The purpose of learning is to turn the hearts of the people toward God. Preaching is to bring about repentance (Matthew 3:1-2; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:18; Acts 17:30; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:20), which is turning from sin to the Savior (Acts 3:19; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10). The last verse of the Old Testament described the purpose of John’s preaching: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Luke 1:17). Paul described his successful evangelistic effort among the Macedonians: For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Preach and Reach
Preach means to proclaim after the manner of a herald; to publish. It always carries the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed (cf. Jonah 3:2). The gospel message is urgent (be instant, 2 Timothy 4:2; cf. Luke 7:4; Romans 12:12). Accepting the message is literally a matter of life and death (Ezekiel 33:11). That is why we often hear earnestness in the preacher’s voice and occasionally see a tear in his eye (Psalm 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 13:17; Luke 19:41; Acts 20:19, Acts 30:31; Romans 9:2; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 11:29; Philippians 1:4; Philippians 3:18).
The purpose of preaching is to reach the lost. God’s man is not up there to look good, to impress, to gain influence, to earn a paycheck, to advance a political view, to entertain. He preaches to save souls (Matthew 16:26; Luke 19:10). E. Stanley Jones tells of a missionary lost in the jungle. He finally found a small village and asked a native if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. “All right”, the missionary said, “Show me the way.” For hours, they hacked their way through dense brush in an un-marked jungle. Beginning to worry, the missionary said, “Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?” The native said, “In this place there is no path. I am the path.”
Preachers are the path to salvation because they show the way to the only One who can save, Jesus (John 14:6). One man asked a humble gentleman outside a hotel in a small town, Is this the best hotel in town? His answer was to the point. He said, It is the only one. Every servant can say to himself as he prepares his sermon, and again as he mounts the pulpit on Sunday, The one chance these people have of hearing the soul-saving gospel today is through me. For someone, it may be the first time; for another, it may be the last time. Do your best job.
Fire and Inspire
We joke about sleeping during preaching. One lady named Gladys visited church one Sunday. The sermon seemed to go on forever, and some fell asleep. After the service, she walked up to a sleepy looking gentleman, extended her hand, and said, “Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn.” He replied, “You’re not the only one, ma’am. I’m glad it’s done too!” A Sunday school teacher asked her children why was it necessary to be quiet in church. One bright little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping in there?” A short poem reads: “I never see my preacher’s eyes; Tho’ they with light may shine – For when he prays he closes his, And when he preaches, I close mine!” (cf. Acts 20:9).
Some would rather have a root canal than listen to a sermon. Boring. Long. Tedious. Dull. Unimportant. Dreary. Irrelevant. Tiresome. The truth is, though, good preaching has the opposite effect on spiritually minded people. It awakens! It inspires! It fires! It stimulates, motivates, and invigorates. It provokes unto love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). It encourages listeners to follow Christ and use their talents, opportunities, and time adding to His kingdom.
Consider the preaching recorded in the New Testament.
• When John preached in the Judean wilderness, multitudes were baptized
of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:1, Matthew 3:6).
• When he preached to Herod, the king did many things, and heard him
gladly (Mark 6:20).
• When Jesus preached, listeners were moved to action (Matthew 14:13;
Matthew 19:2; John 10:31). The woman at the well left her water pot (John
4:28); Simon and Andrew forsook their nets and followed Him (Mark 1:17-18).
• When Peter and the apostles preached on Pentecost, three thousand
repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38-41).
• When Stephen preached, they reacted with violence (Acts 7).
• When Paul preached on Mars Hill, some mocked, some wanted to hear
him again later, and some clave unto him, and believed (Acts 17:32-34).
• When he preached to the Ephesians, many of them also which used
curious arts brought their books together, and burned them (Acts 19:19).
• When he preached to the governor, Felix trembled (Acts 24:25).
• John recorded Jesus’ inspiring preaching from heaven to the Laodiceans:
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent
Preaching inspires today. In many churches, there is public response for prayer or baptism every week. But responses are not limited to public confessions of faith or sin. Which of us sitting in the pews while a capable preacher delivers the message is not inspired to do better, be better, and live better? Each time we put ourselves under gospel preaching, we gain strength to help us face the tempter for another few days.
~ Allen Webster ~