What is the Source Material for Preaching? (Pt 1)

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the source for Christ-centred preaching. There is no other book that can serve as the material for our preaching. Undoubtedly other resources will be helpful supplements to our understanding of Scriptural truth. However, these other books, testimonies, or ideas can never replace the Bible as the primary preaching text. Tragically, some pastors are beginning to preach from books or anecdotes other than the Bible, sometimes in part and sometimes for entire sermons. When this happens the preacher has wrongly asserted himself as an authority in the place of God, which has a devastating effect on the Church. Haddon Robinson (Biblical Preaching, 20) remarks:

Ministers can proclaim anything in a stained-glass voice at 11:30 on Sunday morning following the singing of hymns. Yet when they fail to preach the Scriptures, they abandon their authority. No longer do they confront their hearers with a word from God. That is why most modern preaching evokes little more than a wide yawn. God is not in it.

Abandoning the Bible in the pulpit is the same as abandoning God in the pulpit. What’s more, a preacher who appeals to anything other than the Bible has mistaken his role in the local church. Preachers are not to have any authority in and of themselves. All authority belongs to God and therefore a preacher can only deliver a message with authority if he is faithfully expositing the Words of God from the Bible. Faithful books can be helpful in learning and teaching so long as they supplement the Bible and not replace it. We cannot afford, especially in today’s culture, to replace the Bible for any other book in the pulpit (See Piper, Supremacy of God in Preaching, 40-43).

Our preaching absolutely depends upon a radical commitment to the whole Bible and to a passionate conviction that it is the inspired inerrant Word of God. Without this commitment and this conviction our preaching will dry up. Even many who agree in principle that we ought to be preaching from every book of the Bible will undoubtedly have carved out a canon within a canon, meaning that they will choose to preach from some books but not from others, or from some sections and not from others. It is extremely rare for a preacher to exposit from all parts of all sixty-six books throughout the course of his ministry career. William Still (Work of the Pastor, 21) puts it bluntly:

I suggest to you that such a thorough, radical ministry (declaring the whole counsel of the word of God contained in the Bible) is so little known today that most people, even in the evangelical church, have not the faintest idea of its effects and fruits.

As this quotation suggests, some of the stilted expressions of Christianity in our churches today are the result of shallow preaching, both in depth and breadth. Preachers are often hesitant to plumb the deep truths of Scripture because of a lack of understanding in themselves or due to a fear that the congregation will not be able to keep up. Preachers are also apt to return to the same familiar pools of preaching texts from certain sections of Scripture.

The reasons for this are as varied as one could imagine. Some of the most obvious explanations include an unbalanced preference for the New Testament, a lack of knowledge of some parts of the Bible, fear that the congregation will get bored, scared, or angry if some passages are tackled, a secret conviction that some passages are “more inspired” than others, the belief that some passages are more applicable and relevant than others, and the desire to be appealing to seekers and newcomers in the name of evangelism. Each of these reasons is inappropriate and not becoming of a preacher of God’s Word.

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