The Primacy of Preaching

Susan Mutch

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“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” Numbers 11:29

This! This was the desperate cry of the ancient preacher in response to those who would have forbidden the prophetic unction from falling on others in the camp of the saints. “Enviest thou for my sake?” But Moses was a true prophet, a preacher of preachers, in touch with the Divine, face aglow, who spoke with a tongue of living fire. He had a prophet’s vision and a prophet’s burden.

 “Let there be more preachers!” This is still the cry of every true God-inspired prophet today.

Preaching is God’s chosen method of saving the world. It has always been. Noah, we are told, was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), warning the antediluvian people by word and deed of impending judgment and proffered mercy.

“I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts,” complained the lonely preacher in Horeb. “The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it away!” But the still small voice reassures forlorn Elijah, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kings 19). Go in the authority of heaven and anoint another from among them to be prophet!

There is no shortage of people upon whom God can place the heavenly calling. Whether they be ploughing with oxen in the field as Elisha or languishing by the river like Ezekiel. Whether they are exhausting themselves at their fishing nets like Peter and the sons of Zebedee or persecuting the church of God like Saul of Tarsus. God has called them from the womb to proclaim His Word to the people. And if they will make good on that grace which calls them and not forfeit it through disobedience, they will bless the world and save the lost.

Of all gifts of the Holy Ghost, preaching is the greatest. “I would,” says Paul, that prince among preachers, “that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues… Covet to prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:5, 39). Miracles are wonderful. Healings are the “children’s bread.” Knowledge and languages are sublime. But it is preaching that builds up the church and convinces the sinner (vs. 3, 24- 25). Over all the other spiritual gifts, preaching is paramount.

Of preaching, it can truly be said that there is…

No profession more glorious: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15)!

No responsibility more terrible: “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16)!

No vocation more humbling: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Men and women cannot enter the Eden of salvation and get to the tree of eternal life except they first pass by the cherubim holding the flaming sword of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrew 4:12). There are no bypasses and shortcuts around the holders of the words of life. Indeed, how shall they even hear without a preacher (Romans 10:15)?

“Despise not prophesyings,” was the commandment to the believers in Macedonia (I Thessalonians 5:20). And this exhortation is needed even more so today, when churches have relegated preaching to the shortest part of service, eclipsed by the riotous and raucous stagecraft of worship bands and praise fests.

Singing is wonderful and biblical in its place. There are messages in songs. Doctrinal truth can be sung to the edification of believers. But Christians make a mistake when they allow the song service to infringe upon the time for the Word of God. Preaching is the principle thing in Christian worship and must always have the preeminence.

The public assembly is the place for preaching. Whether it is in the meeting house, or, as Whitfield and Wesley taught us, in the open fields. Preaching is a public duty and is responsive in nature. It calls on the audience to assent and respond. Is it any wonder, then, that during this COVID-19 crisis, the kings of the earth took precise aim at churches, discouraging them to meet and in some places outright prohibiting them? Virtual meetings, with their inherent predisposition for distraction and lack of human connection, can never, ever take the place of the public assembly, the very context and platform of preaching.

Preaching as an afterthought and preaching disconnected from its proper arena: Christians today ought to and must fully resist these twin sins.

We have reached the time of the angel ministry flying in the midst of heaven, “having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

Are you one of that number? Oh, for more godly men and women to hear the call and go forth to gather the harvest! Preaching is first, and it will be last.

Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets! 

“I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”

― Richard Baxter
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