The Role of the Holy Spirit and Preaching (Pt. 7)

Similarity No. 6:

the SUFFICIENCY of the Spirit

 Sixth, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have stressed their utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit in preaching. Their complete reliance involves the Spirit’s role in the preacher’s study, as well as in the pulpit. The expositor’s preparation in diligent study of the Word is entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit must enlighten the expositor’s understanding of the biblical text and deepen his convictions in it. The same can be said regarding the Spirit’s role in delivering the sermon. There can be no real preaching apart from the supernatural empowering of the Spirit of God.

Spirit-Empowered Preaching

Lloyd-Jones asserted that the Spirit’s work in the preacher’s delivery is “the greatest essential in connection with preaching.” Authoritative preaching, he claimed, “is God giving power, and enabling [him], through the Spirit… [to] do this work in a manner that lifts it up beyond the efforts and endeavors of man.”  Such preaching is God in the preacher, energizing him to expound the Scripture with supernatural ability. He states, “If there is no power, it is not preaching. True preaching, after all, is God acting. It is not just a man uttering words; it is God using him. He is being used of God. He is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.” Lloyd-Jones believed this divine element in preaching is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Recognizing this supernatural dimension, Lloyd-Jones described the Spirit’s activity in the preacher: “You are a man ‘possessed,’ you are taken hold of, and taken up…you have a feeling that you are not actually doing the preaching…You are looking on at yourself in amazement as this is happening. It is not your effort; you are just the instrument, the channel, the vehicle: and the Spirit is using you, and you are looking on in great enjoyment and astonishment.” By this, Lloyd-Jones affirmed the sovereign work of the third member of the Godhead in preaching, quickening his mind, enflaming his affections, and deepening his convictions.

In the pulpit, Lloyd-Jones acknowledged that the Spirit gives an expansion of thought and depth of profound expression: “It is of the very essence of the act of preaching—this freedom in your own mind and spirit, this being free to the influences of the Spirit upon you. If we believe in the Holy Spirit at all, we must believe that He is acting powerfully while we are engaged in this most serious and wonderful work.” Therefore, he urged that the preacher should earnestly pray that God would “let Him manifest His power in you and through you.” Lloyd-Jones believed: “Nothing but a return of this power of the Spirit on our preaching is going to avail us anything. This makes true preaching.” In short, Lloyd-Jones affirmed that if preaching is to know God’s blessing, it must know the power of God’s Spirit.

In Demonstration of Power

MacArthur, likewise, emphasizes the preacher’s complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit. “Powerful preaching occurs,” he writes, “only when a Spirit-illumined man of God expounds clearly and compellingly God’s Spirit-inspired revelation in Scripture to a Spirit-illumined congregation.” The Holy Spirit, who inspired the biblical text, is the same Spirit who must enlighten the preacher and the congregation.  MacArthur clarifies: “Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit that opens one’s spiritual eyes to comprehend the meaning of the Word of God. It involves the preacher of Scripture and his audience. God’s objective and historically past revelation in Scripture cannot be understood accurately apart from the present, personal, and subjective work of the Holy Spirit.” Without the Spirit teaching both the preacher and the listener, the Bible remains something of a closed book. Without His empowerment, the preacher will resort to manipulative techniques and fleshly coercions with the listener.

In preaching, MacArthur affirms that the preacher must not depend upon mere rhetoric, but upon the Holy Spirit: “Regardless of the erudition, the compelling logic, the soaring rhetoric, or the clever and interesting communication style, if the truth spoken is not accompanied by the power of God, it accomplishes nothing. But when empowered by God as it enters the prepared soul, the gospel truth saves.” To this end, MacArthur stresses that the Spirit must be at work, or preaching is vain:  “Genuine soul-transforming power accompanying gospel preaching is the work of the Spirit energizing both the preacher and the hearer.” The preacher can deliver the truth to the listener’s ear, but the Holy Spirit must take it to the mind and heart.

Aware of his vulnerability, MacArthur states: “I just pray that my own church would be a place of powerful preaching, and that we would never substitute anything for the Spirit-energized preaching of Christ, His cross, and the Word of God.” No amount of truth, if delivered without the Spirit’s ministry, can impact those who hear it. Is it any wonder that God has chosen to bless these two faithful servants, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur, as they have relied upon the Holy Spirit in their respective pulpits?

D. Martyn-Lloyd-Jones

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