The Re-Creative Work of God in Preaching
Perhaps one of the most amazing things about preaching is that it is essentially a New Creation activity. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of Christ crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification, is biblically parallel to God’s saying “Let there be…” in Genesis 1. The apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
Consider the elements involved. In Genesis 1, God speaks a Word, and the Spirit of God brings about creation. By word and Spirit, light is created. By word and Spirit, the waters are divided, and there is sky and dry land. By word and Spirit, living creatures are made. In the first creation, God by Word and Spirit creates all things from nothing.
As God created by Word and Spirit in the first creation, so also is it with the second. By Word and Spirit, God takes what is dead in trespasses and sins, and He gives it life. God speaks, and light shines in the darkness. God speaks, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, a new creation issues forth.
But what is perhaps most stunning is the difference between the first and second creations in terms of the instrument God uses. In the first creation, God speaks directly, without a human instrument, because humanity does not come into being until the 6th Day, the very end of the creation process. But God is pleased in the New Creation, to give to human beings, and particularly to men who are called to be preachers of the Word, the distinctive privilege of being involved in this New Creation speech act. The dominion given to Adam, being made in the image of God, comes to be expressed in the calling to the great task of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Preacher, when you go into the pulpit to speak the Word of the Gospel, do you realize that by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is as if God is saying, “Let there be…”? Indeed, there is both an awesome responsibility and a wonderful comfort when we understand this. The awesome responsibility is to recognize that the calling of the preacher is to faithfully proclaim the Scriptures and not rely on worldly wisdom or methods. Preaching is not an activity based on the flesh. This is God’s work, to be done God’s way, trusting God for the results.
On the other hand, there is also a wonderful comfort when understanding preaching as a New Creation activity. That comfort is knowing that God will use faithful preaching to accomplish His purposes, by the power of His Spirit, no matter how we may feel about our sermons from Sunday to Sunday. Our calling is to be faithful, relying on the power of God, knowing that in our resurrected Savior, our labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
Brian Belh is the pastor of Beal Heights Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oklahoma.