Summary: This sermon examines what it means to be entrusted with the very words of God, not from the perspective of its possession but from the perspective of its proclamation.
When you think of a church’s priority, what comes to mind?
We live in a day in which there is a lot of confusion over this question. Many churches are a reflection of our society which has become satiated with entertainment. Neil Postman, in his profound book titled, Amusing Ourselves to Death, wrote, “Toward the end of the nineteenth century . . . the Age of Exposition began to pass, and the early signs of its replacement could be discerned. Its replacement was to be the Age of Show Business.”
In show business, truth is irrelevant; what really matters is whether we are entertained. Substance counts for little; style is everything. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message.
And unfortunately, that kind of thinking now rules the church as surely as it does the world.
One of the most bizarre examples of a well-known church confused about its role in the world came from a May 13, 1991 article in The Wall Street Journal. The article described the church’s attempt “to perk up attendance at Sunday evening services.” The church “staged a wrestling match, featuring church employees. To train for the event, 10 game employees got lessons from Tugboat Taylor, a former professional wrestler, in pulling hair, kicking shins and tossing bodies around without doing real harm.” As pastor John MacArthur noted, “No harm done to the staff members, perhaps, but what is the effect of such an exhibition on the church’s message?”
That wrestling match is not an obscure example from an eccentric church on the fringe. It took place in the Sunday evening service of one of America’s five largest churches. Similar examples could be drawn from other leading churches supposedly in the mainstream of evangelical orthodoxy.
Some maintain that if biblical principles are presented, the medium doesn’t matter. That’s nonsense. If an entertainment medium is the key to winning people to Christ and building them up in the faith, why not go all out? Why not have a real carnival? Why not have a tattooed acrobat on a high wire who could juggle chain saws and shout Bible verses while a trick dog balanced on his head? That would draw a crowd. And the content of the message would still be biblical! It’s a bizarre scenario, but one that illustrates how the medium could cheapen and corrupt the message.
Sadly, that’s not terribly different from what is actually being done in some churches. There seems to be almost no limit to what modern church leaders will do to entice people who are not interested in the church. Too many have bought the notion that church must win the lost and build up the faithful by offering an alternative form of entertainment.
I could go on with many similar examples, but I must stop. What should the church’s priority be? Well, there are many priorities, but I would like to highlight one. This priority comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:1-2. Let’s read Romans 3:1-2:
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
In Romans 3:2, in what seems almost to be an incidental reference, the Apostle Paul uses a term for the Bible that ascribes to it the highest possible authority. In the New International Version the term is rendered in English as “the very words” of God. In Greek this important word is logia. It was the possession of these words that constituted the chief advantage for the Jew.
Today, I want us to us to examine what it means to be entrusted with the very words of God, not from the perspective of its possession but from the perspective of its proclamation. To that end, I want us to see the priority of preaching in the church of Jesus Christ.
I. The Priority of Preaching in the Ministry of Jesus
First, let’s look at the priority of preaching in the ministry of Jesus.
At the very outset of his ministry, Matthew says that “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 4:17).
Mark records that “after John [the Baptist] was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1:14).
And in Luke 4:43 Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And then Luke adds, “And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea” (Luke 4:44).