Since expository preaching begins with the text of Scripture, it starts with God and is in itself an act of worship, for it is a declaration of the mighty acts of God. It establishes the focus of the people upon God and His glory before any consideration of man and his need.
James Stewart used to say, “Be yourself, but also, forget yourself!” Self-forgetfulness is of vital importance. We cannot make much of ourselves and much of the Lord Jesus Christ simultaneously. If people leave worship saying, “What an amazing preacher!” we have failed. Instead we must long for them to say, “What a great God, and what a privilege it is to meet Him in His Word, as we have just done.”
I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided they are affected with nothing but the truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.
People have the idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines (and God is the audience)!
The Word of God tells us that Christ’s church is glorious… [But] today the glory of the church is thickly veiled. It is no exaggeration to assert that in the main it presents a picture of advanced decadence and extreme feebleness… Let it be said emphatically, the church is where the truth is. Sound doctrine always has been, is today, and ever will be the foremost mark of the true church. But who dares to assert that there is today in the churches a rising tide of interest in doctrine? By and large people do not go to church to learn about God from His infallible Word, but to be tranquilized. And that the glory of God is both the beginning and the end of common worship does not seem to occur to them.
The highest form of worship is the preaching of God’s Word..
Worship in the pulpit is exercised by those who know the saving power of Christ, and express that power through the spoken word, molded by the written revelation of God in the Bible… The preacher, in his act of preaching, communicates the Bible (the knowledge he has gained of God) to the hearers. His worship becomes their worship. Preaching is worship.
[The preacher] appreciates the fact that he is simply the vessel that has been prepared to pour forth Christ into the mouth of those waiting for rivers of living water. In that instance and that act of preaching he worships God with all his heart. His heart is poured forth and every fiber of his being screams forth the majesty of Christ and the holiness of God as He addresses the saints. The explanation of the Excellencies he is depositing into the ears of the hearers is the immediate fruit of his personal ownership of those sublime truths. Preaching, for the preacher, is worship.
Here the preacher rests in a quiet assurance. He is backed by the promise that God is at work while he is about worship. In this he knows he is a planter. Seeds are sown and fruit will result. Yet, the fruit may not be seen for weeks, months or even years. Still, the preacher rests confident in who God is and what He has promised. God is at work and the preacher glories in that work like a vessel that is used by the hand to be lifted to the thirsty mouth. The preacher is worshipping in all of this. He is experiencing the pleasure of God upon himself as the Word of God rains down upon the people.
What do we think preaching is but the central act of Christian worship? As a matter of fact, everything else ought to build to the preaching of the Word, for that is when the God of whom we have been speaking and singing speaks to us from His eternal and perfect Word.
[The Puritans believed in] the supreme importance of preaching. To the Puritans, the sermon was the liturgical climax of public worship. Nothing, they said, honours God more than the faithful declaration and obedient hearing of His truth. Preaching, under any circumstances, is an act of worship, and must be performed as such. Moreover, preaching is the prime means of grace to the church.
Word and worship belong indissolubly to each other. All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of His name. Therefore, acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the name of the Lord, and worship is praising the name of the Lord made known.
To worship God…is to “glory in His holy name” (Ps. 105:3), that is, to revel adoringly in who He is in His revealed character. But before we can glory in God’s name, we must know it; hence the propriety of the reading and preaching of the Word of God in public worship… These things are not an intrusion into worship; they form the necessary foundation of it. God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to Him. He must disclose to us who He is before we can offer Him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.
God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to Him. He must disclose to us who He is before we can offer Him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.