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History of Preaching

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Date January 13, 2012

At a time when the importance of biblical preaching is downgraded in so many quarters it is important that we consider the history of preaching. John the Baptist was a preacher and great crowds went to him to be baptized in the Jordan but were at the same time stirred by his powerful preaching. He was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift to mankind and by far the most outstanding preacher ever. His ministry was not only one of healing the sick but of preaching the kingdom of God. He did it with authority. He expounded Scripture as can be seen in Luke 24:27: ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.’ The apostles followed him and we see in the history of the early church the paramount place that preaching had in the bringing into being of the Christian church and the spread of the gospel. Peter, Paul and others filled the Roman Empire with the preaching of the Word.

Down through the centuries preaching has saved the day in many countries which otherwise would have sunk into total darkness, which is always the result of sin and unbelief. The names of some of these preachers are ever before us – Augustine, John Chrysostom and others like them. The Reformation which turned Europe upside down would never have happened had it not been for Spirit-anointed preaching. The great awakening which saved England from a bloody revolution was fuelled by powerful preaching, especially that of George Whitefield, John Wesley and others with them. The nineteenth century had its share of great preachers such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. We will never know the extent to which divinely ordained and anointed preaching has saved the world from total disaster.

Our only hope for both the church and the world in the future is the kind of preaching to which the Apostle Paul referred when he spelled out his heart’s desire in 1 Corinthians 2:2-5: ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.’ Jesus made it very clear that the raising up of preachers would only happen as earnest prayer is made to the Lord of the harvest. Matthew 9:36-38. ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”‘

Is it not time that a clarion call was sent out to believers to be in much earnest prayer about the raising up of preachers for our day and for the future? We need it, our children need it, the world and the church does. Woe to us if this does not happen.

Martin Holdt passed away suddenly at the end of 2011 in his beloved South Africa, engaged in church planting, his great gift. He delighted us at the Banner of Truth Conference in Leicester last year [summaries of his addresses can be found here]. South Africa will be a colder country without him. We sympathize with his wife Elsabé and his children; his two sons are preachers. This editorial comes from the latest issue of the magazine he edited, Preaching and Preachers. One more is due to appear soon.

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