Preaching as Worship – Part 1

Worship of the triune God is the essence of life as a believer in Jesus Christ. Worship in the believer’s life means that he is to align his volition with the prescribed method of worship in Scripture.[1] The lifestyle of a believer manifests one’s worship of God as the worth of God is evidenced. Therefore, Christian worship is more than mere singing or being involved in a local church; it is a lifestyle of manifesting the glorious work of grace by the triune God in one’s life.[2] The transformation that takes place in a person’s life at regeneration begins the life of devotion and commitment to God. Yet, this devotion to God is not forced upon a believer, but it is a natural outflowing of his union with Jesus Christ.[3]

However, a sizable portion of Christian worship comes in one’s commitment to a local church. And provided within one’s commitment to the local church is a weekly proclamation of the gospel through the preaching of the Word of God. This notion, of course, commences an important aspect to introduce this chapter and it is that we should never isolate preaching from worship. Preaching is an element of worship; it works in coherence with singing, prayer, liturgy, confessions, and ordinances.[4] Yoder explains the importance of  preaching when he describes it as  the “public address form of ministry in which a word from God intersects with a human need,”[5] Thus, as the sermon expounds on God’s message to his people,  preaching must be maintained as the focal point of a worship service.[6]

Therefore, this chapter will demonstrate how preaching is the primary activity in worship  by examining the  truthfulness and authority of the Scriptures, by describing a posture of worship through the pastor’s study, and by describing the act of preaching as worship through glory to God, proclamation, instruction, and exultation.

Worship begins with the Scriptures

Though the Bible is not the only means for the revelation of God’s self to humanity,[7] it is, however, the primary means through which God reveals his justifying, saving grace to a fallen world.[8] “How shall they hear,” Paul writes, “without a preacher” (Romans 10:14, emphasis mine)? Paul’s aim in this passage is to make preeminent the notion that preaching as the primary means through which the gospel of grace is proclaimed. In other words, Paul aims for his readers to comprehend the magnitude of trustworthiness of the Scriptures because it is God’s truth that is proclaimed when one preaches. Comprehending the magnitude of God’s worth through his revealed Word is the essence of biblical worship. So, then, how we comprehend this truth is extremely important.

Truth is the condition upon whether biblical interpretation succeeds or fails, because biblical interpretation is the direct explanation of the Word of God, the source of all truth.[9] This proposition brings to light the notion that truth only comes to the seeker when he correctly interprets the truth revealed from God. Jesus told asks the Father to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). If this proposition is accurate, then one must examine how it relates to biblical worship that is only brought to fruition through the discovery of truth.

The Bible as Foundation of Truth

Because truth is the assembling of facts as they are experienced through reality,[10] a pastor must understand the rationality and realistic nature of the Bible itself. The ultimate test of truthfulness of Scripture is its coherence with reality. So, regarding the Bible, one must seek to justify the Bible as truth rather than fairy tales or fiction. Therefore, one does this in two different ways: affirming God as the ultimate truth-Giver and proposing the Bible as God’s revealed Word.

The existence of God must be rationally interpreted through the lens of how truth is realized. It is not enough to simply “prove” God’s existence through a certain apologetic argument, though these means can be sufficient to “prove” God’s existence. Instead, a more fully orbed approach to ascertain the existence of God is through rationalizing the knowledge of truth; he is the sovereign truth-Giver. The penultimate method for discovering truth is by properly understanding which particulars cohere the most with reality. Some would argue that truth can be determined by each person individually, but this is actually not the case. Instead, truth must be justified/warranted belief.[11] Justified belief stabilizes itself in the notion that every person searches for truth with presuppositions. In other words, every person in the world has a way in which they view the world. further explains how one justifies a belief by a multitude of criteria – presuppositions, beliefs, and coherence with reality.[12] Thus, the Bible must be the foundation of truth in worship.

The Bible as God’s revealed Word must be the starting point for the pastor who is to preach in worship. The Triune God has revealed himself to us by communicating within himself to humanity. The Father speaks to the Son, the Son speaks to the Father, and both to the Spirit and the Spirit to both.[13] Peter declares that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), so the process of the Bible being understood as God’s Word begins with God revealing himself to the apostles by his Spirit, then succeeds to how the apostles witnessed the full revelation of God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. In essence, God is a communicator; therefore, God has communicated to humanity by his Word through his relationship with humanity, and through Jesus Christ, the Godman.[14] Therefore, God’s truth is reality.[15]

Since the Bible is God’s revealed Word to humanity, it must be of utmost priority to the one who will prepare to preach. The essence of preaching is the proclamation of God’s revealed Word to a gathered assembly of believers. Therefore, the Bible must be the foundation of all that is done in a worship service, from the singing to the preaching. 

The Bible as Basis of Content

Because the Bible is the foundation of all things true, it must serve as the content for all sermons. The Bible is the supreme source for content in the sermon, because the Bible is the source of life for a believer. It is described as “profitable,”  in 2 Timothy 3:16. Paul is reminding Timothy that “the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.[16] If a pastor has a spiritual foundation (built upon the disciplines of expository preparation), then the Bible will be prevalent throughout his sermon’s content. The truth of the Bible resonates with the pastor, because his delight is in the Word of God and this brings about clarity throughout the sermon construction process. This clarity for the pastor is a result of a healthy regimen of expository preaching in his weekly habits. Jason K. Allen explains how this process was beneficial personally in his spiritual development. He recalls that during his early days of ministry this weekly preaching was the most influential element to his growth.[17] Thus, a pastor will fill his sermon with the Bible in three distinct ways.

First, the Bible must be the source of all knowledge and content in the pastor’s sermon. There is no sermon apart from the Bible. So, for a preacher to preach effectively and for his preaching to serve as worship to God, he must approach the Bible, study the Bible, write the Bible (through notes), think on the Bible, pray through the Bible, and then preach the Bible. If a pastor is to ascribe all glory to God during his sermon, he must understand the nature of preaching as declaring Christ to a gathered congregation for the one purpose glorifying God.[18] Thus, the pastor should impregnate his sermons with the Word of God rather than aiming to quote well-known scholars or try to use excellent rhetoric to persuade the congregation to action. God blesses faithfulness that labors with the text to declare its correct meaning and interpretation. Therefore, the pastor must leave the content to the Bible and the conviction to the Spirit, for this is their roles as divine aids in preaching.[19]

Second, the pastor must fill his sermon with knowledge from his Bible study. As a pastor studies his Bible personally, sermonically, and intellectually, he must read the Bible with the end goal of worship. While Piper is correct when he says  that the ultimate aim of all Bible reading  is the “the worship of God’s worth and beauty,” we would also say that this is the goal of preaching as well [20] Therefore, as a pastor aims to worship God in his preaching, he must mold the content of his Bible study into the manuscript that will become his sermon week after week with the goal of acknowledging God’s worth and beauty. Therefore, the pastor must allocate time in his week to allow the content of his study of Scripture to be molded into the sermon itself. 

Third, the Bible contains language that must be studied and communicated. The Bible is the penultimate way in which God has provided sinful humanity a way to know him. Calvin proffers that the Bible is God’s expression of love and grace toward God’s elect to bring them nearer to him.[21] However, the Bible was not written by infallible authors, so their language is not precise, for they were human beings moved by the Spirit of God.[22] Since the authors of Scripture were normal human beings, their language is sometimes vague and difficult to interpret. Therefore, as the pastor desires to worship God in his preaching, he must endeavor to study the language of the Scriptures so he can communicate the truth of God effectively and, correctly.

Nevertheless, the pastor cannot truly communicate such a book with “language barriers” unless he believes in the authoritative nature of the Bible. Therefore, the Bible as authoritative is necessary for true biblical worship because it is the governing force behind all worship elements.[23] This is the foremost principle within the Regulative Principle: The Bible governs all activities during a gathering of believers in worship to God.

The Bible as Authority

 Augustine explains how meaning can sometimes be dependent upon the person when he writes, “What is time? If nobody asks me, I know; but if someone asks me, I don’t know.” Thus, words and meaning are important for establishing the divine authority of the Bible.

When God acts, he acts through his spoken Word. This is how God created the world (Gen. 1) and also how he gave us Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul conveys, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). According to Forlines, God’s word is a crucial element to understanding the divine nature of Scripture and its inspiration. Scripture is a product of the very breathe of God. Therefore, it is divinely given to humanity.[24] Words and meaning do have distinct characteristics but they also do have a close relationship with each other for learning and communication.[25] Because preaching is a communicative act and deals with how the congregants can learn the Scriptures, its words must be translated and interpreted carefully and correctly. If biblical interpretation is done ineffectively, the congregation’s learning ability can be disparaged. Therefore, the pastor must pay close attention to the way in which he prepares sermons because if biblical truth is incorrectly conveyed, it will limit the application of truth to the hearers.

The Bible and its authority are the most important elements for preaching, because anything otherwise is not preaching according to biblical standards. Therefore, we must not be timid in our proclamation of such truth, and one should proclaim these truths with authority because those who preach stand in the stead of Christ as they speak. In a sermon on biblical infallibility, Spurgeon says, “Modesty is a virtue, but hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault.”[26] This is advice that all pastors must heed when they stand behind the sacred desk. Biblical authority is emulated through the act of preaching and all pastors must understand the weight of such a task in worship. However, the element of preaching in worship does not begin when a pastor opens his Bible on Sunday morning getting ready to preach. Instead, it begins in his office while he prepares and constructs his sermon.


[1] Calvin, Institutes, 63

[2] For a more detailed description of worship, see Timothy M. Pierce. Enthroned on Our Praise: An Old Testament Theology of Worship (Nashville: B&H, 2008). Though Pierce defines worship exclusively from the Old Testament, there is much New Testament application within his work. He uses Old Testament law and tradition to sustain New Testament worship through the fulfillment of promise through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He describes worship as an “ascription of worth” alongside a “relationship between creation and Creator.”

[3] Peterson, Long Obedience, 50.

[4] John Piper. Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 16.

[5] June A. Yoder, “The Sermon as Fulcrum: The Role of Preaching in Worship” Vision 10, no. 1 (Spr. 2009), 37.

[6] Ibid., 39.

[7] For further study on this topic, see John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010).

[8] For a more detailed take on God’s self-revelation through Scripture, see Forlines’s chapter on revelation in The Quest for Truth (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), or Part 2 of John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010).

[9] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics” JETS no. 48 vol. 1 (March 2005), 89.

[10] Ronald H. Nash. Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 228.

[11] For a more detailed study of knowledge and justified belief, see Frame. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987); Alvin Plantinga. Knowledge and Christian Belief (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015).

[12] John M. Frame. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987), 104-122.

[13] Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 42.

[14] Forlines, Quest, 46.

[15] Piper, Expository Exultation, 161.

[16] Donald Guthrie, “Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary,” vol. 14, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 182.

[17] Jason K. Allen. Letters to My Students: On Preaching. (Nashville: B&H, 2019), 35.

[18] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 62.

[19] Meuer, “What Is Biblical Preaching?”, 187.

[20] John Piper. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 62. Though Piper’s aim throughout this work is geared toward reading the Bible for its worth in the life of a believer, it is not difficult to see how this concept also relates to the preaching of the Word of God.

[21] Calvin, Institutes, 26.

[22] Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 216.

[23] For a more detailed study of the “Regulative Principle,” see Ligon Duncan, “Traditional Evangelical Worship” in Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views, edited by J. Matthew Pinson(Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 99-124.

[24] Ibid., 43.

[25] Forlines, Quest, 49.

[26] C.H. Spurgeon, “The Infallibility of Scripture,” Spurgeon Gems, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols34-36/chs2013.pdf.

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