How is it that we hear God’s voice through preaching? Is the hearing of God’s voice dependent on the faithfulness of the preacher? Why are pastors tempted to disbelieve in the transformational power of God’s Word? We asked Art Azurdia…
Listen to sermon (Jonah 3.1-4):
Can you unpack this idea that preachers re-talk God’s talk, and that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God?
This is rooted in the fact that the Word is God-breathed, the Word is the very breath of God. So if there is going to be any type of authority in our preaching, and thus any kind of transformational power, we believe it is contained in the Word over against the person who’s delivering the Word. We believe that God’s mind, God’s will, God’s purpose, and God’s power are contained in the Word, and by virtue of this, faithful exposition will always be the explanation of the Word that God has already delivered. In that sense, it then becomes a fresh Word to the people who hear it. So God continues to speak through those words that are there; that’s part of the quality that makes them living as Hebrews 4:12-13 talks about. I think what we want to do as expositors is to be as faithful as we possibly can to explain what’s there, over against thinking it is our job to create a message that is birthed in our mind as a result of something stimulated by what we hear in the Bible.
To what extent is the hearing of the voice of God dependent on the faithfulness to the text on the part of the preacher?
Certainly God can bypass ordinary means; God can do exceptional things. We know of people who have been converted by the misapplication of Scripture. We talked about Revelation 3:20 at the Spurgeon Fellowship, and people who have been converted by the wrong application of that text. So God can bypass the ordinary use of means. What we also know is that what is on the pages of Scripture is already God-breathed, so our confidence has to be in that, over against having confidence in our creative imaginations that are stimulated by what’s on the page. In preaching, the closest we are possibly going to get to a living, active voice from God is the explanation of what is already there. Apart from that, I don’t think we can have any hope that we are going to bring before people a word that has any divine authority at all.
Do you think this is the full content of Jonah’s sermon; “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”?
I’m inclined to think that this is just a brief summary. But I’m only inclined- I don’t think that anybody can know for sure. There are so many salient details that we would like to have that, at least in the mind of the Spirit-inspired author, are not essential to the communication of his message. My own inclination is that there was more than just the repetition of these five Hebrew words.
Why are pastors tempted to believe that it will be something other than the word of God that transforms people?
One reason may be that pastors have just lost confidence in the transformational power of the Word of God. I think that’s probably the case for a lot of people. I think the second thing is that often we don’t see the kind of immediate responses in and from people, as a result of preaching, that we would like to see, those immediate responses that can be more quickly or easily generated by the use of other means, such as music. Good music can elicit those responses from all of us, just like a good movie can. When we deal with the Scriptures, often the response is not as immediate as we would like it to be, and because of that we get impatient, and we don’t see what the Word of God can do over years. Related to this is that we have to realize that we are in this for the long-haul, not just a single sermon. In this case in Jonah, as a result of a single sermon there is wholesale revival. That’s obviously more uncommon than common. The typical way that God’s people are built up is by the steady, ongoing, consecutive exposition of the Word of God, that over the course of years can and will effect long-term transformation.