Why Preaching Is Worship

The uniqueness of the call to preach

In a Class by Itself

Expository exultation is a unique kind of communication. It is something not brought from the world into the service of the church. Nor can the world take it from the church and use it for its own purposes. It is different, radically different, from anything in the world.

First, there is God.

Then there is his work and his way in the world—his creation and redemption and providence. Then there is his book, his infallible book, the Bible, written by mere men, carried along by the Holy Spirit. Then there is a divine calling, a mystery of providence, family, church, desire, delight, duty. A preacher comes into being.

Then there is the sweat and prayer of preparation—the pounding on the closed door of the text, until it cracks and beams of light shine out. Then there is the seeing of truth and wisdom and power. And then there is the laughter of joy and the tears of repentance, and in both, the savoring, O the savoring, of the glory. Then all day, and if necessary all night, the work of reason and imagination, praying, toiling, weaving dark and bright strands of truth into a fathomable fabric, a message to enfold the people.

Then while praying (again and again), there is the opening of the mouth, the heralding of the horrors and the glories. There is the explaining, the clarifying, the showing, the amazement, the rejoicing, the exultation, the offering, the pleading, the looking in the eyes. And all the while, there is the utter self-engagement, and, please God, the utter self-forgetting in the brightness of the truth. And then, God knows, the everlasting fruit, and weariness and thankfulness. And it all begins again. There is nothing comparable to this.

Expository exultation is unique.

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Beautifully Made for Worship

For all its essential value in the service of evangelism, expository exultation is God’s design and gift for his people gathered in worship. No other form of speech is as beautifully fitting in this God-exalting wonder called “worship.”

God exists as one who knows himself perfectly in the eternal image of his Son. And he exists as one who is infinitely pleased by the one he thus knows. And we, the creatures of this glory-knowing, glory-loving God, are made in his image. We too exist to know God and to be pleased with God—to see and savor and show his glory. This is the essence of what it means to be human.

The gathering of God-seeing, God-savoring, God-showing human beings in one place to join their hearts and minds and voices in making much of this God is a miracle, and a miracle in the making. About to come into being is the miracle of corporate worship. And one indispensable flame that the Spirit uses to ignite that miracle, and make it burn, is the preaching of the word of God. By grace, the light and heat of worship spread. The preacher has come burning and shining. In his preaching, he is worshiping and awakening worship. He has come seeing and savoring and showing the beauty and worth of God. He is overflowing with the truth of exposition and the warmth of exultation.

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Content adapted from Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship by John Piper. The article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.