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Preaching — God’s Definition


So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8)


You will not find a clearer, more direct definition of preaching than is here given by God the Holy Spirit. “Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose.” Standing upon this elevated pulpit above the people (so that he could be seen and heard by all), Ezra lifted up praises to the Lord God and led the people of God in the reverent worship of Jehovah our Savior. Then we are told that Ezra and those who preached with him on this great day did three things, three things that every preacher must do every time he stands to speak to eternity bound sinners in the name of God.


1.    They read in the Book in the law of God distinctly.


If we would preach to immortal souls in the name of God, let us preach the Book of God. If we would preach the Book of God, we must read the Word of God in our assemblies. In this house of worship we meet three times a week. At every worship service, either one of our men or I read a lengthy portion of Holy Scripture. To my knowledge, we have not had a worship service in more than thirty-two years without the public reading of the Scriptures. This public reading of Holy Scripture is as important as our congregational singing and prayer. Notice that Ezra and his assistants in worship read the Word of God “distinctly”. Let us do the same. Before reading a portion of Scripture in public, the man reading should go over that portion in private, reading it many times in preparation for the public worship service, so that he may read it “distinctly”. When we read the Word of God in public worship (or lead the congregation in prayer), we should do so “distinctly”, carefully pronouncing each word with clarity and speaking with sufficient volume to be heard. There is no point in having public prayer or a public reading of the Word if the man speaking cannot be heard and heard “distinctly”.


2.    And gave the sense.


How blessed we are when God sends a man to speak to our hearts by his Word, who gives us the meaning of God’s Word! To give the sense of any portion of Scripture is to expound the text, giving out the meaning of the text as it stands in the Book of God. Preaching is not telling people what you think about a passage, or what a passage reminds you of, or how you think a passage applies to modern life! To preach the Word of God is to faithfully give the message of God the Holy Spirit in the text. The only way a preacher can do that is by diligent preparation, prayer, and study.


3.    And caused them to understand the reading.


If the people to whom we preach do not understand what we preach, if they are not by our preaching caused to understand the Word of God, then our preaching is utterly meaningless. The man called and sent of God to preach the gospel is “apt to teach”, gifted of God to cause those who hear him to understand the Word of God. He preaches with such simplicity and boldness that no one can misunderstand what he preaches.




Don Fortner








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