Preaching as Worship – Part 3

Preaching as Worship

Since preaching is an act of worship, the pastor stepping up to the sacred desk to preach must be reverent and serious, because preaching hangs eternity in the balance for all who hear. The task of preaching alone brings its own difficulties to overcome. However, another task of the pastor is to be the worship leader for each service, because the Word of God directs our worship. Thus, if the pastor tries to make worship an effect rather than a lifestyle of glory and honor to God, he loses the centrality of the Word of God in worship. But it could possibly cause the pastor to lose biblical centrality in his preaching and preparation. Thus, here are four reasons why the pastor can never lose the Bible as his central component to preaching in worship

The Gospel is Good News

Paul David Tripp explains that one of the most crucial elements to understanding the gospel is understanding that the gospel is for all people when he writes “No one gives grace better than a person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself and is being given it in Christ.” Hence, the pastor preparing himself to preach by allowing himself to come under the authority of the text will then give the best presentation of the gospel because he has first had his affections transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The gospel has several components to its makeup, and they are the following.

First, man is fallen and without Christ. It is not secret that mankind is in a predicament spiritually. This predicament comes from the fall in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve disobeyed the commands of God and placed their fleshly priorities above God’s standard of living. This disobedience thereby affected all their posterity (Rom. 3:23) and has left each human being in a state of sinfulness separated from God.

Second, in the person of Jesus Christ, God came down to humanity to save them from their sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is truly God and truly man, came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died the death for human beings in their place which does two things that manifests themselves in the next two components.

Third, those who believe in Christ are justified. Justification by faith alone is the doctrine upon which Christianity stands or falls. If justification is denied or ignored, Christianity is demarcated to mere moralism. Mankind is innately sinful and the only remedy for such sinfulness is a perfectly divine being who can pay humanity’s debt in their place. Because humanity is sinful, they cannot make their way toward God in any fashion (John 6:44). Yet, because God is holy, he must judge all sinfulness. However, God in his kindness sent his Son to pay the penalty for human beings so they can know him. In other words, Jesus Christ’s death justifies sinful humanity before God (2 Cor. 5:21). 

Fourth, those who are justified are so because of substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary atonement is the only viable belief for a follower of Jesus Christ; it is the only biblical option to satisfy the wrath of God for the sins of humankind. This component of the gospel is also an important factor to note because it understands the death of Christ to be a literal death for sin, not a mere example of God’s hatred of sin. Instead, the wrath of God due human beings was poured out on Christ through his death on the cross in order that humanity might gain access to the Father through Him. 

The gospel is good news because it has nothing to do with human beings, but only is possible by the work of God in the lives of human beings through His Spirit. This gospel is the only message worth proclaiming, and pastors must get it right as they preach.

Preaching is Proclamation

In the grand scheme of preaching, a vitally important aspect is proclamation. To proclaim the message of the gospel is the evangelize. “‘Proclaim’ is complementary to the more specific term ‘evangelize’ (euangelizomai) or the phrase ‘announce the good news,’ which contains within its meaning the object that is announced or proclaimed—the good news.” Since the purpose of all Christian life is to be witness for the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8), the pastor witnesses to the Lord  through Christian proclamation. Though there is a difference between preaching and evangelism, the two cannot be separated in the life of the pastor. The pastor must be adamant to never lose the priority of his own personal evangelism because of his life in Christ as a believer himself. However, the proclamation to those under his preaching every week must be a bit different. 

Preaching, unlike evangelism, is geared toward believers (for the most part). The purpose of preaching is to proclaim the gospel to those gathered as the body of Christ. Therefore, most (if not all) of the audience of which the pastor is preaching will be believers. Hence, there is a necessity for the gospel to shape how one lives. However, if unbelievers are present – which is a likely possibility – pastors must always aim to preach Christ crucified and risen for our salvation. 

Salvation is brought about by proclamation (Romans 10:17). Preaching is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ to those gathered as a body of believers (1 Cor. 2:13). Both methods of proclamation ascribe the Lord glory because they are both warranted practices of Scripture. But most importantly, preaching is worship because it exults God as the sovereign Being who does everything for his own glory and our good.

Preaching is Exultation

The ultimate goal of all things done in the church is the glory of God. Even creation itself ascribes to this purpose. The psalmist exclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). Piper gets it right in declaring that God delights in all he does. He writes, “If God is not under constraint by forces outside himself to act contrary to his good pleasure, but rather acts only out of the overflow of the joy of his boundless self-sufficiency, then all his acts are the expression of joy and he has pleasure in all that he does.” Piper’s comments on God taking pleasure in all he does helps his readers understand the magnitude of God delighting in himself in all of his glory. Therefore, preaching is done for God’s glory because it is God’s Word in which God delights. This is the heart of exultation – understanding the purpose of corporate worship as the “visible, unified knowing, treasuring, and showing of the supreme worth and beauty of God.”

Conclusion

In summary, worship is the goal of all that is done within the local church and within the lives of believers. Our lives, according to the apostle Paul, are living sacrifices to God as our act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2). However, to truly understand what it means to worship, one must begin with the Scriptures. It is the Bible itself that is the foundation of the truth that is communicated. The Bible is true because it is God’s revealed Word to humanity, but also because it coheres with reality; it is rational. To worship God in Spirit and truth is to worship him as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. This also will fill the sermon’s content which alone is worship to God because it is a regurgitation of his Word to his people so they will live for his glory in worship to him.

However, for a pastor to truly understand and lead a worship service, this process must begin in his own heart. The worship leader (that is, the pastor) should be immersed in the Bible to apply to himself first, then he can effectively apply it to his hearers. The application spans itself into many different areas to include the way he studies, why he studies, and the sermons he preaches. Then, once the pastor understands the weight of preparation, he can then proclaim the good news of the gospel in a worship service for the glory of God.

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