The Transforming Power of Biblical Worship, Part 3
Last month you may remember that we started to look at the elements of worship that God promises to bless for our spiritual growth in grace. We summarized those elements under five headings: Read the Word, Preach the Word, Sing the Word, Pray the Word, and See the Word. We then examined the Bible’s exhortation to the public reading of Scripture. This month we’ll briefly look at the second of those elements: the preaching of God’s Word.
God requires that His Word not only be read, but that it be preached in public worship. Why is that? Put simply, it’s because preaching is His chosen method to communicate the glorious truth of His Word to His beloved people. The means of preaching exalts the glory and majesty of God. Faith, Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17, comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Jesus himself was a preacher and that was his own stated primary calling (cf. Mark 1:14-15, 38). If we return to Paul’s instructions to the young pastor Timothy we see a strong emphasis on preaching. Not only is Timothy to devote himself to the reading of Scripture, he is equally to devote himself, “to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). And again in 2 Tim. 4:1-2 we read these familiar words: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
It is no stretch to say that the preaching of the Word is the high point of the worship service. This is not to say that the other elements of worship are unimportant or to be viewed as “preliminaries” to the preaching. Not at all! Rather, it is to say that it is through the means of preaching, or heralding the truth of God’s Word, that God will draw sinners to himself, save their souls from destruction, equip them to live for him, and comfort them in all their afflictions. What could be greater than that?
Let me close with some simple instruction from the Westminster Larger Catechism that will benefit you and me. These two questions (WLC 159 & 160) address the preacher and the hearer.
How is the Word of God to be preached by those who are called thereunto? They that are called to labor 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.
What is required of those that hear the Word preached? It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate and confer of it (that is, talk about it with others); hide it in their hearts; and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.
May these exhortations stir you to pray for your pastors and for yourselves as you hear the Word preached.