Our contemporary world is smitten with technology and technological advances. Many churches have misplaced trust in the power of modern technology to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. This confidence in technological power can result in a lack of confidence in preaching; sermons may be minimized to make way for media presentations, which are thought to be more relevant to listeners in our modern world. But, at its heart, preaching has not changed from the time of the Apostles. It involves the man of God with the Word of God preaching the Gospel of God to the people of God.
Edmund Clowney writes, “Preaching the Lord as present in the Gospel narratives has more power than do the best films that seek to portray the ministry of the Lord. The Jesus film distributed internationally by Campus Crusade has presented the gospel to vast crowds, including thousands in pre-literate societies. Yet it is deeply flawed in its conclusion at this very point: the presence of Jesus. An actor pleads with the viewer to come to him and to trust in him. The effort to give reality beyond the preached word fails as fiction. The actor is not Jesus” (Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, 49).
Nothing can or ever will take the place of faithful biblical preaching. God has ordained preaching for the advance of the gospel of the kingdom until the end of the age.
Michael Horton elaborates, “In fact, the spreading of the Word is treated as synonymous with the spreading of the kingdom of God. By the Word we are legally adopted, and by the Spirit we receive the inner witness that we are the children of God (Ro 8:12-17). Through the Word of Christ the Spirit creates faith in Christ, and where this is present, there is the church. The difference between Peter’s Pentecost sermon and that of an ordinary minister today is that the former is part of the canon that norms our preaching. However, when preaching today is faithful to that canon, it conveys exactly the same content and therefore is the same Word as that spoken by the prophets and apostles” (The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, 754).
Preaching has an indispensible role in the purposes of God. In Ephesians 3, Paul declares that God has given him (who calls himself “the least of all saints”) a mission of preaching the mystery and unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles (Eph 3:3, 8). Timothy Gombis notes, “When God creates the church through ‘Paul the prisoner,’ the one who is the least of all the saints, he subverts expectations and confounds the powers. Seen in terms of the present age, he could not be in a weaker, more shameful or more vulnerable position. Yet, astonishingly, it is by his preaching of the gospel that God unleashes his creative power and calls the church into existence” (The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God, 117).
Further, Paul asserts the cosmic significance of the preaching ministry in the church of Jesus Christ. Paul contends that God called him to preach the riches of Christ “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). God created the cosmos by the word of his power, and the church was created by the power of his preached word “according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). Faithful preaching extends beyond the pew and is a declaration to demonic hosts that their authority is broken and their final defeat is imminent because of the presence of the kingdom of Christ.
Preaching plays a unique, indispensable, and eschatological role in God’s cosmic plan for “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on earth” (Eph 1:10, NASB). Therefore, preaching that declares the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities is preaching that sums all things up in Christ and his kingdom. Archibald Alexander provides an ominous warning to preachers who fail to preach Christ in all of the Scripture: “Ministers might spend their lives explaining the Scriptures, and yet never truly preach the Word, because they do not make their discourses bear on this cardinal point” (quoted in James M. Garretson, Princeton and Preaching: Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry, 152).