Friday, August 11, 2017

Preaching with Power, Like Jesus Christ Did

Luke 4:32 reads:

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
και εξεπλησσοντο επι τη διδαχη αυτου οτι εν εξουσια ην ο λογος αυτου.

Would you like to preach with power, the way Christ did?  Many people have unbiblical ideas about what this would involve.  The word "power" in this text is the Greek word exousia, which means "power" in the sense of "authority."  In other words, Luke 4:32 teaches the same truth as Matthew 7:28-29: 

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

και εγενετο οτε συνετελεσεν ο ιησους τους λογους τουτους εξεπλησσοντο οι οχλοι επι τη διδαχη αυτου:  ην γαρ διδασκων αυτους ως εξουσιαν εχων και ουχ ως οι γραμματεις.

Christ preached with power because He authoritatively proclaimed the Word of God as Jehovah's great Prophet to His people (Deuteronomy 18:15-18).  If you want to preach with power, the way Christ did, then you should do the following:

1.) As a regenerate saint, strive after greater holiness by the grace of the Father through the Son by the Spirit, that you might be like Christ in all things.
2.) Take great pains to very carefully study the Word of God.
3.) Properly and with laborious study exegete the Word properly, trusting in the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
4.) Boldly and authoritatively apply that Word after you carefully unpack and exegete it to the minds and hearts of your congregation (or the lost, if you are preaching on the street, etc.)

We can see that a godly pastor who practices expository preaching, going verse-by-verse through Scripture and carefully applying it, should rejoice that he is able to preach with power--Divine authority--in this manner, and can expect the blessing of the Trinity on his preaching.  Hallelujah!

We can also see from Luke 4:32 and Matthew 7:28-29 that someone who thinks he is preaching with power because, while ripping a verse or two of God's holy Word out of context, he yells a lot, gives a lot of tear-jerking illustrations, walks around during his message, and gets many people to walk forward and kneel at the front of a church auditorium by manipulating them at an invitation is not preaching with power.

If you have thought that doing the latter was preaching with power rather than the former, you should repent now, because otherwise it will not be very good for you at the judgment seat of Christ when you find out that what you thought was power was actually wood, hay, and stubble.

If you have been preaching with power the way Christ did, be encouraged to continue very carefully expositing and applying the Word, and grow in your practice of these spiritual disciplines, that you might preach with greater power or authority the holy Word to the glory of the holy Trinity.

As an addendum, the Spirit illuminated the truth in this post to me while reading my Greek Textus Receptus. Consider taking the time to learn Greek well, that you might preach with more power.


13 comments:

Matthew Devers said...

But the louder you yell the more right it sounds. Thanks for this. It's a reminder that it's more about your standing before God and how you handle scripture.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am trying to send a response to this post, but it is not allowing me to do so, and comes back saying "Your HTML cannot be accepted. Must be at most 4,096 characters." Can anyone help with this? I would appreciate it.

Jason

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jason,

If you cut your comment into shorter parts it should post.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean breaking down what I wrote into separate responses and sending them separately, or do I have to delete a portion of what I wrote in order for it to send? Thanks!

Jason

KJB1611 said...

Just make it smaller, make one big comment like 4 small ones, and it should post just fine.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Brother Ross,
I greatly appreciate this much needed post, even though I would disagree with certain aspects of what you said, and seem to be implying with some of your statements. As an Independent Baptist missionary I have had the unique opportunity of visiting numerous Independent Baptist Churches during deputation and furlough and listening to the preaching. As you probably know, there is a mixed bag of preaching in IFB circles (some good; a lot bad), and I have my own views regarding this subject that I would like to mention. The total response will be sent in three parts separately, as the blog is not allowing me to send it all together.
{Part 1}

As I see it, and have witnessed, the preaching in IFB circles usually falls within two groups.
1) You have those who associate preaching with power as synonymous with yelling, charisma in the pulpit, or many times just flat out being obnoxious in the pulpit. Preachers who preach this way call this "hard preaching" when in reality it is preaching in the flesh, and not in the spirit. I particularly don't like the phrase "hard preaching", because it more often than not means that you will hear and witness much of the foolishness that I just mentioned. The IFB churches that generally promulgate this method of preaching are the Hyles type churches and Steven Anderson type churches. Consequently, they refer to anything different than their method of preaching as being weak, or powerless preaching. You alluded to this type of preaching in this post.
2) You also have those who emphasize expository preaching as the only type of preaching that should ever be done in the pulpit. Now, let me say that I am in agreement with you that all preaching from God's word should be expository, and exegetical. But hear is my problem with much of the expository preaching that I have witnessed in IFB churches.
(A) In my opinion it should more properly be classified as expository "teaching" and not expository "preaching." Anyone who does not know the difference between the two probably should not be preaching. As one preacher once said, and rightly, all true Biblical preaching will obviously contain teaching within the message, but teaching in and of itself is certainly not preaching. Biblical preaching will move people to action; Biblical teaching mainly deals with informing by way of Biblical facts. Based on that, I would have to say that much of what Independent Baptists refer to as preaching, is really just teaching. I also fear that because of the false view of preaching that we have of the Hyles/Anderson brand, many Independent Baptists have retreated to this opposite extreme of equating their expository teaching as being expository preaching. I would disagree with you that expository verse by verse “preaching” always results in powerful, or authoritative preaching. When I first got saved I sat under the ministry of a preacher who only practiced what he called “expository preaching.” But in all honesty, even though he was carefully going verse by verse through the KJV, while also referring to the Greek, I sensed very little practical power or authority coming from the pulpit. It was more mechanical than anything else. I personally refer to myself as an expository preacher. However, I believe that the correct definition of expository preaching is to take a passage of scripture (not a whole chapter, as too much information will be given at once, and you will lose your audience), exposit and exegete the text, and then powerfully apply it in an expository manner as well. Which leads to my next concern with much that is called “expository preaching.”

Jason

Anonymous said...

{Part 2)

(B) The “expository preaching” in most Independent Baptist Churches is pathetically weak in application. I was glad that you mentioned the application as one of your conditions for powerful authoritative preaching, but here is what I have seen, and am seeing in IFB churches. So much time is spent by the preacher in giving historical background information and expositing the text, that his application is usually very weak and vague. For example: telling people to love not the world impacts no one if the preacher does not get into specifics about what the world, and the things of this world actually are. Not dealing with specifics in the application is preaching in generalities, and professing believers leave the house of God with their minds filled with Biblical information, but consequently their lives are rarely impacted or changed toward godliness because of the powerless application.

I have no problem with the four conditions that you listed as prerequisites for powerful preaching Brother Ross, as they are all good and very important. But I would add a very crucial one: the prayer life of the preacher. This was far more emphasized in the past than it is today amongst preachers I fear. The truth is, a preacher can meet all of those four conditions that you mentioned, but if he has a weak prayer life, than he is powerless in the pulpit, regardless of how great an expositor he is. In my opinion, the greatest manual on preaching outside the word of God is EM Bounds book on prayer formerly titled “Preacher and prayer,” but now titled “Power through prayer.” It is not a homiletical manual on how to preach, but rather a book that emphasizes that the way to have the unction of God upon you as you preach, comes no other way but through much time alone with God in prayer. That is the example that Christ left for us as one who was in constant communion with God the Father through private prayer. That was the source of Christ’s power and authority in preaching, and the disciples knew it, which is why one of them cried out to Christ in (Luke 11:1) – “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Jason

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jason,

Thanks for the comments.

1.) I agree with you that Hyles-type preaching is not really preaching the Word.

2.) I believe that if a church does not get regular verse-by-verse preaching, there are large sections of the Bible that will never be preached, and that will hinder the growth of the saints. I do not believe that one must always and only practice this sort of preaching, though. Clearly there are sermons in Acts that are not verse-by-verse.

3.) Failing to do what we see in Acts, such as persuading and making strong application, is not Biblical, either in preaching or in teaching. I would by no means endorse that in preaching, but I would also go beyond you to say that it is wrong in teaching also, at least if we define teaching the way the Bible does. There must always be application of the Word to the hearer by the Spirit.

I think if you listen to the sermons of Pastor Brandenburg and the other brethren at Bethel Baptist in El Sobrante you will see a good model of expository, verse-by-verse preaching that is also strong on application and is specific.

4.) I would also agree that the prayer is very, very important; after all, the leaders were to give themselves continually to prayer (#1) and the ministry of the Word (#2) in Acts, and that is why deacons were appointed in the first place (Acts 6).

5.) You may have read more of E. M. Bounds than I have, and perhaps he is better than what I have read of him, but I have not been impressed with what I read by Bounds, and I would be careful of the fact that he, as a good Methodist, would have believed in Wesley's perfectionst and second blessing doctrines. I hope that he denounces baptismal regeneration also--something that Wesley preached--do you have any quotes from him opposing this false gospel?

6.) While this should absolutely not be taken in any way to limit the extremely great importance of prayer, could you please explain from the Bible alone your doctrine of unction in preaching and how you derive it from Scripture alone, not from Scripture + E. M. Bounds and his second blessing ideas? Are you saying that there is something teaching it in the context of Luke 11:1? Where does Luke 11:1 make the connection you are making?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

{Part 3}

One last thing, I am concerned about what you seem to be implying with your last statement about the Spirit of God illuminating this truth to you as you read your Textus Receptus. That seems to imply that those of us who don’t read Greek cannot be illuminated to this truth the same way that you were. I am not trying to judge you in your motives for saying that, but when a preacher makes a remark like that it will tend to affect the common believer’s confidence in the Bible that he has in his hands. You followed that remark with one that I found equally, if not more troubling, when you said “Consider taking the time to learn Greek well, that you might preach with more power.” That says to me that I cannot preach with the same type of power or authority as a preacher who knows the original languages, unless I learn them myself. I strongly disagree with that Brother Ross. I don’t believe that you intended it to come across this way, but that statement comes across as being of an elitist mentality. For the record by the way, I am not a Ruckmanite, just someone who believes that what I hold in my hands in the Authorized Version is just as reliable, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative as those who cleave to the Masoretic text and Textus Receptus as their final authority. The ironic thing, is that both of those positions are conditioned on faith in God’s promise of preservation, as the originals don’t exist. Again, I am not disparaging the original languages in any way, and I know that the KJV is a translation. But by faith I believe that The KJV in my hands is just as authoritative as the preserved copies of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that many by faith claim to possess. If I did not believe that as an English speaking man, than what final authority would I have?

I will end this reply with an interesting account from centuries ago. The renowned Puritan preacher and scholar John Owen, who was a Greek and Hebrew scholar, once went to hear the man named John Bunyan preach. After this Greek and Hebrew scholar listened to this man who had no understanding of the original languages preach Christ, he replied that he would happily exchange all his learning (including his Hebrew and Greek) for the ability to preach Christ with the power and authority that John Bunyan displayed. What can we conclude from that? We can conclude that power and authority in preaching does not come through a grasp of the original languages, or by some sort of homiletical gift, but rather through much fellowship with the Lord in prayer. John Owen recognized this difference, but preachers today seem to be missing it.

I do very much appreciate the post Brother Ross, and overall, I do like what you were emphasizing.

Jason

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jason,


Thanks for comment #3.


I know that I would not have been able to write the content of this post if I had not been reading the NT in Greek, and I must disagree if you believe that stating that one will be able to know the Word better (and thus be able to proclaim it more authoritatively/powerfully) if he knows the languages in which God gave that Word is not justifiable (and that, of course, is all that I am claiming, and pride, etc. is not the point at all.) Also, while accurate translations retain the breath of God on them, they do not have equal authority to the original--they are only authoritative because / when they accurately translate the original and they derive all their authority only from the original (see, e. g., the exegesis at http://faithsaves.net/theopneustos/ ). God preserved every Word that He inspired perfectly (Matthew 5:18-19) and He inspired and preserved Greek and Hebrew words. There is not a different final authority in every language, but only one final authority, including for English speakers.


You concluded from your story about Owen and Bunyan that one gets unction from much fellowship with the Lord in prayer. Again, prayer should by no means be disparaged in any way, but could you give me the part where Owen said "Bunyan prays more than I do and that is why he can preach in such a compelling way" or where Owen said "If I only spent more time praying and less time in Greek and Hebrew then I would be able to preach more powerfully" or even "Bunyan prays more than I do; I pray less than him or with less faith"? I wouldn't be surprised if Bunyan prayed more and God was closer to him, as he was a Baptist in prison for the faith rather than an infant sprinkler who was part of a state "church," but you seem to have left out the part where Owen made the point you want him to make.


Far more importantly, could you please prove your doctrine of unction from Scripture alone, not from E. M. Bounds or an anecdote from John Owen?


Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jason,

Let's say that your comments were preaching. How would they have had the power of God? A few points.

1) Every believer has the power of God, all of it. He has the indwelling Holy Spirit, so he doesn't need to pray for power. E. M. Bounds didn't believe that. Do you think it's a good thing to keep praying for something we already have? Have. God gave it to us. It's faithless. Faithlessness isn't powerful. It doesn't please God. (Heb 11:6)

2) The Holy Spirit uses scripture (Eph 6:17). A manifestation of the Holy Spirit is speaking as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:10-11).

3) However, if it isn't what the passage says, that isn't the Holy Spirit, that is you. It isn't scripture if it isn't what the passage is saying.

4) Did you notice that "power" is exousia in Mt 7 and Luke 4, the passages Thomas quoted? That is a different word that a few other Greek words translated power. It means "authority." Jesus spoke with authority, that is, like His Words were coming directly from God. Our authority comes from what scripture says, not from something else. It definitely doesn't come from a questionable story and a quotation from E. M. Bounds, who was wrong on a lot and hurt a lot of people.

More could be said, but I think you should take those into consideration. They are making an application to you from scripture by the way. Are they teaching, are they preaching? You say that someone has to know the meaning of both. I think that is good, but how do you think someone understands the meaning of both. I'm not sure you know. I hope you do, but I'm not sure you do.

Anonymous said...

Kent,
You mentioned you don't pray for power. Would you say that a preacher who is saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit can preach with unconfessed sin in his life and be just as effective as if there is no sin, as long as he has exegeted the passage and speaks what the passage says? In other words the preacher prepares the message and exegetes the passage and has everything ready to go and then Sunday morning yells at his wife, grieves the Holy Spirit and then goes and preaches exactly the same words as he would of had he been right with God, is he just as effective?

As far as Jason's comment above about how expository preaching can turn into intellectualism, I think he is on to something. There is ALOT of deadness in church pulpits. Paul came in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The disciples in Acts were "unlearned" men but the people "took note of them that they had been with Jesus." Their fellowship and communion with God was key to their power and being used.

I heard of a preacher who said for every ten minutes of his message he would plan an hour of prayer prior to preaching. If prayer is, in a sense, saying to God I can't do this without you, then it seems like that preacher understood he was useless without God's power. I think that is a challenge to every preacher who reads this. How much do you need God when you are in the pulpit? Do you feel utterly dependent upon his power and strength or have you gotten so good at study and exegeting the scriptures that you feel pretty confident in your abilities (the flesh). Don't forget that ministering in the flesh doesn't reap life.

Thanks,
Rich

James Bronsveld said...

According to Phil. 1:12-18, yes, Rich, in answer to your opening questions about the pastor with indwelling sin on Sunday morning, he would be just as effective when preaching "the same words" that he preached whether he was right with God or not. You might also want to consider I Cor. 1:4-7 in light of the significant spiritual deficiencies outlined through the remainder of the epistle.

The trouble with the use of questionable anecdotes (e.g. Owen/Bunyan, or the pastor who says he commits to 1 hour of prayer for every 10 minutes of preaching), is that they further undermine the very power (authority) of Scripture spoken of in this post. Scripture says one thing (misinterpretations of Acts 4:13 notwithstanding), but anecdotes are looked to as the valued iconclasts to topple it. After extensive reading of the great IFB prayer-icons of Ravenhill, Hyde, Mueller, Torrey, Meyer, Tozer, Bounds, Andrew Murray, etc., I have been impressed at how consistently anecdotes play such a significant role in the authority of their message, due in a large part to a lack of exegetical support from carefully studied Scripture passages (which is the basis for this post!).

In the same circles, prayer has been elevated by traveling revivalists and contemporary writers to an unscriptural position above the study of the Word of God as being "the" source for power. (Does the pastor who commits to 1 hour of prayer for every 10 minutes of preaching likewise commit to at least 1-2 hours of study for that same message?) It evidences itself in the unscriptural prayers and petitions that are routinely offered in churches. I don't believe this is by accident. Prayer consists of the words of men. Scripture consists of the words of God. An unscriptural movement will not look to the words of God for authority, but rather remain enamoured with the words of men. Yet to look to the words of men as the means by which men receive "power" is to reject the authority of God. It is also, as noted by Bro. Brandenburg, faithless.

From reading your comment and Jason's comment, I see what seems to be both a misunderstanding of sanctification and of what it means to be filled with the Spirit, or even to be in communion with God. I'd encourage you to read Bro. Ross's in-depth study on vivification at faithsaves.net.

The power is not in the people. The power is in the carefully studied, properly exegeted, and faithfully proclaimed and applied Word of God.