O Palmer Robertson Writes:
The importance of preaching cannot be exaggerated, whether the sermon be directed to a large, metropolitan congregation or to a small village church with a thatched roof and walls only waist high with goats wandering in and out. It is the “foolishness of preaching” that God has ordained for the saving of this world, and that is what the text says (1 Corinthians 1:18). Indeed, the preaching that saves must clearly articulate the gospel of the cross, which many modern translations of this passage emphasize. But the fact remains: it is the preaching of the gospel that serves as God’s instrument for people’s salvation. If God has called you to preach, don’t dare do anything else. Just think about some of the important things about preaching:
1. Preaching is vital for the health and even the very existence of the church. It is one of the tell-tale, indispensable marks of the church. Something happens to people and communities when they sit under the preaching of the Word of God, something that never happens any other time or by any other instrument. As the Scriptures themselves emphasize:
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ ... And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:17, 14).God has ordained the foolishness of preaching ... (1 Corinthians 1:18).Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).
Never belittle preaching. If you are a preacher, be a preacher! In good Calvinistic fashion, give it all you’ve got. Incidentally, isn’t it strange the way it works? The person who really believes in the sovereignty of God in all things—he’s the one who puts in more effort than anyone to complete the work God calls him to do. So if you believe in God’s sovereignty and he has called you to be an evangelist, then give your every effort to calling all men everywhere to repent! Urge them, plead with them to turn from their sin and trust in Christ. God is not going to repent for them, but he commands them to do so. The Holy Spirit will not believe for them, though he will enable them to do so. God has told you to “command all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). So preach it!
2. Preaching is a key to revival. The world constantly needs revival, the renewal that comes only with the fullness of a life-changing relation to God. Revival must begin with God’s people, not with the world:
If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
But how will God’s people ever understand their desperate need to humble themselves and pray, seek God’s face and turn from their wicked, wicked ways? Someone must tell them— straight out! You must boldly declare their sin to them. You must preach in the boldness of the Spirit according to the truth of God’s word. Says the prophet Isaiah:
Shout it aloud,
do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins (Isaiah 58:1).
Many leaders among God’s people emphasize the importance of personal evangelism. They encourage people to practice “friendship evangelism.” God’s people often keep looking for an opportunity to eventually share the gospel with their friends.
All methods of sharing the gospel are good. Remember the old saying? “I like the way I do evangelism better than the way you don’t do evangelism.”
But God has ordained the “foolishness of preaching” as the means of salvation for many lost sinners. I was saved that way, and continually meet people who have had the same experience.
Preachers today have lost faith in the power of the preached Word as God’s appointed instrument for saving people. So they very rarely preach in a way that specifically addresses lost sinners with the expectation that some will be saved. They may be faithfully declaring God’s Word. But they do not address their message toward the goal of the conversion of sinners. So why should they be surprised when no one is saved through their preaching?
Preachers must preach with the expectation that people will be converted. Often open air evangelism provides the opportunity for preaching directed toward the salvation of souls. In the market place or in a tent a person may preach evangelistically. But a great need exists for evangelistic preaching in the church. Many people come to church out of habit. But they don’t know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. So the preacher must preach evangelistically in the church, expecting that people will be converted. How important is preaching if it is a major way for people to be saved!
3. God is glorified when his truth is proclaimed whether people believe it or not. Paul the Apostle said:
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the stench of death; to the other the fragrance of life (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).
In some cases people who hear the preached Word will be saved from a life of sin that leads to death. But in other cases people will strongly resist or even contradict the truth. But whether or not they believe the gospel as it is being preached, God is glorified. One of these days, when the time for the final judgment comes, people who have heard the gospel preached but have not believed will have to confess that they were told the truth. They have no excuse. They are doubly guilty. God will be confirmed and glorified in his judgment.
When God commissioned Moses to go preach to Pharaoh, he knew Pharaoh would not believe. But God was glorified just as well. How patient was God with Pharaoh. After each of the ten plagues, the mighty monarch had an opportunity to repent. Despite Pharaoh’s unbelief, the name of the Lord was magnified by the preaching of Moses. As the Lord declares to Pharaoh:
I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be preached in all the earth (Exodus 9:16; cf. Exodus 7:5; 9:14).
So preaching is a vital part of God’s work in the redemption of people from all parts of the world. People must hear to be saved, and preaching is about the best way possible for people to hear God’s Word with the full force of its truth.