“What is Preaching?” by Ian Hamilton

I have been privileged to meet Ian Hamilton. He is a godly man, a gifted writer, and an excellent speaker. He is gracious as well. One of my favorite parts of Ian Hamilton is his prayers. However, in the monthly Banner of Truth Magazine, Mr. Hamilton asks and answers the question, “What is preaching?”

Of course, in these days, everyone has a variety of opinions on what preaching is. Hamilton offers five clarifications, based upon 2 Timothy 4:2, that I believe are helpful and needed.

“FIRST, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE ESSENTIAL CONTENT OF PREACHING”


Hamilton writes, “Many Christians are languishing spiritually because they are being starved of the teaching that alone can build them up in their most holy faith.” (2) This almost seems axiomatic, but sadly, it is not. Preaching is not about our lives, it is about Scripture’s implications for our lives. Preaching is not about stories, it is about the Story. Preaching must stem from God’s Word.

“SECOND, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE URGENT NATURE OF PREACHING”


Preaching should be urgent, because it is an eternal life-or-death matter. If people are to hear the Gospel, it must be preached with urgency. It is not story time with the preacher. It is preaching Christ, and Him crucified. Again, Hamilton offers stinging words, “Humour that is designed to put the hearers at their ease and placard the personality of the preacher should be avoided like the plague!” (5)

“THIRD, WHOEVER THEN IS CALLED, LIKE TIMOTHY, TO PREACH THE WORD IS TO DO SO NOT CASUALLY, FLIPPANTLY, DISPASSIONATELY


There is an inherent importance in preaching. If you were to browse through some of the more popular preachers today, you would find the exact opposite of this. Preachers will do all sorts of acrobatics and theatrics to help “bring home the message.” But this flippant manner demeans the glorious Gospel message.

“FOURTH, PAUL HIGHLIGHTS THE PRESSING PASTORAL APPLICATION THAT LIES AT THE HEART OF AUTHENTIC GOSPEL PREACHING”


Hamilton clarifies, “The ultimate aim in preaching the word is not merely to inform and educate the hearers’ minds, but to see their lives transformed increasingly into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29, God’s ultimate purpose for his people.” (5)

Fifth (?) “IT IS ONLY TOO EASY TO BE DISTRACTED AND DIVERTED FROM THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY” (7)


I put a question mark on this one because it was not as clear. However, the point deserves to be included here due to its emphasis. The preacher’s work is ministry, and more than helping the homeless, meeting with people in the community, and other such duties, the preacher is first and foremost, a preacher.

Excerpts from The Banner of Truth Magazine, June 2018

I would encourage you to subscribe to The Banner of Truth magazine. This June 2018 edition is marvelous (as are all of them).

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Jonathan Edwards and Preaching

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I recently finished reading The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards, by John Carrick. Edwards is by far my favorite preacher. I feel a connection with him through his writings and sermons. When I read one of his sermons, my heart is ushered into the presence of God in sweet and delightful communion. I think that is the main reason I admire the gifted Northampton preacher.

I found one aspect of the book particularly helpful: Edwards’ delivery. Carrick addresses various aspects of the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, from introductions to conclusions and everything in between. His treatment of Edwards’ delivery was a special blessing and encouragement to my soul. I share this with the hope that it may prove helpful and encouraging to someone else.

After spending several pages debunking the myth that Edwards was a boring preacher (pages 409-421), Carrick addresses the views of others on Edwards’ preaching. One gentlemen, a Dr. West of Stockbridge, is reported as answering Sereno Dwight’s question regarding the preaching of Jonathan Edwards with the following words:

               “But, if you mean by eloquence, the power of presenting an important truth before an audience, with overwhelming weight of argument, and with such intenseness of feeling, that the whole soul of the speaker is thrown into every part of the conception and delivery; so that the solemn attention of the whole audience is riveted, from the beginning to the close, and impressions are left that cannot be effaced; Mr Edwards was the most eloquent man I ever heard speak.”[1]

As a younger preacher, I found great encouragement in these words. In the midst of preachers like John Piper, R C Sproul, and David Platt, how in the world could I ever preach like them? My gifts are not like theirs. So, in my focus of other preachers I can easily become discouraged. Paul warns against this type of comparison (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 and 2 Corinthians 10:12). I found encouragement, because Jonathan Edwards may not have been the most boisterous preacher of his day (think of the fact that George Whitefield was a contemporary!). Yet, he was still a powerful preacher.

May God encourage our hearts, as we exercise and develop our gifts, to be preachers who faithfully preach the Word of Life.

[1] As quoted from Works, cxc in John Carrick, The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 429.

You can access Yale’s online edition of the works of Jonathan Edwards for free, here.

Preach: The Density of Sermons

In Mark Dever’s and Greg Gilbert’s book Preach: Theology Meets Practice, they devote a chapter to “Delivering the Sermon.” Overall the book is simply yet very helpful. This chapter, particularly, was helpful to me.

Under the heading “The Density of Sermons” the authors write, “The point isn’t for your congregation to be able to recall, like human Google searches, every sentence or even every point you made. The point is for the Word to shape their hearts and minds and wills, and that can happen even if they don’t remember the precise words or points you spoke.” (Preach, 124)

This was so helpful to me, because I tend to get discouraged when people don’t remember what I preached about. I read Andy Stanley’s and Lane Jones’ book Communicating to Change and was left with the impression that if people don’t remember the sermon then I have failed as a preacher. I know that was not their point, but that is how I felt.

With that being said, I hope this might help some of my preacher friends.