Jan 5, 2024

Why Is Preaching a Means of Grace?

4 Min Read

“If you do not listen to me, how can you know what I’m like? If you will not let me speak, how will you ever understand who I am?” We can imagine something like that being said in a relationship between two people. For you to know another human being, there must be speaking and listening. That is simply how communication works. 

At the heart of the Bible is a God who speaks, who has made Himself known. This is the great contrast with idols: God communicates. In the words of Francis Schaeffer, “He is there and He is not silent.” He makes Himself known in creation, and we see something of His glory, majesty, and beauty in what He has made. He demonstrates His irresistible power in this world, but we cannot know much more than that from creation. You can shout up to the sky: “Who are You? What are You like?” But you will not get an answer.

However, when we come to the pages of the Bible, we see that He reveals Himself and speaks to us in His Word. God is the preaching God. On the very first page of the Bible is this repeated refrain: “And God said, let there be . . . and it was so.” His Word accomplishes His purpose. Right from the very beginning we see the power and authority of God’s Word. He differentiates Himself from all other gods by His Word and His acts. Isaiah 55:11 summarizes this for us:

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

From the beginning of Scripture, we see that God speaks and His Word accomplishes what He set out to do. He says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. He calls out a people for Himself. He redeems them. He guides them with His Word. He governs them by His law and by His prophets who are sent from God to proclaim the message of God to His people—to speak His very words. They bring the message of salvation and judgment.

At just the right time, God sent His Son into the world—His Son who is the very Word of God, the One who was with God and was God and was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were made. In Him was life, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1–4, 14). The Lord Jesus is the greatest of preachers. He teaches not like the religious leaders of the day but as One who has authority. He preaches simply, clearly, and profoundly. Crowds are spellbound as He speaks. His voice raises the dead, stills the storm, drives out demons, and pushes back sickness. He is the One who makes God known. Jesus sends out preachers to proclaim the good news of the gospel, and they speak with His authority. As people receive the message of the gospel, they receive Him. They move from death to life, from light to darkness. It is through the preaching of God’s Word that the elect are gathered in and His church is built.

The preaching of God’s Word is the instrument by which we receive God’s undeserved kindness.

When the aged Apostle Paul is looking beyond his lifetime and setting priorities for the post-Apostolic period of the church, he gives one dominant command to Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, reprove, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). This Word of God that is to be preached is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. God is not silent. He is the speaking God, and He speaks today through the preached Word. Our theology of preaching must be rooted and grounded in who the triune God is.

So often, we forget to ask ourselves, What is preaching? It is the man of God proclaiming the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. God uses His Word preached to bless His people. God has gifted and called (separated out) certain men as preachers to declare what His Word says. God could speak directly, of course, but He chooses to use frail, fragile men to speak the Word of God. Those men are bound to preach God’s Word, not their own message, nor what their audience would like to hear. They are spokesmen on behalf of God. They need to do the hard work of preparation and study to understand God’s revelation. God speaks to them in His Word and speaks through them as He addresses His people.

As we hear God’s Word preached, it is a means of grace. It is a great blessing and privilege to be addressed by the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. In Romans 10, Paul speaks of the vital necessity of preachers, saying:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:14–15).

As the Word of God is preached by the man of God in the power of the Spirit and is received by faith, it gives life. The God of the Bible is a God who speaks, and the preacher is His spokesman.

The preaching of God’s Word is the instrument by which we receive God’s undeserved kindness. God has promised to bless His Word. The Westminster Divines in the Shorter Catechism make this very point in Q&A 89: “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

So, as we come Sunday by Sunday to hear the Word of God, we come with joy and expectation to receive and hear. But we also come with the words of Psalm 95 ringing in our ears: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Ps. 95:7–8).

This article is part of the The Basics of Christian Discipleship collection.