The Expository Files




Preaching  From  The  Chest


I found this quote in a book about public speaking. ORATORY: The art of making deep sounds from the chest seem like important messages from the brain. Men who regularly occupy pulpits and people who sit in audiences need to consider this.


Some things that sound good are bad. A man may present himself to an audience, satisfying every demand of good elocution and rhetoric. He can be dressed in good fashion, use accepted grammar and be a skilled persuader. From the audience, your first impressions may be favorable and everything may look and sound good. But all of this offers no credence that the message is true and worthy of belief. Some of the preachers on television fulfill every rule of good speech, pleasant appearance and homiletic organization, but their message contains little of biblical substance, not to mention the perilous, soul-damning error. “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words … Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ … Let no one defraud you of your reward … These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom…but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh,” (Col. 2:4,8,18,23). “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves,” (Matt. 7:15). “…by smooth words and flattering speech [they] deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Rom. 16:18).


The purpose of preaching is not entertainment! I enjoy listening to preachers whose style and method matches my learning preferences, but I must not value my personal enjoyment above the substance or message. I believe some preachers are paranoid about their delivery but careless about what they deliver; style is valued above subject. Time and energy is spent looking for just the right illustration or combination of words, when more time should be spent with the text, God’s Word. Likewise in modern audiences there may be a number of people listening for clever stories, jokes or some apt turn of phrase. Their hearts are not prepared to hear and apply God’s Word! In view of all these desires and distorted expectations, something needs to be said about the purpose of preaching.


The purpose is to tell people what the Bible says. Some story or illustration may be appropriate and a wise use of humor may serve the message well. There are a variety of rules of good speech and communication that can be attended to with some profit. But we must never drift away from the purpose - telling people what God has said! Sometimes I get the impression, some are proud of their methods but ashamed of the gospel. “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 2:1,2). “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority, zealous for good works,” (Tit. 2:15).


As I near 70 years, perhaps I can now speak to “young preachers” and offer some counsel. Do not neglect the task of developing good communication proficiency, but keep that aspect of your work in proper balance; it is not your chief engagement! Get your head into God’s Word. I mean, before you read Expository Files or Pulpit Commentary, read and study the text. Early in your work, decide that commentaries, papers, the Internet and every other product of man will not occupy most of your time; God’s Word will. Fearlessly announce that MAN’S PROBLEM IS SIN, then present Christ as man’s only hope (1 Tim. 1:15; 1 Cor. 2:1-5). Use great plainness of speech in distinguishing between truth and error, and never conclude a sermon without urging people to obey the gospel of Christ. Keep a record of your sermons and at the end of each year evaluate the content for balance (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:15). Do not let friendship or camaraderie with other preachers influence you to adopt a certain style, omit any Bible teaching or overstate your case. God doesn’t expect you to please your sidekicks (Gal. 1:10)!


Don’t preach from the chest, nor from your own mind. Preach from God’s mind, as revealed in His Word. And do this with the attitudes prescribed by Paul: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

[1] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 6: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. New Testament Commentary (183–184). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[2] Henry, M., & Scott, T. (1997). Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (Col 4:2). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

By Warren E. Berkley

The Final Page
From Expository Files 23.10;  October 2016