by Dr. Roger Pascoe
President, The Institute for Biblical Preaching, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
The Scriptures must be operative and powerful first and foremost in the preacher personally. A preacher who is called by God, is one who declares “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and who believes that …
1. The Bible is divinely inspired (lit. “God-breathed”)
2. The Bible is divinely preserved through the centuries
3. The Bible is divinely authoritative in all matters of faith and practice
4. The Bible achieves its divinely intended purpose (Isa. 55:11)
5. The Bible reliably reveals God’s redemptive plan (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Therefore, the preacher must be devoted to, dependent on, and directed by the Scriptures.
1. THE PREACHER MUST BE DEVOTED TO THE SCRIPTURES
He must, like Timothy, “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14).Devotion to the Scriptures through continuance in them and obedience to them requires discipline.
2. THE PREACHER MUST BE DEPENDENT ON THE SCRIPTURES
To be dependent on the Scriptures you must know them intimately. To know them intimately you must read them. First, you must read the Scriptures privately. This is a most neglected area in so many preachers’ lives. They read a lot of other material but not the Scriptures. This is the work of Satan to weaken our preaching. Make sure you take time every day to read and meditate on the Scriptures in order to nourish your soul in the Word; to become saturated in the Word. This is not your study time but your devotional time (cf. Ps. 42:2; 1:2).
Daily reading of the Scriptures was one of the ingredients that gave George Mueller such a powerful life. He knew the truth that “man shall not live by bread alone…” (Matt. 4:4). We must be dependent on the Scriptures, just as we are on bread to live.
Be systematic and sequential in your reading. Plan your reading. Think through what you read. Ask, is there…
(a) A promise to claim?
(b) A lesson to learn?
(c) A blessing to enjoy?
(d) A command to obey?
(e) A sin to avoid?
Let the “words abide in you” (Jn. 15:7). Pray your thoughts from your reading back to God. Let the words produce fruit in you. Share what you have learned at the appropriate time with others. Be obedient to the word you have read.
Second, you must read the Scriptures publicly. “Give attention to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13). When Paul instructs Timothy to read the word, he also has in mind the public reading in the assembly. In those days it fulfilled the need for reading to those who did not have the Scriptures or could not read them. Today, it fulfills the need to give the proper prominence to the Scriptures in worship.
3. THE PREACHER MUST BE DIRECTED BY THE SCRIPTURES
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)
Every Christian, and preachers in particular, must be directed by the Scriptures as the Word of God. It is impossible to preach powerfully if you do not hold a high view of biblical inspiration. Believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is part of biblical preaching. By sticking with the inspired text, both the preacher and the congregation will adhere to the truth of the Bible. The inspired Scriptures are our ultimate standard for faith and practice. Thus, they carry authority and power. More than that, the Scriptures are fully sufficient and absolutely trustworthy for all that we need in life and ministry.
Every preacher must be directed by the Scriptures. They are our source for what we believe, how we behave, and what we preach. We need nothing else. Indeed, the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures is the basis for our preaching.
a) The Scriptures are sufficient for salvation. “The Scriptures are able to make you wise unto salvation” (15)
The Bible teaches us our sinful condition before God and reveals the remedy through Christ. No other book can do this.
b) The Scriptures are sufficient for revelation. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (16)
God-breathed means “inspired by God”. Inspiration is the term used to describe the process by which God, through human agents, recorded in written form (i.e. the Bible) his revelation of himself. God communicated his self-revelation to human authors by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the words they wrote were God’s words (verbal inspiration). There is no part of the Bible which is not inspired (plenary inspiration).
The preacher must be committed to the verbal (the very words) and plenary (the complete) inspiration of the Scriptures by God (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21), which means, therefore, that they are inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error) and that through them God still speaks today – i.e. they are still relevant.
Therefore we believe that …
i) The Bible is “God-breathed” (inspired)
ii) The Bible is without error or contradiction (inerrant)
iii) The Bible is incapable of error (infallible)
iv) The Bible is true in all that is affirms
iv) The Bible is completely trustworthy
The fact of its inspiration is what gives the Bible its authority and guarantees its trustworthiness. This is not a human book written by fallible authors, but a divine book written by an infallible God. This fact for us, as believers, renders the Bible fully trustworthy and authoritative. Because the Scriptures are “God-breathed” they are “profitable” – useful, beneficial, helpful, and authoritative.
In order to preach with power, a preacher must hold a high view of Scripture. A high view of Scripture means that we believe that the Bible is the written Word of God, that it is God’s self-revelation, that it is complete, that it is fully trustworthy, and that it is our ultimate standard for faith and practice.
As John Stott puts it: “It is one thing to believe that ‘God has acted’, revealing himself in historical deeds of salvation, and supremely in the Word made flesh. It is another to believe ‘that God has spoken’, inspiring prophets and apostles to interpret his deeds. It is yet a third stage to believe that the divine speech, recording and explaining the divine activity, has been committed to writing.” (John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds, 96).
The Bible reveals God to us. No other book does this like this book. It is unique. This is a high view of Scripture.
A high view of the inspiration of Scripture is vital for preaching the Bible powerfully because it is the sole authority for what we preach; it is the voice / the word of God to us. To have a low view of inspiration is to render God’s Word less than fully trustworthy or authoritative.
The preacher cannot preach with authority and spiritual power if he is not fully convinced that the Word of God is authoritative, without contradiction or error, and is totally reliable and trustworthy. How can a preacher preach with power if the very book that he preaches from is stripped of its authority? A preacher who does not believe that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and totally inspired by the Holy Spirit cannot fully trust the Bible himself and, therefore, cannot proclaim it to others as fully authoritative and trustworthy. Such preaching, therefore, cannot be powerful.
If a preacher thinks that the Word of God is not reliable, then he must also think that God himself is not reliable. And if God is not reliable, then any sermons about God, based on his Word, cannot be trusted. If a sermon cannot be trusted, it cannot have power.
Any preaching that does not reflect the authority and power of the Bible is itself not authoritative and powerful. Power in the proclamation of the Bible cannot be separated from the authority of the Bible itself. The preacher is merely the mouthpiece for the text, which speaks powerfully for itself.
As Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), the Word of God itself, as the good seed, bears much fruit. When the Word of God enters the human heart, it produces life because it is living (see Heb. 4:12). The Bible is alive because it is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), and because it is alive, it generates its own power. Therefore, when it is faithfully declared, it carries power with it and accomplishes God’s task (Isa. 55:11).
A high view of the inspiration of Scripture is vital for studying the Bible carefully. If we believe that the Bible is indeed the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, then we should diligently study it in order to understand what it means in its historical context and in order to apply it practically to our lives and the lives of our congregations.
Such a high view of Scripture forces the preacher to carefully research and understand the text. Preachers must exposit the text of Scripture by searching it out, just like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), so that they can accurately convey its meaning and application to their audience.
A high view of the inspiration of Scripture puts an emphasis on the accurate handling of the text rather than an entertaining handling of the text. The primary obligation of the preacher in preparing a sermon outline is to first make sure that it is true and accurate. If we have a high view of inspiration we will obey the biblical injunction to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) and nothing else. Homiletical skill should never camouflage hermeneutical accuracy and faithfulness.
c) The Scriptures are sufficient for doctrine – “teaching” and “reproof”
Note that the first two characteristics of Scripture (teaching and reproof) deal with doctrine; the second two (correction and training) deal with behaviour. Also, note that teaching is a positive statement while reproof is a negative statement.
On the positive side, the Scriptures are “profitable for teaching” (16).Scripture is the trustworthy, all-sufficient source for what we believe, teach, and practice. Scripture alone is the basis for pastoral preaching, teaching, counselling – not myths or legends, not psychology, not philosophy, not experience, and not culture or society. It contains all that we need for life and godliness. It is our standard for faith and practice.
On the negative side, the Scriptures are “profitable…for reproof” (16). To reprove means to refute, rebuke, convict. The Scriptures are fully sufficient and our only reliable resource for refuting and rebuking false teachers and false teaching. Scripture convicts those who hold false doctrine. It exposes the darkness of false teaching by its light. Scripture is the standard and pattern of truth (1:13) which we are to guard (1:14) and to use to convict those who are in error. This is the only authoritative reproof of doctrinal and moral error (cf. Tit. 1:9; Jude 3; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20). We refute doctrinal and moral error by the Scriptures. Truth does not change with the changing times. Preachers must stand firm on the revealed truth and reprove and refute error.
Where “teaching” (positive) and “reproof” (negative) have to do with doctrine, the following characteristics of the Scriptures have to do with behaviour.
d) The Scriptures are sufficient for behaviour – “correction” and “training”
Again there is a negative statement and a positive statement. On the negative side, the Scriptures are “profitable… for correction” (16). The purpose of correction is restoration to a right relationship with God. The Scriptures are able to correct and restore someone to a right state of Christian conduct and character. The Scriptures are powerful to change a person’s character flaws, beliefs, and behaviour, to straighten them out, to correct improper and false beliefs and behaviour. Those who stray from the truth must be rebuked, corrected, and then restored. While the process of correction is negative, the end result in view, namely, restoration, is positive.
On the positive side, the Scriptures are “profitable…for training (instruction) in righteousness”. The Scriptures are necessary and sufficient for training / instructing Christians in virtuous, upright, righteous living. The negative process of “correction” is offset by the positive process of “training in righteousness”, which has in view the person’s restoration to a right relationship with God and other people. All Christians, and here preachers specifically, must be trained to live righteously before God and the world (cf. Tit. 2:11-12). This is the training that is attained by discipline and correction (as in training up a child). The Scriptures contain the truth that we believe and the direction for our behaviour in compliance with our belief. This is the life of holiness that comes from being directed by the Scriptures.
Now we move from the sufficiency of the Scriptures for doctrine and behaviour to their purpose.
e) The Scriptures are sufficient for edification – “…so that the man of God may be proficient (fit, capable), fully equipped for every good work” (17)
The ultimate purpose of the Scriptures is to render the servant of God spiritually fit and capable of completing the work God has called you to do. The Scriptures provide the training we need for ministry. Just as an athlete requires training to build up his or her muscles, endurance, and capability for a specific sport, so the servant of God is trained for and rendered fit for his or her ministry. The Scriptures are the sole and fully sufficient source of the knowledge and direction we need for ministry.
Through the Scriptures the “man (or, woman) of God” is rendered “proficient (capable) for every good work”. Our ability in ministry is not a matter of natural talent or intellect, but the calling of God and the sufficiency of his Word. To be capable of carrying out your work for God you need to be proficient in your knowledge and use of Scripture, to think biblically and to apply the Scriptures to life – your own life first, and then the lives of your people. The Scriptures build us up in spiritual maturity(“training in righteousness”) … and for spiritual activity (“for every good work”).
They are our primary resource in ministry – not your education, not your eloquence, not your relationships – but your familiarity with the Scriptures, your understanding of the Scriptures, and your application of the Scriptures to life.
Through the Scripture the man or woman of God is “fully equipped for every good work” – nothing else you need. The Scriptures comprise our complete reference manual for our spiritual work. They are fully sufficient to equip every pastor, church leader, and teacher for “every good work,”which, from a pastoral perspective, is in essence (i) teaching; (ii) reproof; (iii) correction; and (iv) training in righteousness.
The Scriptures are the complete resource for our ministry of the Word – “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… to convince, rebuke, exhort” (2 Tim. 3:16 … 4:2). The Scriptures build us up in our faith and equip us for the work of the ministry. By them we are “proficient (competent), fully equipped, furnished for every good work.”Through the sufficiency of the Scriptures, preachers are enabled to do our work of the ministry. We are equipped by the Word for our ministry of equipping others (Eph. 4:12). God does not leave us to our own resources when he calls us into his service. We have the inspired Scriptures which not only make us wise to salvation but also contain all that we need for life and godliness. They “thoroughly equip us for every good work” (cf. Eph. 2:10).
Part II: Preparing For Preaching
Outlining the Sermon, Part 3: Testing Your Main Points
We are continuing the subject of “outlining the sermon” from the last two editions of this NET Pastors Journal. In this edition, I want to show you how to test the main points of your sermon outline. Your sermon outline should be structured to reveal two essential components:
1. The Main Points Must Be “Homiletically Distinct”
By this I mean that the points of your sermon must be separate thoughts which flow from the text. The language used in your points should follow the natural structure (i.e. development of ideas) in the text. To produce a sermon whose points are homiletically distinct, ask three primary questions of every passage:
A) WHAT IS THE DOMINATING THEME – I.E. THE SUBJECT?
By finding the subject of the Scripture passage, you expose the unifying thought or truth that holds the passage together. And by relating all your sermon points to this subject, your sermon will have unity. So, ask yourself: what is the dominating theme (the big idea, the thesis, the subject) of this passage?
Our task is to preach the message of the text not our own message. Therefore, we do not create the subject of the sermon – rather, the text does. Once we have determined the author’s subject, our task is to construct a message around that subject.
Since you can only preach one subject at a time (unless you want to thoroughly confuse your audience), where a passage of Scripture seems to have more than one subject, select the “dominating” subject that emerges from the text as the one that governs your message. It’s good to state the subject of your message in your introduction.
B) WHAT ARE THE INTEGRATING THOUGHTS – I.E. THE MAIN POINTS?
Main points are the integrating thoughts that provide structure and movement to the passage and, therefore, to your sermon. Ask yourself, “What are the integrating thoughts” of this passage?
The subject is exposed and developed by the author through integrating thoughts which emerge from the passage and which link together to provide the structure and movement of the sermon.
So ask yourself: “What is the structure of the passage? What thoughts build up and expose the overall theme? What does the writer say about his subject? What are the various “complements” to the subject (to use Haddon Robinson’s terminology)? What is the movement (flow of thought) in the passage? How does the writer integrate his thoughts together to develop his subject? What are the individual ideas and how do they connect together to form an argument, an explanation, or an exhortation?” These questions force you to look for the structure and movement in the passage.
Each thought is an expansion of the subject. The thoughts of the writer become the hooks on which you hang your sermon, the sign posts which direct the sermon, the infrastructure around which you build your sermon, the main points which divide the sermon into points (or, chapters).
Do not force the points by imposing your own structure on the passage. Do not force the text to say what you want to say. You must say what the Word of God says – that’s expository preaching!
The main points of your sermon must be “homiletically distinct” – i.e. clear and distinct from one another so that the audience can follow the development of your sermon. You can test your points by asking the following questions
- Is each point biblical?
Am I letting the Word of God speak for itself (exegesis) or am I imposing my thoughts on the Word (eisegesis)? Is it true to the context? – historical, literary, grammatical, theological, syntactical (even sub-points must come out of the text and integrate with and support the main point). Can your audience see it for themselves in the text?
- Is each point logical?
Are your points sequential? Do they flow with the text? Is each point progressive in that it moves the ideas of the message forward? Does the progression make sense? Does each point help the sermon move toward a goal? Do they follow the flow of the text? Can the audience see intuitively how you moved from point #1 to point #2 to point #3? And can they see how the text moves from point #1 to #2 to #3? Does each point relate to the subject? Is each point mutually exclusive – i.e. no overlap with other points?
- Is each point practical, applicable?
Does it answer the question: “So what? What does it have to do with me?” Does it transition from the “then” of the biblical world to the “now” of your congregation? Exposition must be pre-eminently practical. Therefore, it must be applied practically and illustrated relevantly. “Exposition must never be divorced from application and illustration” (Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 76).
I suggest that you never leave application to the end of the sermon but relate each point as you make it to the lives of the listeners. Otherwise, they will not get the connection between what you have explained and how you have applied it.
- Is each point critical?
Is each point needed? There must be a purpose, a reason, for each point. Don’t put in points or sub-points that have no purpose and which do not add to the flow of thought and development of the argument.
Don’t be overly zealous in trying to break down your main points into sub-points, sub-sub-points etc. This confuses your listeners and achieves nothing. If you do have sub-points because they are in the text, you do not have to express them as such to your audience – simply make them part of your explanation.
To ensure that each point is necessary and purposeful, you will need to review your structure critically.
- Is each point memorable?
This is not a requirement of expository preaching; it’s just a good principle for any public speaking. If you want your audience to go away and be able to remember at least the basic points of what you said, it must be memorable. So, word your main points for “hearers” not “readers” (i.e. the ear not the eye).
You can make your points memorable in several ways:
(i) By using various structural techniques in your main points – e.g.
*”Balanced” statements – i.e. a repeated phrase in each point
*Parallel statements – i.e. similarity of grammar and wording
*Alliteration. Alliteration can be very effective by being memorable, or it can be very ineffective by being annoying, forced, unnatural.
(ii) By repetition
Your sermon outline should be sufficiently well done that your audience can see it – recognize the road map; see the progression, movement, main ideas – but not so that it is dominant. We are not preaching to send them home with an outline but with a message from God’s word that is relevant to their lives.
C) WHAT IS THE MOTIVATING THRUST – I.E. THE PURPOSE?
The motivating thrust provides direction and purpose to your sermon. The motivating thrust is the universal truth that the text is teaching and to which the preacher will exhort his listeners to respond.
Determining the motivating thrust gives significance and purpose to the sermon. Some questions to ask yourself here are:
- Why did the writer write this? What is the sermon intended to do?
- What does the truth demand? What do you want them to do?
- What is its purpose, significance?
- What application are you going to make?
- What is the “bottom line”?
- What is the motivating thrust behind this message? Why deliver it at all?
This whole process of structuring your sermon outline all starts with the subject. The subject provides unity to the sermon because from the subject flow the “integrating thoughts” (main points) and the “motivating thrust” (purpose) of the sermon. Therefore, the “formula” is: Unity (from the subject) + movement (the main points) = purpose.
2. The Points Must Be “Harmoniously Related”
While the points must be homiletically distinct (i.e. make their own distinct point and not repeat any of the other points), at the same time they must be “harmoniously related.” By “harmoniously related” we mean that there must be “continuity of thought”. Continuity of thought is what we must aim for in every outline. Just as the writer has continuity of thought in what he wrote, so your sermon outline, based on what he wrote, must have the same continuity of thought. In other words, the text drives the structure. That’s expository preaching!
(a) Harmoniously related thoughts give the sermon unity – i.e. hold it together. And unity flows from the one common denominator of every sermon – the subject. When each point is related to the subject, then the whole structure is “harmoniously related.”
(b) Harmoniously related points give the sermon progression – i.e. it’s going somewhere. Progression is derived from the flow and continuity of thought by which each point relates to the point that went before (but doesn’t duplicate it), the point that comes after (but doesn’t duplicate it), and all points relate to the subject and, therefore, are harmoniously related.
Therefore, every point must:
a) Relate to the subject of the passage and sermon. This gives unity and harmony.
b) Relate to the points around it (i.e. the previous and subsequent points). This gives progression. “Without this structure and sequential treatment of the text, there will be confusion in the pulpit as well as in the pew”(Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 76).
A harmoniously related sermon is like a harmoniously related body. The head is joined to the neck; the neck to the torso; the torso to the arms and legs etc. Thus, the body has symmetry (balance; proportion) and continuity (every part works in harmony with the others). This is how good sermons work.
Part III. Devotional Exposition
“The Communication of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)
By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford
Having proved that the gospel, while not commending itself to human wisdom, is notwithstanding the instrument of God’s power as well as the manifestation of His wisdom, the Apostle now goes on to speak about The Communication of the Message. As a preacher, he knew of the inherent dangers in the methods and motives of public speaking. Indeed, the church at Corinth was divided on this very issue. There were some who preferred Paul’s approach to the style of Apollos; while others were better satisfied with the rugged delivery of Peter, the one-time fisherman.
With this in mind, the Apostle sets out to correct misconceptions concerning the communication of the gospel in two delineations:
I. The Supreme Passion Of A Preacher
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Drawing heavily upon his own experience, Paul shares with us the twofold secret of the consuming passion of a preacher. The first is:
1) Dedication to the Master: “…I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ…” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul uses a word here to describe his dedicated resolve. He says, “… I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ…”. This is the true secret of preaching. This man was so Christ-centered and Christ-controlled that nothing else in the world mattered, except Jesus Christ.
Paul could say, “For me to live is Christ…” (Phil. 1:21). “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him…” (Phil. 3:8, 10). “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). How true it is that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). When a person is full of Christ, he cannot but speak of His Savior and Lord. So there was dedication to the Master. Then also there was:
2) Concentration on the Message: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Instead of conforming to the philosophical approach and oratorical excellence which were so characteristic of public speakers in Corinth, Paul deliberately determined to present Christ in all the simplicity of the essential facts of His death and resurrection. His supreme passion was “Christ and Him crucified” – “not in His glory but in His humiliation, that the foolishness of the preaching might be doubly foolish, and the weakness doubly weak. The incarnation was in itself a stumbling block; the crucifixion was much more than this” (Bishop Lightfoot).
Some students of the Bible maintain that Paul’s emphasis in Corinth on the cross was because of a sense of failure in the alleged philosophical approach he adopted at Athens. But a study of Acts 17 makes it evident that his preaching there was not basically philosophical. His sermon began with a biblical revelation of creation and ended on the note of the resurrection (Acts 17:24, 31). In other words, even in Athens his central message was that of Christ and Him crucified. Paul knew only too well that only the message of the cross could meet the need of a pagan world. It might seem foolishness to the philosophers and a stumbling block to the religionists, but to those who were being saved it was both the wisdom and the power of God.
Martin Luther’s preaching aroused the church from a thousand year slumber known as the devil’s millennium. It is easy to understand why when we discover how Luther preached. He said, “I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose again from the dead today, and is coming back to earth tomorrow.” With the supreme passion of the preacher in mind, we now turn to what Paul describes as:
II. The Spiritual Power Of A Preacher
“And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The Apostle knew that the content of his message was so unacceptable to the carnal mind that he had no confidence in his ability to communicate it. In fact, he says that he came to Corinth “…in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (v. 3). J. B. Phillips puts it even more dramatically by quoting Paul as saying: “I was feeling far from strong, I was nervous and rather shaky.”
At the same time, it might be added that his fear was more of God rather than of man. It was a fear in the light of the task committed to him, or what Kay calls “anxious desire to fulfill his duty.” So he says, “…my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (v. 4). This means that Paul did not depend on what was known as “the Corinthians words” of excellent speech and poetic persuasion; his confidence, rather, was in:
1) The Power of Divine Revelation: “And I was with you in…demonstration of the Spirit…” (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The word translated “demonstration” signifies “the most rigorous proof.” As Dr. Leon Morris says, “It is possible for argument to be logically irrefutable, yet totally unconvincing.” Paul’s preaching, however, carried conviction because of the power of the Spirit. This is the essential difference between human reasoning and divine revelation.
If preachers of the gospel trusted in their own speaking powers to convince men and women of sin and righteousness and judgment, they would miserably fail. Only the Holy Spirit can do this (see John 16:8-11). In addition to this, it is clear from this passage that Paul also put his confidence in:
2) The Power of Divine Application: “And I was with you…indemonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The phrase “of power” carries us back to what Paul has been saying concerning the dynamic of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). There is something inherent in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ which has a dynamic relevance, and therefore an application to everyday life. Preach the gospel to any creature in any country in any age and you will find it just as authoritative and applicable as in the days of the Apostle. This is why Paul exclaims: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
William Barclay tells of a man who had been a reprobate and a drunkard, but who had been absolutely captured and changed by the Lord Jesus Christ. His work mates knew about this and used to try and shake his faith. They would say, “Surely a sensible man like you cannot believe in the miracles that the Bible talks about. You cannot, for instance, believe that this Jesus of yours turned water into wine.” “Whether He turns water into wine or not,” replied the man, “I do not know. But in my own house I have seen Him turn beer into furniture!” This is the power of divine application.
When a preacher believes that the message he declares can work a miracle, he has learned the secret of spiritual power. However much he may tremble, he can be sure that God will vindicate and demonstrate the power of the cross in transformed lives. To conclude, Paul moves on to:
III. The Single Purpose Of A Preacher
“…That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). This was Paul’s single purpose because it was the divine purpose. No preaching of the gospel fulfills what God has designed unless men rest their faith in the power of God. As we have observed already, the power of a preacher is nothing less than the word of the gospel, even our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. The problem in Corinth was that the members of the church were seeking to pin their faith on Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. Therefore, the Apostle was determined to correct such a divisive misplacement of their confidence. For the purpose of the gospel, he realized men and women must be led to exercise:
1) A Sound Faith: “…That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men…”(1 Cor. 2:5). Paul has convinced us in the preceding verses of the earthly, sensual, and devilish nature of the wisdom of men. For faith to be sound, it must be reposed in the Savior Himself, without dependence upon human wisdom. Paul amplifies his point when he writes later concerning the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus: “…if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). If Christ were not alive from the dead, then sin was not put away, the gospel is not true, the Corinthians had believed a lie, the Apostles were false witnesses, and the loved ones who had fallen asleep had gone forever. So to be fundamentally sound in the faith, a person must believe in the Son of God who literally and physically rose from the dead. All other tenets of evangelical faith are both included and implied in this one central and focal fact of the resurrection of Christ.
Is your faith sound? Does the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead mean more to you than anything else in the world?
2) A Saving Faith: “…That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). Paul has interpreted to us the meaning of the power of God in a previous verse. You remember how he said “…the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but to us which are saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). A saving faith to Paul was a faith which had and was effecting a mighty transformation in the believing soul. It meant knowing the Lord Jesus as Savior in every sense of the word. Is Christ a living, indwelling, and transforming Savior in your experience? But this faith as interpreted by Paul was also:
3) A Steadfast Faith: “…That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). It has well been said that what depends upon a clever argument is ever at the mercy of a clever argument. This is not so with faith when it is reposed in the unchanging Son of God. This is why Paul employs the term “stand” (KJV – “should not stand”) which conveys the idea of steadfastness. Two times in this letter he exhorts the believers to be “steadfast in the faith.” The first mention follows the glorious treatment of the unalterable facts of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 15. Having declared the Savior as the triumphant one, he says: “…be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the lord (1 Cor. 15:58). The second reference coincides with the conclusion of the epistle where the Apostle exhorts: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Conclusion: So we have seen what Paul means by the communication of the gospel. He has made it abundantly plain that this unique revelation from heaven is something that cannot be communicated or understood apart from a God-given passion, power, and purpose. Whoever claims to be a preacher must be able to testify to the fact that he has only one determination, and that is to know Christ and Him crucified. A preacher must have only one dynamic, and that is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. A preacher of the gospel must have only one design, and that is that his hearers should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Like Paul, the preacher must recognize that the church of Jesus Christ can never survive the storms of life unless she is built upon the rock of divine revelation rather than on the sands of human philosophy. Let us then go into all the world with the preacher’s passion, power, and purpose – until every creature hears the message of Christ and Him crucified. Such a commission will leave no time for division in our churches and God will add to our membership daily such as should be saved!
Part IV. Sermon Outlines
Title: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25-27)
Point #1: Jesus claims the power that is given to him (25a)
1. Jesus claims the power of resurrection
2. Jesus claims the power of life
Point #2: Jesus promises the life that is in him (25b-26)
1. He promises resurrection life (25b)
2. He promises immortal life (26)
(1) Conditional on faith – “those who believe”
(2) Conditional on personal faith – “do you believe this?”
Point #3: Jesus honours the faith that trusts him (27)
1. He honours faith that responds to his word – “Yes”
2. He honours faith that submits to his authority – “Lord”
3. He honours faith that confesses his person – “Messiah”
– He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God
– He is the One who is to come into the world