II Timothy 4:1-22
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. II Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV)
The common caricature of preaching that many have today is that of a very angry person telling everyone else what to do. It hints of hype, hyposcrisy, and a "holier-than-thou" attitude. "Stop preaching at me" someone might say when they feel you are condemning or hassling them. It is the picture of young, nacrcissistic Elmer Gantry wooing the gullible with flambouyance and rhetoric.
But, is this the picture of biblical preaching? In reaction to the image of fundamentalist "hellfire and brimstone", many today have retreating from the high calling of the declaration of God's Word. Preaching is not the pompous spouting of human ideas. Preaching is the God-ordained means of calling fallen men to Christ. We lift up and proclaim the Saviour before the eyes of a watching world. It is not the job of the preacher to convict or convince. THAT IS THE JOB OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
J.I. Packer writes eloquently, "the task of preaching the gospel could properly be described as bringing Christ to men... setting Christ before men's eyes, the mighty Saviour whom they proclaim who then is busy doing His work through their words, visiting sinners with salvation, awakening them to faith, drawing them in mercy to Himself."*
There is something wonderful that happens when Christ comes to us through the delivery of His Word. The means of delivery (the preacher) is irrelevant. Even the diction or tone can be flawed. But, when God speaks to us through the anointed, authoritative delivery of His Word, powerful things take place!
But, I must carry this further. When we think of preaching the Word, it is natural for us to think of pulpits and vocal delivery. But preaching the Word is far more. In fact, the Sunday morning sermon may be secondary. It was St. Francis of Assisi who said:
"Wherever you go, preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words."
Every day, you are DELIVERING THE WORD OF GOD. It may not be with sermons or rhetoric. But it is nonetheless the ministry of a herald pointing men and women toward Christ.
Paul tells us to "be instant, in season and out" (vs. 2 -- NKJV). How you drive is a declaration of the gospel. How you greet strangers is a declaration of the gospel. How you give a cup of cold water is the declaration of the gospel. We hold out fresh bread to a starving world. The great Puritan pastor Richard Baxter said, "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." YOU ARE GOD'S CHOSEN VESSEL TO DELIVER THE GOSPEL TO YOUR WORLD.
* J.I. Packer, "Introductory Essay". Found in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007 reprint), page 22.