Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
How Shall They Then Preach?
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2NKJV
This morning we look at Question 159 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “How is the word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?” It gives the answer, “They that are called to labour in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.” Last time we saw the importance of a man being duly called by God to preach His Word. Today we consider the way in which God commands that His Word be preached.
I am convinced that some of the most severe judgments that will be announced on Judgment Day will be those that are directed against preachers of God’s Word. What could be more offensive to God than for someone to come into the organization which Jesus died to build, to take up the all- important task of proclaiming God’s Word to His beloved children, and to do it in such a way that is diametrically opposed to the way God commanded it to be done? No wonder James warned: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment,” (Jam. 3:1). God has made it abundantly clear how He demands that His Word be preached! Accordingly, almost every phrase in today’s answer comes directly from the pages of Scripture.
First, there is the substance of the preaching itself. Four times Paul exhorted his young protégés Timothy and Titus of the importance and need of “sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine is “healthy teaching,” that which is without error or defect. In other words, the minister must proclaim God’s Word accurately, with the meaning that God certainly gave it. Moreover, he must preach “the whole counsel of God.” Not just the good parts, the happy parts, not just the love and mercy, but also the judgements, warnings, rebukes, and as Calvin liked to say so often, the “threatenings” of the Word of God. Ministers must be faithful to preach all the doctrines of the Bible, for God gave all of them to us for our good. Therefore, he must first be personally convinced and persuaded that what he has to say is truly the Word of God and that He will make it prosper by His power, not the minister.
Next, we see the method in which preachers are to preach. They are to be diligent in their study and preparation. They must answer the call to preach even when it is inconvenient. They must strive to speak plainly in a way that their audiences can understand, not trying to manipulate through clever tricks of emotional and psychological play acting in words, gestures, or styles but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. That is, ministers must set forth and show the truth of the message, that it is from God and that it is true and accurate. Then the Holy Spirit convicts, converts, and sanctifies those who by His grace are persuaded to believe what they now have seen to be true and from God. So that the power demonstrated is not that of man’s art and devising but of God’s grace: sanctification in truth (John 17:17). The minister is to be zealous and wise as he does all he can to show that the Word is true and that it applies and must be applied to and by everyone who hears and believes it, so that they would obey it in their lives.
Finally, we see the motivation of the preacher. He is to preach out of love for God and out of love for the souls of His hearers. If I truly love God when I preach, I will seek to glorify Him by saying only what He says and aiming only at what He meant in saying it. And if I truly love the souls of those who hear then I will truly desire and aim to see people converted, sanctified, and saved by what I say and how I say it. And so I will intentionally speak out of my sincere desire to see people come to and grow in their faith in God and in His perfect Word. May God grant us a generation of faithful preachers of His holy Word!