“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mk. 1:38). These words of Jesus show us the centrality of preaching in his ministry. The apostle Paul had a similar passion for preaching: he was eager to preach the gospel in Rome because he was not ashamed of the gospel and its power to bring salvation (Rom. 1:15-17). The apostles passed on this task of proclaiming the Word of God to the next generation of church leaders: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).
As men tasked with leading God’s flock, we should share the same passion and vision for preaching. Here are five things to keep in mind as we think about our task as preachers:
1. Love for God’s Word
A man who desires to preach the Word of God should delight in studying the Word of God. He doesn’t study because he has nothing else to do with his time, but because his heart is captivated by the glorious gospel and its truths. “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2; 119:16). He knows from experience that the Scriptures are “More to be desired than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10). This love for God’s Word drives the preacher to his study.
2. An Attitude of Learning
The preacher approaches his responsibility to teach with a posture of hard-working humility. He is to “do his best to present himself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A casual and lazy attitude towards studying God’s Word will benefit nobody. Instead, someone who desires to preach should be willing to put in hard work and be willing to learn and apply the Scriptures to his life before he tries to apply it to his flock.
3. The Life of the Preacher
Preachers of God’s Word must be wary of the danger of studying the Bible only for the purpose of preaching or to satisfy intellectual curiosity. We should be men like Ezra, who “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). We preachers must be sanctified vessels to be used by God (2 Tim. 2:20-22). And so, we need to engage in a daily battle with sin to grow in holiness. The desire to fight sin and grow in holiness will be seen in the life of a preacher who has given himself to live for the glory of God. Such a preacher surrenders his will to God and knows that he is only an under-shepherd to Christ, our Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
4. The Undiluted Message
The apostles preached the gospel without compromising on the content (1 Thess. 2:5). And Paul went as far as to say “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). Just like Paul insisted on preaching Christ crucified when Jews demanded signs and Greeks searched for wisdom (1 Cor. 2:2), we should preach the Biblical gospel in a world which wants its ears tickled (2 Tim. 4:3). Our personal experiences may be interesting, but only the undiluted gospel has “the power unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
5. The Aim of Preaching
Along with our message being undiluted, our aim also needs to be clear. As we preach the gospel, we can be tempted into aiming for things like personal fame, leaving a legacy, or having the largest congregation in the city. In a time when “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry … out of selfish ambition” (Phil. 1:15,17), the apostles preached the gospel faithfully. We would do well to learn from how Paul described the purpose of his ministry in Colossians: “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
Preaching from God’s Word is a high calling and a great privilege. We are to be like soldiers – focused in our task, like athletes – who discipline themselves to achieve their goal, and like farmers – who work hard and trust God for results (2 Tim. 2:4-6). As we love God’s Word, study hard, fulfil our duty, watch our hearts, watch our lives, and serve Christ’s church, may we yearn for the day when by God’s grace we hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).