Thirty-three years ago, at Liberty University studying for the pastorate, I made a commitment to read my Bible 10 chapters a day, for the Word of God to be my guiding compass and light forward in all do, say, and teach to others in the ministry.
I am now on my 97th reading of the Bible. I have now preached or taught over 5,000 messages. Even after 25-plus years in the pastorate, I still draw on what I have learned from my time at Dallas Theological Seminary. The phrase, “Preach the Word” is burned onto my heart, and I still, after all these years, yearn to teach and proclaim accurately and boldly God’s Word so people can experience the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ through his taught Word.
In my lifetime, our awareness of God’s Word has lessened both in the public and in the pew. Biblical literacy is at an all-time low in our society. As literacy decreases, embodying the Word of God becomes more essential. The preacher must wrestle honestly and transparently with the relationship they share with the Word of God, also known as the Logos.
Webster’s defines the Greek word Logos as the divine wisdom manifest in the creation, government and redemption of the world and often identified with the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, himself. The Gospel of John says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Jesus is the Logos. He is the physical representation of the written Word of God. He is the fulfillment of every promise. He is the example of every command. But we know in God’s Word that Jesus went back to heaven, sending his Holy Spirit to live inside of us, who would lead us into all Truth.
In 2 Timothy 4 the Apostle Paul commissions the young pastor Timothy:
“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; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Everything you see in this passage is fulfilled through the first command, “Preach the Word.”
The preacher’s primary responsibility is to know what God’s Word says so God can speak through the preacher to the congregation, who in turn go out and live how God directs them to live.
There is no substitute for biblical—Logos—teaching. It is impossible to be who God created the church to be without it. Yet in my experience over the years, many people are not biblically literate enough to apply it on their own. As Paul says in Romans 10:14:
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
The preaching of the Word of God is essential to people believing and living the Word of God. I have always wondered, Why did Jesus go back to heaven and leave us to do a job he could have done better? I will never be as good a preacher as Jesus. I will never be as effective a communicator as Jesus, yet Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to live inside us, and made this promise to us in John 16:13:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
So, the preacher is to take the Word of God, Jesus, and the Spirit of God given to them, and proclaim the Truth of God. But what does this practically look like day in and day out in the preacher’s life and ministry?
I go to my study every Tuesday. I fast and I study God’s Word to prepare a message to give to God’s people. I digest it into my soul, and ask God to speak to me about my life before I speak it to someone else. I ask him to purify me through it first before he uses me to purify and teach others through it.
It is in this process that the Logos, the Holy Spirit and my life are combined. I am first transformed by what I study through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me. Jesus speaks his Word to me, the Holy Spirit applies it and teaches me the truth of it, and then I am called to go and deliver the Logos to those whom I oversee shepherding and teaching.
It is my job as the preacher to first and foremost apply the truth of what God’s Word actually says to my life before going to apply it to others’ lives. I made a commitment when I started preaching that I would not preach anything I wasn’t living and if I wasn’t living it, and preached it, I would say, “I am not there yet or here is how I am not yet living this truth from God’s Word.”
So many times, in my ministry I have heard people and pastors say, “Well, I don’t think God … [fill in the blank].” My response is, “It doesn’t matter what I think. What does God’s Word say?” Begin with the Word, don’t shy away from what it says. Don’t try to change what it says. Just read it, study it, apply it, and you will be transformed by it. So, these are the governing principles that direct my preaching.
The Logos, if handled correctly, should make all of us more honest, first, about our own lives, before we attempt to apply it to others’ lives. As I study the Logos, and as God through his Holy Spirit speaks to me about my own life, I then begin to supernaturally hear him speak to me about the lives of others. He may not give me names and exact specifics, but the applications—I have learned repeatedly through feedback—couldn’t be from me. They had to be from the Holy Spirit living in me who knows my audience better than I do. He sees all, knows all, and thus can speak exactly through me what needs to be spoken so that the Logos is applied so specifically to my listeners’ lives that their lives are laid bare before the Holy Spirit.
This is the transformative work of preaching the Logos. We take the Truth, and we teach it through the context of real life, and we apply it to our lives first and secondarily to others. In this process, the Holy Spirit supernaturally illuminates our ability to communicate truth in such a way that it pierces to the depths of our listeners’ souls. My experience is, people say to me often afterwards, “How did you know that about me?” My response every time is, “I didn’t. That was God taking his Word taught and applying it to your heart through the omniscience of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me.”
The preacher is never the Logos, simply the messenger sent by God to proclaim the Truth of God’s Logos. We are the conduit. We are the water hose, never the water. Now the average listener will look at us, and hopefully marvel at our ability to take God’s Word and apply it to their lives in such a way that lays them bare before the Lord. They may attempt to credit us with accomplishments and feats, but we know as the speaker it was the Holy Spirit illuminating our minds through the study and preaching of the Truth of God’s Logos that transforms them as they yield to the truth of God’s Logos.
But let not the preacher be diminished in their role. Just as the hose is essential for transmitting the water in it, so we as the preachers are essential to the equation for the transmission of the Logos that transforms lives for all of eternity. How will they hear unless we preach? Preacher, be faithful to preach the Logos.