Summary: What does the preacher have a right to expect from his listeners?
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 21
Are You Really Listening
You have the right to expect that your church’s pulpit be filled by prepared men preaching prepared sermons. You have the right to expect preachers who have prepared themselves spiritually and have also spent many hours preparing their sermon. You have the right to expect preachers to pour themselves out in preaching the Word of God to you. But what does the one who is speaking have a right to expect from their listeners?
Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century preacher, said that the hearer needed to prepare even more than the preacher! “We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted! But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than the preacher.”
As one who speaks regularly I can attest that some-times I feel that I am not getting through when I speak, only to find out later that I did. But it is also true that sometimes I think I am connecting, only to find out later that I did not. But generally speaking I believe that it is true to say that those who receive the most are those who come prepared to respond to the message.
You will remember that in our last study of the Book of Acts we left Peter as he left Joppa headed to Caesarea and the house of Cornelius. At Caesarea they met Cornelius and those whom he had gathered to hear Peter’s message. It would be wonderful if every preacher, when he stood up to preach, should find the reception that Peter found gathered in the house of Cornelius.
“And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. (25) As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. (26) But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” (27) And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. (28) Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (29) Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
Cornelius had been prepared by God, and Peter had been prepared by God. But they were not the only ones who had been prepared. In verse thirty-three after rehearsing for Peter the circumstances that led to his request (vv. 30-32) he says, “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”