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  • Writer's pictureMichael Durham

What is Biblical preaching?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

What is biblical preaching? It is the testimony of God through a human instrument.

The preaching we read in the Bible always had this unique quality. It is a heavenly

event acted out on earth. When a man stands to proclaim the Word of God, he is

speaking on behalf of God. So much so that God owns the sermon, and He directly

communicates to the understanding of the hearers. God speaks through a man.

God owns the act of preaching by being active in it. A man may stand and expound

the Scripture without God’s ownership, and what the preacher says maybe every

bit factual and accurate. But he is not preaching in a biblical manner. Bible

preaching requires the dynamic of God in the person of the Holy Spirit to

influence, inspire, and impact both preacher and listener. When this occurs, heaven

is involved, God is manifested, and it is happening in a place where people have


The New Testament demonstrates biblical preaching and its effects. In 1

Thessalonians 1:5, the Apostle Paul says, “because our gospel came to you not

simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep

conviction.” In the second chapter, Paul said to the Thessalonians that it was as if

God was speaking to them when Paul preached the Gospel. He said, “For this

reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of

God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is

in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1

Thessalonians 2:13).

Men are to speak with the aid of God, with His sanction, so that those listening are

aware of something of another world, that there is something other-worldly about

what they are hearing. This is the power of preaching. I am persuaded that this is

the ultimate goal of preaching, that people are made aware of God’s glory and

presence. The aim of preaching is to confront people with God through His word.

God’s word is the essence of His presence and activity because God has invested

Himself in His word. Therefore, when the word of God is preached in the power of

the Spirit, it is God at work. His presence and activity are manifested.

In addition, preaching is an exercise of the gift of exhortation. Exhortation is the

spiritual gift defined as urging, admonishing, warning, or encouraging by

argumentation or advice. At its core, it is what preaching does. One lexicon defined

exhortation this way, “The word ‘exhortation’ comes from the Greek word which

means to ‘appeal to, urge, exhort, or to encourage’ someone to take a certain

action.” I know no better explanation of the task of the preacher. In Luke 3:18, it

said of our Lord, “And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.”

Almost all commentators agree that the Epistle to the Hebrews is written in

sermonic form, which leads scholars to believe it was a sermon. In the conclusion,

the author makes this appeal, “And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of

exhortation, for I have written to you in few words” (Hebrews 13:22).

Another characteristic of preaching is that preaching is authoritative. Preaching is

calling people to obey God. It has a sense of the prophetic, meaning not predicting

the future, but having the authority as the spokesman for God, which is what the

word prophet means. If we preach God’s word by His power, there will be a sense

of authority. People will recognize that if they disregard the preacher’s message,

they are, in fact, rejecting God’s message. This is one of the things that

characterized the Lord Jesus’ preaching and distinguished it from the speaking of

the established religious order. The people were amazed at Christ’s preaching and

teaching, “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one

having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).

Yet, another distinctive, preaching demands a verdict. The goal of preaching is

conformity to the Word of God, to act on it, and to let it transform life. The person

listening to biblical preaching feels their affections stirred, their conscience

pressed, and their will moved to render the decision that will produce change.

When you hear true preaching, you feel that you must do something. That is the

effect of preaching. Partly, this is due to the way preaching addresses, not just the

intellect, but also the affections of the heart. In our day, the word affection has been

confused with the emotions. They are not the same, nor should they be used as

synonyms. There is indeed an emotional quality to affections, but they are more

profound and fundamental to our person than emotions.

Affections are the ultimate desires of your heart. Another way to say it is,

affections are the loves and hates of the heart. Affections influence the will, and the

will chooses based on those affections. Therefore, preaching must address the mind

with the arguments of Scripture until those facts grip the mind. When that happens,

the emotions will follow, and both mind and emotions bombard the will to move

according to the affections or desires created by what the mind believes, and the

person feels. This is what I mean by preaching demands a verdict.

Lastly, preaching is declarative. It is not a debate, instruction, or commentary on a

passage of Scripture. It is not a dialogue or a conversation. While the preacher may

have a conversational style of speaking, there comes a moment in the sermon when

the weight of the text supersedes his delivery, and he is carried along by the text

that his face becomes like flint. There is no compromise. He is in the pulpit to

proclaim. Preaching is the pronouncement of what God has said. Therefore, there

must be an air of dogmatism about it.

So, how should we define preaching? Preaching is a holy event where God acts

through the proclamation to confront the hearer. It is a heavenly empowered

declaration of the Word of God, persuading men by appealing to their minds and

hearts to act in obedience to God’s commands. Preaching persuades what the

sacred text says and demands a verdict with a specific outcome. In short, preaching

is a man consumed by God, confronting people with God, and convincing them by

the power of God.

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