Dear Radio Friends,
We are studying the subject of preaching. The preaching is the chief means of grace ordained by God for use by the church and God’s people to grow in grace. It is the means God has chosen to work and to strengthen faith in the heart of the believer. In our last sermon we defined what preaching is. It is the official proclamation of the Word of the King by ambassadors or heralds. These heralds are chosen by the King of the church, Jesus Christ, and sent forth to cry out the Word of God. These men are given an official function in the church and in the lives of God’s people. Further, it is a proclamation of the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus. The church through her pastors preaches Christ crucified.
As such, there is a certain power in the preaching. It is not merely the word of men: their advice, wise counsel, or personal opinions. True preaching is a faithful explanation and application of God’s Word. There is power in that preached Word. Notice: I did not say that there is power in the Word of God. That is true too—but according to Scripture there is power in the preached Word. Paul uses the phrase “power unto salvation” in I Corinthians 1, the last several verses, and in the first few verses of I Corinthians 2. The word “power” in these verses is the Greek word that we use for dynamo or dynamite. A dynamo is a generator—not a small generator that lights a house when the electric goes off, but a huge generator that serves to lighten an entire city. Dynamite is not a firecracker that makes a loud pop, but it is a stick of explosives that will blast a huge crater in the earth. Such is the preaching. It is a dynamo—a strong power that produces the electricity of life! It produces in God’s people the light and life of salvation. It is not instrumental in conducting the life of Christ, as electricity is conducted through wire. But the preaching produces the life of Christ in us. It is the dynamo itself. As such it is like a stick of dynamite that blasts through the barriers of unbelief and sin to open the eyes of the blind so they are able to see the things of the kingdom of God. The preaching actually works faith! The preaching actually strengthens and sustains faith. It is power in its own right! That is why it is so important to come under the preaching of the gospel. It is that important in the life of God’s people.
In today’s broadcast we intend to discover what makes the preaching so powerful, what makes it a dynamo. With this we also wish to consider today what this implies as far as worship in God’s house is concerned. If the preaching is all powerful to save and strengthen God’s people, then the worship of the church is necessary too. The one stands or falls with the other. The preaching becomes the very beauty of God’s house.
To understand the power of God revealed in the preaching, we must first of all consider the content of the preaching. God commands His heralds: Preach the Word! God’s Word alone must be the content of the preaching. This is true because there is power in the Word of God. It is God’s Word! We read in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of God itself is powerful. And when it is proclaimed, then that Word pierces a man’s soul. It brings to his consciousness the thoughts and intents of his heart that are laid open before God Himself. That Word of God convicts men and women of their sin. Then that Word brings them to the cross of Christ to find forgiveness in the blood.
The Bible, therefore, contains what God has recorded for His people to hear. This is why it is so important to preach the Word of God and not our own wisdom or opinion. God’s Word is powerful to convict and save. But that Word of God is powerful to save exactly because it reveals to us our Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When sin and salvation are presented through the preaching, then God uses that preaching to draw His elect people out of the darkness of unbelief and unto faith and repentance. When sin and salvation are proclaimed through the preaching, then those who are already saved are reminded of their sin, so that they daily flee to the cross of Christ for forgiveness. There is power in the preaching exactly because there is power in the blood!
Neither ought we to forget the work of the Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. When the minister of the gospel proclaims to God’s people what is contained in the Scriptures, that proclamation is what the Spirit says to the churches. This is a phrase repeated in Scripture in various places: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7). The Spirit of God is the author of Scripture. When the preacher therefore takes God’s Word in hand, then in a real sense the Spirit addresses the hearts of God’s people. The Spirit not only reveals God’s will to us objectively in the Bible, but it is the Spirit that works in the hearts of men irresistibly drawing them to Christ. In other words, when the preaching goes forth for all to hear, it is God’s intent to use that preaching to save His elect people. The objective Word of the Spirit meets with the subjective work of the Spirit in the hearts of God’s people. When God’s elect hear the gospel proclaimed to them, the Spirit either works faith in the place of unbelief, or He strengthens the faith of them who already believe. The power of the preaching, therefore, lies in the power of the Spirit, who works through the means of preaching. This is why the preaching produces results. This is why the preaching is so important. It calls all sinners to repentance. Not just unbelievers, but believers too! The believer must understand that the preaching is not merely a tool to add to the church those who are saved. But the preaching is an instrument in the hands of the Spirit within the sphere of the church too. God’s people need to hear the preaching because we are sinners who need to be called to repentance over sin too.
But there is more to this power of the preaching. The moment you and I enter into worship, we enter into the very presence of God! “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him,” the prophet says. It is not as if we are simply coming into a social meeting together with our fellow saints. When the worship service begins, we are ushered into the presence of God. Christ is present by His Spirit, and Christ speaks when the preacher proclaims to us the Word of God. In the Old Testament the prophets declared, “thus saith Jehovah!” Jehovah speaks to you. Hear Him. It is no different in the New Testament. No, the ministers today do not receive direct revelation. But they do have the objective revelation of the Word of God. And when they preach the Word of God, Christ speaks to us just as really as God spoke through His prophets of old. To the saints in Ephesus Paul writes in Ephesians 4:20, 21: “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Paul addresses in these verses Gentile believers in the city of Ephesus. They had never seen Christ, much less listened to one of Christ’s discourses. But Paul says that they had heard Christ and had been taught by him. Paul could say this because they heard Christ through the preaching of Paul and others. Romans 10:14 correctly reads, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?” The power of the preaching is found in this: Christ speaks to us. We cannot believe unless we hear Christ speak to us. He is the Word that was with God and was God in the beginning. Christ is the Word we proclaim, people of God! We hear Him and we believe! This is why Christ still can say to the church today, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” That was no doubt true in Jesus’ day when He walked the face of the earth. His sheep literally heard Him speak and they followed Him. But today, too, the sheep of Jesus hear His voice through the faithful proclamation of the Word of God, and we today follow Him too.
And since Christ is the Word of God, since He is God, we hear God speaking to us today through the preaching of His Word. This is exactly why Paul says, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel! Woe is unto me if I preach anything but Christ crucified. Woe is unto me if I do not preach the Word of God!” That is why the believer also desires to sit under the preaching as much as he possibly can. He wants to hear his Savior speak to him. That says something about our worship on the Lord’s Day. If indeed God speaks to us through the preaching, then that says something about His presence in the house of God when we meet for worship. What this says is of utmost comfort and joy to the believer.
You see, where the church gathers for worship, where God’s people sit beneath the preaching of the Word, there God makes His dwelling place. Where we worship, there is the house of God. In a real sense, therefore, we can say that God’s saints meet together in the house of God on the Lord’s Day. The Old Testament is replete with references to the house of God, as we can tell from Psalm 84:1-4: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.” The psalmist here speaks of the beauty of God’s tabernacle or, literally, God’s dwelling place. In a very real way, when God’s people meet together in the house of God, God dwells with them. He tabernacles with them.
This is true because God is present in the preaching of the gospel, so He is present in our worship too. That is an awesome reality! When the church fails to understand the saving power of the preaching, when she fails to appreciate the power of God in the preaching, she also does not understand the necessity of worship. Here is the domino effect we were speaking of in our last broadcast. The members of the church can look at going to church in such a carnal way. They think they may take it or leave it. They can be there or not be there. It does not matter. It is like eating a delicious juicy steak. It is delicious. It is good. But it makes no difference if I eat it or not. I can choose something else to eat for myself other than steak. They fail to see the preaching and worship as the pacemaker that is necessary to keep their heart in constant rhythm lest they die.
When the elders call the church to worship, then God takes up His abode in the church. The reality confronts the believer that is spoken of in Psalm 27:8: “When thou saidst: Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Jehovah, I will seek!” Why does the heart of the believer seek the face of Jehovah in His house? Because there is nothing better than to sit at the feet of our beloved Father and listen to Him speak to us. We seek the face of Jehovah because He has chosen to speak to us through the preaching. When His Word is faithfully proclaimed, then we, the dear children of our heavenly Father, desire, we love to hear, Father speak to us. If we lose that idea concerning the preaching, then our worship is nothing more than a social gathering. But what a blessing it is, people of God, to have Jehovah in our midst speaking to us. What an act of condescension on His part! The great and glorious God of heaven and earth, before whom all the earth must bow in fear and trembling, has graced us with His presence. He has chosen to dwell with us and speak to us through the preaching of the gospel. “I am here,” God says to us, “now, listen to me, and I will teach you the way of truth.” And will we respond, “No time this week, Lord. I will catch you next week. I have something better to do today.”
The means of grace God has ordained for use in His church need to be considered from the viewpoint of God’s covenant. God’s covenant is His relationship of friendship and fellowship with His people. In His covenant, God loves us with an everlasting love for Christ’s sake. He becomes to us our Father and we His sons and daughters. He cherishes us. We sing in Psalm 132: “Thy Zion Thou hast chosen, Lord, and Thou hast said, I love her well; this is my constant dwelling place, and here will I delight to dwell.” That is God’s covenant with His people. He is our God who dwells with us and delights in us. In that great love God chooses to nurture us, instruct us in His ways, and care for us as a good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. God has chosen to do that in His house—the place of His abode, His tabernacle. So He calls us to His house. “Come, seek my face.” And we, His children, hear that call and respond in faith by coming to the house of God. We then enter into fellowship with Him. We speak to Him in prayer. We sing praises to Him in song. We listen to His law or confess our faith in Him. We hear His Word read to us.
And then, well, then we receive what we have truly anticipated when we come to God’s house. We sit down in silence and we listen to God speak to us. How wonderful! Our heavenly Father has chosen to speak to us! And as we listen we learn of Him and we learn of our blessed Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is good! This is good! It could not be better than this!
In His house God gives us everything we need in order to be strengthened spiritually. He in love admonishes us for our sins and weaknesses. He gives us strength to withstand our enemies who war against us. He comforts us with the grace of the gospel. He encourages us to go on in life in the knowledge that He is there for us and will not forsake us in our needs. And we listen to it all. We drink it all in and when we finally leave our Father’s house we say: “It has been good to stand in the house of my God!” Then we go home and thank God that He has given us a place to go on the Lord’s Day where we can be fed by that Word. So many people do not have that blessed privilege. But we have been given it. We hear God’s Word.
The Believer’s Response
And the believer responds to that privilege in faith: “How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!” I look at the sparrows that make their nests around the spires of God’s house. They live there every day! They nest here. They raise their young here. How wonderful it is. They have found their place of rest. That is what I want. To dwell with God. Blessed are they that dwell in God’s house. This is where I want to live. This is where I want to raise my children. This house is where I come to rest awhile. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. There is no other place I would rather be on this day than in God’s house listening to Him teach me. I cannot think of any other activity that would be more pleasing to me (not to my sinful flesh, mind you, but to me as a redeemed child of God) than sitting at the feet of my heavenly Father.
“Oh, come on! Let’s have a reality check. Really? Is that really true? Would we really rather be here than somewhere else?” Yes, we would! This is reality! I know the sinful flesh is strong in us. I know that Satan hates the Lord’s Day and the saints gathering under the preaching of the Word. The temptation is strong, our sinful flesh is so, so strong to draw us away from the place of worship and the preaching of the Word. But examine yourselves and find what is the true desire of the heart of every believer.
When we rest in the bosom of our God there is peace and security. God’s house is a house of rest. Here we find a little foretaste of the rest that yet awaits us in heaven. This day is a day of rest. Let us enter into the joy of our rest by entering into the house of the living God—our Father. How lovely, O Lord, how beautiful, is the place where Thou dost dwell!
Dear Radio Friends,