The Church of Jesus Christ exist to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), a prospect that has never been acceptable to the world and is rejected by the apostate church. Like the Apostle Paul, we do not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We believe that God has spoken without error and that His Word has never failed. We believe that the Word of God rules over the Church and God’s people, and that this authority extends to all humanity whether it accepts it or not. We believe the Bible, and this should have a direct impact upon how we minister in the preaching of the Word.
Why do we preach the Bible, and even more specifically, why preach expositional sermons? Why take the pains to study deeply and move book-by-book and verse-by-verse through the Bible? Many answers could be given to answer these questions, but I’d like to give three reasons that center around the nature of this divine Book that has been handed down to us from God. I’ll begin with the first reason in this post and follow it up with the next two reasons in the next two posts.
1. It Declares with Divine Authority
When a preacher stands in the pulpit, he has no inherent authority. His authority is derived from God alone. Those who demand respect and unquestioning obedience simply because they are a pastor or preacher have more in common with the Roman Catholic Pope and a cult leader than the Apostles of Christ (Mk. 10:42-45). The faithful preacher of the Word shepherds through the teaching of the Word of God. Our Savior demonstrated this in his ministry with such power and grace that it is worth noting four examples of when Christ used the same biblically derived authority that is available to all Christians.
Authority in Denouncing the Enemy: Challenging the Son of God (Matt. 4:1-10)
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:17 that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit. Because of this, we should not be surprised to see our Savior use the Sword not only in His teaching and discipling, but also in His direct confrontations with Satan himself. Although Christ has all authority to command Satan in any way He desires, Jesus ended each targeted attack of the enemy with the words, “It is written…” (vv. 4, 7, 10). Of all the options available to the Son of God, Jesus chose to wield the Sword of the Spirit against the Enemy. We do not have any power in ourselves to fight the enemy. We must follow the example laid down by our Lord and take the Word of God and use it to call out evil in all its forms so that those who have come under its sway might bow the knee to Christ.
Authority in Decrying the Legalists: Challenging the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-5)
When the Pharisees brought charges of unlawful Sabbath breaking against the disciples, Jesus once again turned to the Scripture to silence their accusations. Whereas the legalists were quick to point to the Law regarding the sin of harvesting on the Sabbath, Jesus responded to their legalistic error with the cutting words, “Have you not read…? (vv. 3, 5). In pointing to the Word of God, Jesus demonstrated the authority of the Word of God itself. Then, with Scriptural precision, Jesus referred them to Hosea 6:6 to learn that what God wants is not only obedience, but also mercy. This powerful response could not be overcome because Jesus’ challenge stood firmly upon the Scripture itself.
Authority in Discerning Application: Challenging the Traditions of Men (Matt. 15:1-9)
When the Pharisees and scribes once again attacked Jesus, this time through the actions of his disciples regarding the traditional cleansing ceremonies of the elders, Jesus turned the tables on them and immediately challenged them from the Scriptures. They had quoted the tradition of the elders and demanded to know why Jesus did not respect such traditions. But Jesus stated with great boldness his biblical reasons for not following these traditions, “For God commanded…” (v. 4). By placing this debate on the uneven footing of the traditions of men versus the commandments of God, he declared these men hypocrites—and then used the prophet Isaiah to show that the Word of God condemned them for this sort of vanity and pride. The traditions of men are not equal to Scripture and even useful traditions must submit to the authority of the Bible.
Authority in Declaring Orthodoxy: Challenging the Resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33)
When the Sadducees stepped up to try and overthrow Jesus’ popularity, they brought a theological challenge that was probably successful in silencing other opponents. These men who denied the resurrection brought a question which they couched in pious references to the teaching of Moses (v. 24). These deceivers thought their question would silence Jesus and show Him to be the uneducated man they thought Him to be. Jesus once again directly refuted them with the Bible, saying, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (v. 29). He then referred them to Moses, this time to Exodus 3:6 where He destroyed their argument by pointing to the present tense of the verb in that verse that demonstrates that there is a resurrection of the dead. Jesus proved that although the Sadducees said that they accepted the writings of Moses, they had not read carefully enough what God had said (v. 31)! When we say that we believe in verbal plenary inspiration, we mean that every word in the Bible is inspired by God. That includes the grammatical tenses of the verbs too!
The herald of the gospel must stand upon this same authority. We must declare the truth of the Word of God when we proclaim that Christ has won the victory over sin and death. We must courageously face off with legalists who seek to place a yoke of burden onto people by adding law to the gospel message and some who add the traditions of men on top of the gospel, taking away the freedom we have in Christ. We must declare with the authority of the Word the fundamental truths of Scripture when men want to deny doctrine, thereby silencing the deceptive hiss of the Serpent. In ourselves we have no authority, but wielding the Bible, we have authority that comes from heaven itself!
Many times, the reason that sermons lack power is not because the Word is ineffective. Instead it is because Scripture has been given second place, with primacy given to a heavy dependence upon devices that we think will make our message more effective—quotes from commentaries and so-called authorities, emotional appeals and stories that seek to move the hearer, and exegetical data that would better be called a seminary lecture, delivering dry, passionless facts that don’t seek to affect the heart and the conscience, along with the mind. When the pews begin to empty, we either blame the people, or the Word. But there is power in the Word.