This excerpt is from a sermon delivered by Dr. John Piper, May 10, 2009. It’s the second part of a series on John 3:16 (during an expository trip through the Gospel of John). He decides to take a moment in the beginning of this sermon to outline what exactly “preaching” is to the congregation… and most likely to newer congregants or visitors. In my book, he hits the target dead center. This is the kind of preaching I hope always to deliver. Read on…
Preaching As Expository Exultation
Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application.
And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God.
The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and awaken the capability of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.
Preaching is also exultation—expository exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply understand what he explains, but the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.
Preaching As Worship
Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. My job is not done if I only see truth and show it to you. The devil could do that—for his own devious reasons. My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a lecture and a sermon.
Preaching is not the totality of the church. And if all you have is preaching, you don’t have the church. A church is a body of people who minister to each other. Part of what preaching does is equip us for that. God has created the church, so that she flourishes through preaching. That’s why Paul gave young pastor Timothy one of the most serious, exalted charges in all the Bible in 2 Timothy 4:1–2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.”
If you are used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, the understanding of preaching that I just described doesn’t lead there. I won’t preach twenty minutes but twice that long; I do not aim to be immediately practical but eternally helpful; and the condition of my soul is not relaxed but standing vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people any of whom this week could go over the edge.”
I first heard this on my recent road trip to Oklahoma (on the return drive) and it has resonated in my heart ever since. It would be the kind of thing that I would think to listen to or read at least weekly to be consistently reminded of the deep importance of solid preaching. You can find more of Dr. Piper’s material at www.desiringgod.org and if you are looking for this exact sermon you can look it up there or on iTunes as well.