Preaching the Word of God Aright
PREACHING has been one of the chief means used to spread Christianity from its inception down to the present time. However, there is more than one kind of preaching. Not a few preachers in Christendom carry on in an extremely emotional manner, shouting and gesticulating and appealing to the feelings and even the prejudices of their listeners. But these can find no support in the Scriptures for their style of preaching. Such preaching is not the kind referred to by the apostle Paul when he counseled Timothy: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Tim. 2:15.
But neither are the many preachers of Christendom who go to the opposite extreme, who preach the Word of God, if at all, in a desultory, aimless manner, that is, merely passing from one subject to another without order or rational connection, preaching the Word of God aright. They are not doing their utmost to be approved by God. That much Bible preaching today comes justly under this charge is apparent from a report that appeared in the Chicago, Illinois, Tribune, October 4, 1963:
“Preach Word of God, Ritter Tells Council. Duty Often Unfulfilled, Cardinal Asserts. Vatican City, Oct. 3.—Cardinal Joseph Ritter of St. Louis told the Vatican Ecumenical council today that the Roman Catholic Church needs more preaching of the word of God. Speaking for the first time at a meeting of the council, the American cardinal told the 2,262 prelates gathered in St. Peter’s basilica that the duty of preaching is fulfilled only in a desultory fashion if at all.” Among other things, he stated that this preaching of the Word of God was “an indispensable condition for the success of all other reforms that the council may make.” It is indeed noteworthy that a cardinal should make the preaching of the Word of God so basic as to say that the success of all other reforms that the Vatican II council might institute would depend upon it.
Since Bible preaching is admittedly so basic, it may well be asked, Why should the situation in the Roman Catholic Church be such that one of her princes can complain that “the duty of preaching [the Word of God] is fulfilled only in a desultory fashion if at all”? Could this be due to a lack of appreciation of the importance of the Bible itself?
That the preaching of the Word of God should be anything but desultory, let alone neglected, is made clear by the Word of God itself. Thus when Jesus, right after his resurrection, met two perplexed and dejected disciples of his on the road to Emmaus, Jesus preached to them with telling effect: “He said to them: ‘O senseless ones and slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke!’ . . . And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” And with what result? They afterward said: “Were not our hearts burning as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?”—Luke 24:13-32.
Later that same day Jesus gave similar testimony to the eleven apostles and others assembled with them: “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all the things written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms about me must be fulfilled.” For them also, by his preaching, “he opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures, and he said to them: ‘In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day,’” and so forth. Clearly Jesus neither neglected the Scriptures nor did he use them aimlessly, but, rather, with telling effect.—Luke 24:44-46.
The apostle Paul claimed to imitate Christ, and among the many ways in which he did this was by preaching the Scriptures in a logical, coherent and rational manner, with telling effect; as can be seen in chapter after chapter of the book of Acts. Typical is the record regarding Paul’s preaching at Thessalonica: “There was a synagogue of the Jews. So according to Paul’s custom he went inside to them, and for three sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying: ‘This is the Christ, this Jesus whom I am publishing to you.’ As a result some of them became believers and associated themselves with Paul and Silas, and a great multitude of the Greeks who worshiped God and not a few of the principal women did so.”—Acts 17:1-4.
The Scriptural record gives like testimony regarding the disciple Apollos and his ministry in Achaia: “When he got there, he greatly helped those who had believed on account of God’s undeserved kindness; for with intensity he thoroughly proved the Jews to be wrong publicly, while he demonstrated by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” Nothing aimless, desultory, about his preaching, was there?—Acts 18:27, 28.
To what extent the Vatican II council will go along with Cardinal Ritter as to the importance of preaching the Word of God and the right manner of doing it remains to be seen. He may well be a voice in the wilderness in this matter, even as was one of his predecessors, Cardinal Kendrick, at the first Vatican council, at which he took a strong stand against the pope’s infallibility.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that for preaching to produce Christians it must be based upon the Word of God. More than that, such preaching must neither be an extremely emotional appeal nor be done in an aimless, desultory manner, but it must be preaching that appeals to the reason by presenting facts and arguments logically and coherently. The Christian witnesses of Jehovah as well as the publications used by them are committed to that kind of preaching, and it is proving effective, as the facts show.