Gospel preaching is a means of grace. God uses gospel preaching to change us and to change others. Listen to the apostle Peter. “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Peter tells us that without this word, we will perish. He compares frail fallen humanity to grass and flowers. Without this preached word we are all like grass in the fields and flowers in the grass. In verse 24, the apostle quotes Isaiah 40:6 and 8. “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field . . . The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” The context in Isaiah 40 is gospel preaching. The message is simple. “Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold, your God’” (Isaiah 40:9). The Lord will deliver His people Israel from their dispersion and Babylonian captivity. Peter writes to similarly dispersed people. To ensure we understand he is talking about gospel preaching, Peter adds, “And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). Thus Peter connects the “enduring word of God” (verse 22) with “the word which was preached to you” (verse 25).
The writer to the Hebrews makes a similar connection. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you” (Hebrews 13:7). Sixteenth-century Puritan, William Perkins, therefore says, “Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ” (The Art of Prophesying, 7). My working definition of preaching makes this same connection. It begins with the words, “Preaching is God communicating His truth.” Following Peter and the writer to the Hebrews, preaching is a form of the word of God. But, we ask, “How so?”
Commenting on Hebrews 13:7, William Gouge, a member of the Westminster Assembly, answers. “That which ministers do or ought to preach is styled the word of God in a fourfold respect” (Commentary on Hebrews, 1072). After dealing with extraordinary ministers, Gouge says, “As for ordinary ministers, they have God’s word written and left upon record for their use . . . They therefore that ground what they preach upon the Scripture, and deliver nothing but what is agreeable thereunto, preach the word of God” (Ibid.). In this same vein, William Greenhill, another Westminster Divine, connects preaching and prophesying. “If men preach or prophesy anything which is not from the Spirit, but from themselves, it is not acceptable to God, neither should be entertained by us” (An Exposition of Ezekiel, 299).
In addition, when men preach what is agreeable to the word of God it necessitates a high regard for “the subject-matter which they preach, which is the will of God,” a high regard for “the end of preaching, which is the glory of God, and making known ‘the manifold wisdom of God,’ Eph. iii. 10,” and a high regard for “the mighty effect and efficacy thereof, for preaching God’s word is ‘the power of God unto salvation, Rom i. 16” (Gouge, 1072-1073). Preaching is therefore styled the word of God when it is agreeable to Scripture and sets forth the will of God, for the glory of God, in the power of God. Greenhill adds this observation. “God’s word shall not be in vain, which is given out against hard-hearted sinners” (Greenhill, 521. Italics added).
If gospel preaching is a form of the word of God, you need to sit under such gospel preaching. And you need to bring other men and women and boys and girls to sit under such gospel preaching.