Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Christ Speaking Through Preaching


Chrysostom on I Thessalonians 2:13: "For in hearing us, you gave such heed, as if not hearing men, but as if God Himself were exhorting you."

Augustine: "Yes it is I who admonish, I who order, I who command, it is the bishop who teaches. But it is Christ who commands through me." "The preacher explains the text; if he says what is true, it is Christ speaking."

Martin Luther: "Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother ... They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: ‘If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody’ ... But you now have the Word of God in church ... and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you."

Martin Luther: “We both, pastor and listener, are only pupils; there is only this difference, that God is speaking to you through me. That is the glorious power of the divine Word, through which God Himself deals with us and speaks to us, and in which we hear God Himself.”

John Calvin: "The apostles first, and after them pastors and teachers, bore testimony that Christ was made King by God the Father; but since they acted as ambassadors in Christ’s stead, He rightly and properly claims to himself alone whatever was done by them. Accordingly, Paul (Ephesians 2:17) ascribes to Christ what the ministers of the gospel did in his name. 'He came,' says he, 'and preached peace to them that were afar off, and to them that were nigh.' Hereby, also, the authority of the gospel is better established because, although it is published by others, it does not cease to be the gospel of Christ. As often therefore, as we hear the gospel preached by men, we ought to consider that it is not so much they who speak, as Christ who speaks by them. And this is a singular advantage, that Christ lovingly allures us to himself by his own voice, that we may not by any means doubt of the majesty of his kingdom" (Comm. on Ps. 2:7).

John Calvin: "When the Prophet says, by the breath of his lips, this must not be limited to the person of Christ; for it refers to the Word which is preached by his ministers. Christ acts by them in such a manner that He wishes their mouth to be reckoned as his mouth, and their lips as his lips; that is, when they speak from his mouth, and faithfully declare his Word (Luke 10:16)" (Comm. on Isa. 11:4).

John Calvin: "But Haggai says nothing here but what belongs in common to all teachers in the Church: for we know that men are not sent by divine authority to speak that God himself may be silent. As then the ministers of the word derogate nothing from the authority of God, it follows that none except the only true God ought to be heard. It is not then a peculiar expression, which is to be restricted to one man, when God is said to have spoken by the mouth of Haggai; for he thus declared that he was God’s true and authorised Prophet. We may therefore gather from these words, that the Church is not to be ruled by the outward preaching of the word, as though God had substituted men in his own place, and thus divested himself of his own office, but that he only speaks by their mouth. And this is the import of these words, The people attended to the voice of Jehovah their God, and to the words of Haggai the Prophet" (Comm. on Hag. 1:12).

John Calvin: "Every time the Gospel is preached, it is as if God himself came in person solemnly to summon us" (Sermons on Ephesians, xiii).

Second Helvetic Confession (1566): "Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is preached, and received of the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be feigned, nor to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; who, although he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God abides true and good."

Archbishop Sandys (c.1516-1588): "... when thou hearest the minister preaching the truth, thou hearest not him, but the Son of God, the teacher of all truth, Christ Jesus" (Theology of the English Reformers, p. 125).

William Perkins (1558-1602): "Thus every [preacher’s] task is to speak partly as the voice of God (in preaching), and partly as the voice of the people (in praying): ‘If you take out the precious from the vile, You shall be as My mouth’ (Jer. 15:19)" (The Art of Prophesying, p. 7).

Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 160: "What is required of those that hear the word preached? It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God ..."

Jeremiah Burroughs (a member of the Westminster Assembly): "First, when you come to hear the Word, if you would sanctify God’s name, you must possess your souls with what it is you are going to hear, that what you are going to hear is the Word of God. It is not the speaking of a man you are going to attend, but you are now going to attend upon God and to hear the Word of the Eternal God ... Therefore you find that the Apostle, writing to the Thessalonians, gives them the reason why the Word did them as much good as it did. It was because they heard it as the Word of God, I Thess. 2:13 ... Mark, so it came effectually to work because they received it as the Word of God. Many times you will say, ‘Come, let us go hear a man preach.’ Oh no, let us go hear Christ preach, for as it concerns the ministers of God that they preach not themselves, but that Christ should preach in them, so it concerns you that hear not to come to hear this man or that man, but to come to hear Jesus Christ" (Gospel Worship, p. 200).

John Owen (1616-1683): "Let a man but consider that it is God, the great and holy one, that speaketh unto him in his word, and it cannot but excite in him faith, attention, and readiness unto obedience; as also work in him that awe, reverence, and trembling, which God delighteth in, and which brings the mind into a profiting frame. And this concerns the word preached as well as read. Provided,—1. That those that preach it are sent of God; 2. That what is preached be according to the analogy of faith; 3. That it be drawn from the written word; 4. That it be delivered in the name and authority of God" (Hebrews, vol. 4, p. 305).

James Durham (1622-1658) on Song of Solomon 2:10: “These words prefaced to Christ’s epistle or sermon, ‘My beloved spake, and said unto me,’ are not idly set down ... It says that fellowship with Christ is no dumb exercise; those that are admitted to fellowship with him, he will be speaking with, otherwise than with the world. And, that a believer hath an ear to hear, not only what the minister saith, but also what Christ saith. It is the word as from Christ’s own mouth, that hath an effectual impression; and a believer will receive it as such, that it may leave such an impression upon his heart” (An Exposition of the Song of Solomon, pp. 138-139).

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711): The minister must "remind himself in a lively manner that God has sent him, that he ascends the pulpit as an ambassador of God, speaks in the name of God, and is as the mouth of the Lord unto the congregation" (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 2, p. 138).

Stuart Robinson (1814-1881): "The expounding of the word is no mere display of critical learning or skill, but the solemn unfolding of the mind of the Spirit in the word. The preaching of the word can no longer be mistaken for skilful teaching, or elegant speech, or profound reasoning, or labouring to convert men; all these may be involved in it as incidents; but the preaching of the word is essentially the uttering the message of Christ to men, and applying it to the soul; it is the taking that word which Christ, as the Prophet of the Church, hath uttered, and through the usual forms operating by speech upon the human soul, and by the aid of the Holy Ghost making it still the voice of Christ to men now, as really as it was to those to whom it was first uttered. In this aspect of his work, and assuming him to be both teacher and pastor, the preacher of the new is the true successor of the prophet of the old dispensation. In the one case, the revelation not yet being completed, the prophet gathered from direct communication with God his message to be delivered, and then permanently recorded it as God's voice; in the other case, the revelation being now complete, the preacher has that as the permanent oracle from which, led by the Spirit, he is to gather the message of God, and, by every proper means of reaching the human soul, lodge it there as the message of God" (The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel, pp. 80-81).

W. Sanday & A. C. Headlam (critical scholars) on Romans 10:14: "‘how can they believe on Him whom they have not heard preaching?’ ... must be so translated, and what follows must be interpreted by assuming that the preaching of Christ’s messengers is identical with the preaching of Christ Himself." 

D. M. Lloyd-Jones: "It is not only man preaching, as he says to the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 2:13: You listened, he says to them, and you realized it was not merely the word of man but it was indeed what it actually is, the Word of God. This is his preaching, and this should be true of our preaching" (Knowing the Times, p. 276).

John Murray on Romans 10:14: "... Christ is represented as being heard in the gospel when proclaimed by the sent messengers. The implication is that Christ speaks in the gospel proclamation."

Herman Hoeksema: "Through the preaching it pleases God through Christ, the exalted Lord, the chief prophet of God, who alone gathers his church, to speak to his people unto salvation. This is evident from Romans 10:14, which, according to the original, asks, 'How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?' Through the preaching, therefore, you do not hear about Christ, but you hear him. The difference is easily understood. When you hear about or of someone, he is not present. You do not hear his own voice, but the voice of someone else who tells you something about him. But when you hear someone, you hear his own voice. He is present with you. He is addressing you personally. This is the sense of Romans 10:14, which teaches that you cannot believe in Christ unless you have heard him speak to you, unless you have heard his word addressed to you. This is exactly the meaning of the words, 'How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?'" (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, p. 289).

Leon Morris: "... Christ is present in the preachers; to hear them is to hear him."

James Montgomery Boice: "‘He who listens to you listens to me [Christ]’ and ‘he who rejects you reject me’ (Luke 10:16). It is the same today. When I (or any other minister) stand up to teach the Bible, if I do it rightly, it is not my word you are hearing. It is the Word of God, and the voice you hear in your heart is the voice of Christ. So, if you do not like what I am saying, do not get angry with me. I am only the postman. My job is just to deliver the letters. And when you respond, do not think that you are responding to me. You are responding to Jesus, who is calling you through the appointed channel of sound preaching" (Romans, vol. 3, p. 1241).

J. I. Packer: "A true sermon is an act of God, and not a mere performance by man. In real preaching the speaker is the servant of the Word & God speaks & works by the Word through his servant’s lips ... The sermon ... is God’s ordained means of speaking and working."

Klaas Runia: "The Pauline Epistles frequently use such expressions as ‘the word of God’ or ‘the word of the Lord’ or, in an even shorter formula, ‘the word’ (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6, 8; 3:1; Col. 4:33; II Tim. 2:9; 4:1; etc.). In all these passages the terms refer to the preached word. This is also the reason why the word preached by Paul and the others is effective. This efficacy is not due to the talents of the preacher, but the secret lies in the genitive: it is the word of God or of the Lord. In the apostolic message (the emphasis being always on the content) the voice of the living God is being heard. This emphasis was shared by the Reformers. Both Luther and Calvin were convinced that, when the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed, God himself is heard by the listeners" (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 529).

Edmund Clowney: "As [ministers] are obliged to preach, so others are obliged to hear. Their message must be received as the word of God (I Thess. 2:13)" (Called to the Ministry, p. 50).

Hughes Oliphant Old: "Fides ex auditu [faith comes by hearing] is a corollary to a strong Augustinian theology which believes that it is essentially God himself who reaches out to his people in the preaching of the word, and therefore it is what God does in and through these means of grace which makes them effective. That faith comes by hearing follows naturally from the doctrine of grace ... when the word of Christ is truly preached, then Christ is present" (The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, vol. 1, pp. 183, 186).

J. Mark Beach: "... according to the classical Reformed tradition, the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Or to state it more accurately, preaching, when accompanied by the Spirit’s presence and power, is Christ’s living voice to the church and world today. Christ is really present in the preaching of the gospel" ("The Real Presence of Christ in the Preaching of the Gospel," Mid America Journal of Theology, 1999, p. 77).

Robert Spinney (American Baptist): "Good preaching is not merely correct proclamation of the truth; it is God himself proclaiming his Truth ..." ("Looking for Grace in All the Wrong Places: The Marginalization of Preaching," Modern Reformation, Nov./Dec. 2000, p. 38).