m passionate for expository preaching, and that’s why I’m excited to serve at a church that above and beyond all things cry weekly, “bring us the word!” We do not need clever sermons. We do not need heights of oratory. We need the word of God, or else are ruined. I want you to yearn for that kind of biblical preaching. I want you to hunger for it, and I want you to encourage our pastors and our pastoral apprentices to give themselves over to this task completely. In a few week’s I’ll have the privilege of attending the Expositor’s Summit with some of our pastoral apprentices:
The goal for this conference is to equip men to preach the word and to encourage the church to love the preaching of the word. Pray for us as we prepare to attend this event in Louisville later this month, and pray for your pastors always as they prepare weekly to study and to preach the word of God.
In Christ and in his word,