Biblical Preaching – Crisis and Recovery

We’re coming toward the end of terms and semesters. Just a few weeks to go until many will walk the stage, shake the hands, get the paper, etc. Here are some great thoughts from Al Mohler’s commencement address at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last December. It’s worth reading the whole address, here’s the link.

“Our authority is not our own. We are called to the task of preaching the Bible, in season and out of season. We are rightly to divide the Word of truth, and to teach the infinite riches of the Word of God. There are no certainties without the authority of the Scripture. We have nothing but commas and question marks to offer if we lose confidence in the inerrant and infallible Word of God. There are no thunderbolts where the Word of God is subverted, mistrusted or ignored.

“The crowds were astonished when they heard Jesus, ‘for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.’ Congregations are starving for the astonishment of hearing the preacher teach and preach on the authority of the Word of God. If there is a crisis in preaching, it is a crisis of confidence in the Word. If there is a road to recovery, it will be mapped by a return to biblical preaching.”

Lest any of us feel buoyed by degrees earned, titles held, respect given, etc., let’s remember this – the authority in our preaching comes from the Bible, not us.

Authority and Preaching

The issue of authority in preaching is important.  As preachers, you and I don’t have authority in ourselves.  Some may hold a position of authority in the local church polity, but that is not the same thing.  Certainly in most cultures the preacher is not perceived to have an inherent social authority as they may have in the past.  What’s more, we live in an age when authority is being undermined and challenged at every level.  Perhaps we stand to preach and authority is an issue from the past?  Perhaps today the only concern should be authenticity, relevance and connection?

Or perhaps we should stir up some authority by means of our manner, hiding any hint of personal vulnerability, or pushing our church position or expertise?  Just as there is much non-authoritative preaching, so there is much pseudo-authoritative preaching, and even authoritarian preaching.  What we need is authoritative preaching.

A commitment to expository preaching involves being clear on this: to the extent that we accurately present, explain and apply the Scripture, our preaching has authority.  As a well-known theologian once wrote – when the Bible speaks, God speaks.

I’m not wanting to get into debates about what that means and how it might be abused by some.  I just want us to ponder this truth today as we contemplate preaching again.  To the extent that we accurately present, explain and apply the Scripture, we preach with authority.  The church, the world…we all need to hear from God.  Not our opinions, our advice, our suggestions.  From God.   As preachers let’s be sure we are not a part of the problem, but humble conduits for that authoritative Word.