A few days ago I was reading one of the many “religious” emails I receive regularly. The writer began by extolling the value of singing praise to God, citing numerous passages from the Old Testament. He then pointed out the failure of many worship services to follow this pattern. I did not see where this was going until specific changes in worship services were suggested: The sermon should be 15 minutes, never more than 20. Time spent in Bible reading and prayer should be shortened, and at least 40 – 45 minutes should be devoted to singing praises to God. Now nobody loves to sing praises to God more than I do, but the bottom line here is that this writer thinks that pulpit preaching should be drastically reduced, possibly heading toward complete elimination.
I do not claim to know what is going on in every denominational service in this country, nor in the worship periods of all churches of Christ. However, I am very aware that Gospel preaching and its value is being deemphasized in many, many places including among some of our own brethren. Thanks be to God, this has not happened at WESONVILLE, and possibly this article can help us understand why it never should.
Scripture makes it perfectly clear that the preaching of the Gospel message delivered by the Holy Spirit is the approved method of instruction for men and women by both God and Christ. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith”. (Rom 1:16-17). The gospel is God’s method of saving souls and preaching is his primary method of delivering it to us.
The concept of public preaching was established in the Old Testament:
(1) Ezra and Thirteen Assistants – Ezra READ DISTINCTLY from the Book of the Law of God and had 13 men help him EXPLAIN THE LAW to all the people assembled (Nehemiah 8:5-8).
(2) David – “Then I said, ‘Behold I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart. I have PROCLAIMED THE GOOD NEWS of righteousness in the GREAT ASSEMBLY…I have DECLARED YOUR FAITHFULNESS and YOUR SALVATION. (Psalm 40:7-10a).
(3) Isaiah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to PREACH GOOD TIDINGS to the poor…To PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR of the LORD and the DAY OF VENGANCE OF OUR GOD”. (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Jesus used public preaching as His method of providing His message to the people. A good example is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5 – 7. At the end of His sermon, Matthew records these remarks: “And so it was, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that the people were astonished at His TEACHING. For He TAUGHT them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”. (Matt 7:28-29).
In Acts 20, Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus what his work consisted of when he was among their number. “I KEPT BACK nothing that was helpful…I PROCLAIMED it to you…I TAUGHT you publicly and from house to house…TESTIFYING repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ…Among you I have gone PREACHING the kingdom of God.. For I have not shunned to DECLARE to you the whole counsel of God”. (Acts 20:20-27).
One of the strongest passages to demonstrate the importance of public preaching is found in Acts 17. On his second journey Paul arrived in Berea and immediately began to PREACH JESUS in the synagogue, with wonderful results among the Bereans. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men”. Paul’s next stop in Athens shows even clearly the wisdom and necessity of PREACHING. The city was completely given to idolatry, well educated, arrogant, and very different from other cities in the surrounding areas. Drama had flourished in Greece since 700 BC, and acting schools were prominent. Awards were given to the best actors and actresses, and the city of Athens hosted all the large drama festivals. All kinds of music were also a very important part of the culture in this city with music viewed as a pure gift from the gods. Paul was certainly aware of this history and could have chosen to present Christ to the people of Athens in some form of plays and musicals!
However, when he arrived in the city and saw the idolatrous situation, he went to the synagogue. “Therefore he REASONED in the synagogue with the Jews and the Gentile worshipers”. (Acts 17:17). Then they made an accusation against him saying, “He seems to be a PROCLAIMER of foreign gods because He PREACHED TO THEM JESUS and the RESURRECTION”. (17:18). Then Paul was led out to Mars Hill and allowed to speak. He PREACHED concerning their “Unknown God” and TAUGHT THE GOD OF HEAVEN instead, testifying that He was far different from their worthless idols, and condemning the citizens for worshipping them. Paul concluded his SERMON with these statements: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now COMMANDS all men everywhere to repent; because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead”. (17:30-31).
There are numerous other N.T. passages that emphasize the importance of GOSPEL PREACHING: Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-48; Acts 2:42; 8:35; 13:32; Rom 10:12-16; I Cor 1:17-25; I Cor 2:1-5; I Cor 15:1-4; Gal 1:6-12; I Thess 2:13; and II Tim 4:1-5 are just a few. In spite of all this “Scriptural Evidence”, over the last 30 – 40 years, the significance and relative nature of Gospel Preaching has been diminished. In fact sermons at many places have gotten shorter, shallower, and softer, and Sunday evening worship is a thing of the past. Let us all be determined that we at Wesonville will never forget the necessity and importance of GOSPEL PREACHING IN OUR WORSHIP!
“Singing is what and when God hears from us. PREACHING is what and when we hear from God”!