The Importance and Power of Preaching

Heartisthetarget CapillThe opening paragraph of Murray Capill’s book, The Heart Is the Target, is about as good a summary of the importance and power of preaching as can be found outside of the pages of Scripture itself.

“Throughout the long history of the church, nothing has won as many souls, changed as many lives, built up as many saints, and strengthened as many churches as the faithful preaching of God’s Word.” (p.13)

 Is that how we commonly think of preaching, even in Reformed theological circles? Do we really believe that the preaching of the Word of God from Sunday to Sunday is powerful and effective for the conversion of the lost? Or do we imagine that other things (i.e. less “preachy” means) are more effective and more to be preferred?

What about the building up or edification of the saints? Do we view the preaching of the Word of God as being a powerful and effective means of believers being built up in the faith and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17)? Or do we hang our proverbial hat on lesser things (i.e. small groups or other church-related programs)? Nothing wrong with programs per se, but an undue emphasis on our own programs may belie a subtle lack of confidence in the preaching of God’s Word.

We should view the preaching of the Word of God as primary in the life of the church. That is certainly the view of preaching that is espoused in the Westminster Standards. For example, the Westminster Shorter Catechism says the following about preaching as a means of grace:

“Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

Reading the Bible is certainly important (whether one’s own personal Bible reading of listening to the Scriptures being read in public worship). But the Holy Spirit “especially” uses the preaching of the Word of God to convict and convert sinners, and to build them up in holiness and comfort, “through faith, unto salvation.”

Wherever and whenever the true preaching of the Word of God has been recovered and rightly emphasized, souls have been won, lives have been changed, saints have been built up, and churches have been strengthened.

No wonder the Apostle Paul so solemnly charged Timothy to preach the Word:

“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.” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, ESV)

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