For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
(1 Thess. 2:12)
A question commonly asked is, “What makes preaching an act of worship?” From one sense, the question may be asked out of a lack of understanding of finding religious authority through apostolic example. In the New Testament, we read of preaching taking place whenever disciples of Christ assembled on Sundays to worship (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26ff) along with prayer (Acts 2:42), singing (Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19), observing the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:17ff), and giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2). We are told to not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6; cf. Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). Thus, preaching is part of the worship we offer to God when we assemble on the Lord’s Day.
In another sense, however, the inquiry about what makes preaching an act of worship may be asked out of a desire to better understand how the person in the pew would participate in this act of worship. After all, unlike singing, praying, communion, and giving, each individual in the assembly is not personally doing the preaching. It’s usually one individual out of the assembly who preaches to the whole. Thus, one can understandably wonder how they personally worship God while the man behind the pulpit is preaching to them.
Perhaps a better way to describe preaching as an act of worship is to describe listening as an act of worship. As has been brought out several times in this series of articles on my thoughts about worshiping God in spirit and truth, the Lord considers our worship to be meaningless if while offering it our heart is far from Him (Matt. 15:7-9a). If our worship is vain because while singing Amazing Grace we are thinking about the Titans game which will come on later that afternoon, then our worship would likewise be vain if we stare at the preacher while he’s preaching his sermon and our thoughts are on the list of responsibilities waiting for us at work on Monday. On the contrary, if we are actively listening to the message being preached then our hearts would NOT be “far away” from the Lord.
Yet, consider how the Lord warned the prophet Ezekiel about those people “who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses” and urge others to come hear, “saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord’” (Ezek. 33:30). What was His warning? “They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain” (v. 31). Why were they like this? “Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them” (v. 32).
Here were people obviously listening to Ezekiel preach and were even excited about it, urging others to come and listen. Yet they were not doing what God commanded them to do through his preaching, and the reason given was because they basically viewed Ezekiel’s preaching as entertainment. Let us not make the same mistake, friends. Instead of focusing on the preacher’s oratory abilities or lack thereof in the same way we would rate a movie or concert, let us instead of the attitude commended by Paul in the passage quoted above: viewing the biblical message as coming not from the preacher, but from God. If we have the mindset of “Through the preacher I am hearing a message from the Almighty Himself! What a privilege! I must pay close attention and heed every word with humility and a penitent heart!”, we would certainly be worshiping God as we listen to His message proclaimed.
Think on these things, brethren…