Written for Dr. Steve Brown, Communication II, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), 2003.
Preaching is a supernatural event for at least four reasons. First, preaching is the proclamation and application of Scripture which is God-breathed. Scripture itself tells us that it is metaphorically spoken out by God and therefore his own speech by which he effects his purpose in the world. “All Scripture is inspired by God (theopneustos – God-breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Scripture does not come from man, but rather through men from God by the Holy Spirit. “[F]or no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:21). Therefore, God’s activity is evident in the text on which preaching is based. Preaching that is based on something other than Scripture will fail because it lacks God’s power found in his written Word. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Second, preachers are God-ordained. Paul points out to Timothy that he himself was appointed by God as both a preacher (kerux – a herald) and an apostle. “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher (didaskalos – an instructor) of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim 2:7). Paul was appointed by God as a preacher. Moreover, this passage tells us that preaching and teaching are somewhat synonymous in the mind of Paul. This leads us to another passage in the writings of Paul that tells us that preachers/teachers are ordained by God by virtue of his gifting in their lives. “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” (Eph 4:8, 11-12). Preachers/teachers are ordained and gifted by God.
Third, preaching is God-ordained. To his protégé Timothy, Paul writes, “[P]reach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2). The implication here is that God’s will, as expressed through the Apostle Paul to Timothy, and thus to all preachers, is for His word to be proclaimed (kerusso – to be a herald, proclaim). Preaching is thus God-ordained. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “[F]or ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? …So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:13-14, 17). When salvation through Christ is preached, those whom God has elected respond in faith to the message. Faith to believe the message is itself a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8; cf. Jn 4:10; Rom 6:23). By contrast, for those whom God has not elected, preaching, though still a work of God, is in vain. “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Heb 4:2). Preaching is one of God’s ordained means of communicating the gospel message.
Fourth, preaching is God-empowered. Paul indicates in his first letter to the Corinthians that the preaching of the cross of Christ is accompanied by God’s power for those who are elected to salvation. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he declares that the preaching of the gospel is accompanied by power and the Holy Spirit. The implication here is that it is the power of God. “[F]or our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thes 1:5). Preaching is God-empowered.