Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones once wrote that the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit is “the greatest essential” in all of preaching.
He wasn’t the only one to think this way. The Apostle Paul prioritized the role of the Spirit in preaching when he wrote to the enamored Corinthian church who prized rhetorical style and philosophical insights.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 2:1-4
Now, Paul is not saying that we should abandon study or preparation in order to be led by the Spirit in extemporaneous communication. Paul is concerned with the effect of his words. Will they exalt Christ Crucified or himself?
In his article “Is there Christian Eloquence?” John Piper says, “The point is this: pride-sustaining, self-exalting use of words for a show of human wisdom is incompatible with finding your life and your glory in the cross of Christ. So let your use of words be governed by this double criterion: self-humiliation and Christ-exaltation.”
This is the kind of Spirit-anointed preaching our world needs.
We often struggle with tension in the Christian life, and this topic is no different. We not only need the leading of the Spirit in our presentation but also in our preparation. We need his power to rest on the preacher and the preaching from start to finish.
But here we run into what appears at first to be an immovable dilemma: The demonstration of the power of the Spirit is the greatest essential in all of our preaching, and the demonstration of the power of the Spirit is out of our control.
The mysterious presence and work of the Spirit—like a wind that comes and goes as it pleases—is what we need most in our sermons, and yet we cannot coerce the Spirit to move (John 3:8).
We are reminded that preaching with the help of the Spirit is not another skill we utilize to make our sermons better. We don’t master the Spirit; the Spirit masters us. He works on us and through us in order to deploy us as ambassadors for God’s rescue mission in Jesus.
Depending on the Spirit in the Preparation and Presentation of Preaching
However, we would make a mistake to assume that we have no part to play in Spirit-filled preaching. The Spirit of God chooses how He works, but we also know that He loves helping us exalt Jesus in our sermons (John 14:25).
During my breakout session at this year’s Sojourn Network Leaders' Summit, I will discuss the practical ways we can grow in being led by the Spirit in both our preparation and presentation of sermons.
“The greatest essential” for our preaching today is to be empowered in our preaching by the Holy Spirit of God.
Will you join me to learn how?