Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As the holy gospel is the true treasure of the church, so preaching of that gospel is the primary task of the church and her ministers. Recently a local church expressed the hope that their next minister would not be a scholarly preacher but rather a friendly, sociable pastor. This ignorance of what a preacher is according to the Word of God does not bode well for that congregation’s future. The Hebrew word for preaching means to be fresh, then cheerful, then to tell good tidings. According to classical Greek, this person was a herald, a public crier, a messenger vested with authority who conveyed the official message of kings, magistrates, princes, and military commanders. In his lexicon, Thayer adds that the manner of a herald was “always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.” This is the word the New Testament writers were inspired to use for preachers and the activity of preaching. A preacher is God’s ambassador, or official messenger, who conveys the Word of God to others. This is most beautifully and clearly stated in II Corinthians 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
Preaching is the chief means of grace, for by it the Holy Ghost works faith (L.D. 25). Preaching is one of the keys of the kingdom, for according to the testimony of the gospel God will judge (L.D. 31). Preaching is one of the marks by which the true church may be easily distinguished from the false (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). Preaching, with very few exceptions, is necessary unto salvation! We want to see, first, that this is so, and secondly, why this is so. Reading or discussing the Bible is not the means that God has ordained for the salvation of the elect, but the preaching of the Word is that means. This is shown inRomans 10 where salvation is in the line of calling upon God, faith, hearing, preaching, the sending of the preacher (vs. 14), and by the simple conclusion “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (vs. 17). Those that object to the wedding between preaching and salvation are silenced by Paul in I Corinthians 1:17-25 where the preaching of the cross is said to be the power of God unto salvation, no matter how foolish such preaching appears to some. For this reason the apostle is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes (Rom. 1:16).
The question is, How is preaching able to save a man? What is its power? The Scriptures set forth the amazing truth that whenever the Word of God is preached by a man called and sent by Christ through His church, then Christ Himself speaks through that preaching! The ascended Christ, from the right hand of the Majesty on high, is able to make His saving voice heard amidst the noise and babble of this world. Truly this is a miracle! For the church to be gathered, people must not merely hear about Christ; they must hear Christ. This is the correct translation of Romans 10:14: “And how shall they believe in Him Whom they have not heard?”; this is Jesus’ emphasis in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”; this is the sense of Paul’s words to the Ephesians many years after Jesus ascended: “If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (4:21); this is why Jesus can say as He sends out the seventy disciples, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me” (Luke 10:16); this is why a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11) is so dreadful, for then Christ does not speak through the prophet or preacher.
But if the glorified Lord is to gather His church through the means of human preaching, that preaching must be the proclamation of His own Word, the inspired Scriptures. He cannot and will not use the word of man. Therefore, we insist in our circles that preaching be biblical (exegetical, expository), confessional, doctrinal, authoritative, antithetical, edifying, and logically clear.
In all true preaching, Christ is central. Christ speaks. Christ is the contents of the message, as faith in Him crucified and raised is commanded. Christ, by His Spirit, makes the preaching effectual so that those ordained to eternal life believe. And Christ is the boast of all those that bow the knee before Him in faith.
Do you have faithful preaching of the Word of God each Sunday? What a blessing! Be thankful to the Head of the church who has given such a gift to men (Eph. 4:8-13). “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet….” Young men, are you reading this? Are you considering this?