We are looking at seven reasons that we ought to preach. So far, we have explored four reasons: (1)God commands us to preach; (2) God speaks to us through our preaching; (3) Faith comes from hearing; and (4) The Church frows when the Word of God spreads. Today we will examine a fifth reason to preach:
(5) The Holy Spirit Uses Preaching to Sanctify Believers
A crucial aspect of salvation is the ongoing progressive sanctification of believers. Throughout one’s life the Holy Spirit gradually transforms a saved person from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Prime and Begg call this sanctifying ministry “feeding the flock” and they assert that it is to be among a pastor’s prime goals and priorities (On Being a Pastor: Understanding our alling and Work, 51):
A shepherd’s priority is to lead his flock into green pastures; and that is his principle task in handling the Scriptures. He is to enlarge the flock’s understanding of the faith so that they may render a better obedience to Christ (Romans 1:5). As they are properly fed, they will be strong in the Lord and in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1).
A congregation can be busy in all sorts of pursuits, but if the flock is not rendering a better obedience to Christ, then it is all for nothing. Preaching remains the foundational flock feeding ministry, though additional discipleship opportunities ought to be added to the life of a church in accordance with the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Paul describes the process of sanctification in detail in Romans 6-8. He begins by affirming that when a person is saved, he or she is united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:2-11). The effect of this union is that the power of sin has been broken and we are free, for the first time, to truly live for God. Sin no longer has any power over us (Romans 6:12-14). However, all saved people continue to battle with the desire to sin because of the weakness of our flesh. This battle is no longer a battle for salvation (which can never be won by works anyway) and sin no longer has ultimate power. Nevertheless, at the moment of salvation we are weak like babies and we require strengthening by the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul means when he writes that we are transformed from one degree of glory to another. When we are regenerated we are made positionally glorious and through progressive sanctification we are made more glorious experientially, that is more like Christ in practice. In Romans 8:1-17 Paul affirms that the power for sanctification is given by the grace of Christ active in the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There are many means that God uses to sanctify. One very important way is through the preaching of the Word of God. In a very intimate conversation between Jesus and God the Father, Jesus asked His Father to sanctify His followers in the truth. That is, He asked the Father to make His followers more like Him by washing them in the truth. Jesus proceeded to say, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is the Word of truth that sanctifies when it is employed in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus also said, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). The things that the Holy Spirit teaches are now contained in the pages of our Bibles. He will not teach anything that contradicts these Scriptures. Therefore, it is crucial that we preach the Word, trusting that the Holy Spirit will sanctify those who are able to hear our preaching by faith.