The mystery of preaching is that it is where and when God speaks. God speaks his word in sermons. Calvin said that God uses the ministry of men, “doing his own work by their lips, just as an artificer uses a tool for any purpose.”

Jesus introduces this principle to his disciples in Matthew 10. In verse 7 he tells them, “As ye go preach.…” Later in the same chapter Jesus makes it clear that when they are delivered up, they will be given what to speak, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (v. 20). Jesus clearly taught that when his disciples spoke, God spoke.

Paul takes up the same theme. In First Corinthians 2, speaking of spiritual trust, he says: “… that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. (vv. 12, 13).

The thought is repeated clearly in First Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”

Paul often brings this theme forward and stresses that his words are God’s words. He sets a New Testament principle in following the Old Testament example of the prophets who spoke the words of God. Certainly the preacher of today does not speak God’s words in the same sense that the apostles and prophets did. Yet today, the proclamation of the Word of God still carries with it that inevitable “thus saith the Lord,” as it did in times past.

To explain how God acts to speak in the proclamation of the Word is difficult. Paul did not grasp how it happened ...

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