Luther on Preaching

27 Aug

Preaching.  The word brings with it a great load of baggage.  Ask people about preaching and they will respond with a variety of perspectives and experiences.  I’ve had my own varied experiences with preaching, but my perspective has not changed: Preaching is indispensable.

The reason I say this is because of the way I believe God works through the preaching of His word.  In his book, Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George writes the following regarding Luther’s perspective on the preaching of God’s word (a perspective that, generally speaking, I agree with):

“Public preaching of the Word of God is an indispensable means of grace and a sure sign of the true church.  Through the words of the preacher, the living voice of the gospel is heard.”

With this in mind, I wanted to present a few preaching tips from the man himself, Martin Luther, that will hopefully prove helpful:

“Let him speak forth vigorously and clearly, not as though he had a leaf in front of his mouth.”
While it may express itself differently in different people, there should be an energy and passion that exudes from the preacher as he proclaims and explains the Scriptures.  He should also do everything within his ability to make sure he speaks clearly so as to be understood.

“More important, the preacher should have something worth saying.”
Preachers do not exist to merely relate stories and tell jokes (lets be honest, most struggle with the latter of these two).  Rather, they are to help God’s people better understand God’s word, the God it reveals, and how they are to live in relation to that God.  This requires knowing one’s congregation, as well as knowing and studying the Scriptures, and coming to the pulpit with a clear idea of what he is going to say.

“Let the preacher be a bonus textual is–a good one with the text–well versed in the Scriptures.”
Transitioning from the previous point, the preacher must be good with the text.  He should be well versed in the Scriptures, and give himself over to them in preparing his message for the people.

“The sermon should not be couched in theological jargon, but in the clear, crisp language of the people.”
Know your flock.  Don’t speak over their heads with high and lofty terminology that only your seminary professors would understand.  Put such things in clear, concise ways that your congregation can understand them as they arise from the text.  Illustrate and apply things when you sense something may be difficult to understand.  As Luther said, “I do not preach to Drs. Pomeranus, Jonas, and Philipp, but to my little Hans and Elizabeth.”

Above all, preaching must be true to its proper content, which is Christ.”
In preaching, point people to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Let them see how all the Scriptures are about Him.  Encourage, comfort, and challenge people in light of the grace of God revealed in Christ and the great and mighty promises we have in Him.

And one final tip from Luther:

“The three marks of good preachers are these: He stands up, speaks up, and knows when to shut up!”


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