It is not that preaching itself is central to worship, said Ron Man, “but the centrality of the Word in all of its expressions (preaching, reading, sung, prayed), and the people’s response to it in praise, confession, commitment, etc.”1 Of the profound significance of preaching, John Piper wrote:
The aim of preaching, whatever the topic, whatever the text, [will] quicken in the soul a satisfaction with all that God is for us in Jesus, because this satisfaction magnifies God’s all-sufficient glory; and that is worship. Therefore, the mission of all preaching is soul satisfying, God-exalting worship.2
In Nehemiah 8, the passage illustrates worship and the power that preaching has upon it. First, the passage mentions that all people gathered together, young and old, rich and poor. A wide gamut of citizens was reached with Ezra’s effective congregational preaching. Ezra was elevated above the crowd on a platform so all could hear—a physical acknowledgment of the importance of Scripture.
When the Word of God is skillfully proclaimed, the message will stimulate a response of worship, confession, and commitment. Isaiah 55:11 says, “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (NIV). The response of the congregation in Nehemiah 8:11-12, at the ending of Ezra’s message, was that ”…all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them” (NKJV, italics added).
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary of Nehemiah 8, said that the Word of God helps to cleanse and invigorate the hearts of God’s people. Three basic reactions arose from the congregation after the teaching: 1) they comprehended the Word [8:1–8]; 2) they celebrated in the Word [vv. 9–12]; and 3) they submitted to the Word [vv. 13–18]. Wiersbe said, “The whole person—mind (understanding), heart (rejoicing), and will (obeying)—must be captive to God’s truth.”3
Theologically, God’s Word is the authority governing true worship. Preaching is the proclamation of His glory and will, and worship will rise from the Saints in response to the revelation of His greatness. One’s philosophy of preaching in worship must contain passion for the Word and for people, fueled by the profound pleasure of God. Kent Hughes has stated: “The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile — the Holy Spirit in your sails!”4
One’s method of preaching may be expository or otherwise, but unpacking truth in the midst of the congregation is scripturally mandated. 2 Timothy 4: 2 states, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (NKJV).
1 Ron Man, “Why the Study of Worship?”
2 John Piper, “Preaching As Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,” Trinity Journal, 16:1 (Spring 1995), 35.
3 Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament in One Volume (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 775.
4 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Preaching the Word) (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2007), Kindle Edition locations 136-137.
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