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
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
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
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,
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,
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).