Questions from the Pulpit.
No matter how many times I preach and no matter how many people listen, it seems that the reverb of one question never ceases to echo through my head–can I preach? The authenticity of the question should not be lost in its seeming absurdity. Weekly I both question myself on a level of ability and theology. Do I have the decent ability to communicate the Word of God? Not only so but on what authority do I claim the right to preach, to speak on God’s behalf? I think I may not be the only preacher to ask such questions.
In my sermon preparation this week I came across a significant offensive truth. In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, William Barclay highlights the monumentally humbling ministry of John the Baptizer. Within his specific reflections on John’s ministry, he makes the general conclusion “the true preacher is obliterated in his message.” Just as John was lost in his message of hope, repentance, and fury so to we, the preachers of God’s Word must lose ourselves, finding our end in every message. Put another way, we must preach every sermon to ourselves a dozen time before we dare preach it to anyone else.
Therefore being obliterated by every sermon, do I have the ability and authority to preach?
Though my ability to preach may be questioned and found wanting when juxtaposed to contemporary and historic preachers, I can preach, if I posse a single skill. Preaching the Word of God calls for a dismissal of my words. Preaching the supremacy of Christ calls for my due subordination. My ability to preach well is contingent on my ability to venerate Christ! And so is yours.
Theologically speaking I have absolutely no authority to speak. That I would suppose to be a voice box of the God of the universe is shockingly ridiculous. However, this is in fact the steady grace of our Lord: that from the time of Moses God in his providence has chosen men to do that which he did not need us to do — preach! Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, John the Baptizer, Paul, Billy Graham, Adam Fix, John Piper, and more were and are each chosen by God to speak on his behalf. Though out history God has providentially chosen to use us to speak his Word. This is all by his grace, for his glory, for the sake of the gospel.
Can I preach? Yes. By God’s grace.