WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- John Piper, in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, emphasized the essential role of preaching in worship, asking at the outset, "Why does preaching have a prominent place in the church today? And is there biblical warrant for this?"
Piper, now a vocational elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., said March 21 the Word of God is preeminent because Scripture affirms its preeminence.
"God has chosen to reveal Himself as the Word and by the Word. First, God was the Word before anything existed. As the Gospel of John states, 'In the beginning was the Word.'
"Second," Piper said, "God reveals Himself by the Word (1 Samuel 3:21). If worship is a seeing and a savoring of the appearing of the glory of God, then the Word is to be central."
Piper said 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5 affirms that the Word of God is breathed out by God, and he said worship is the response of the mind and heart to God's work in the world.
"His works are done by His Word," Piper said. "If we are to see a work of God, we should know that the work is brought about by the Word. For instance, in Jesus' life and ministry, sins are forgiven by His word. The dead are raised by His word. The sick are healed by His word.
"The Word created life and therefore wherever there is worship and response to God's Word, it is first because of God's mighty Word."
An essential component of the Word, Piper said, is that it penetrates the heart and the soul. Something powerful happens when the Word of God is accepted and trusted.
"The Word of God is to be both seen and savored," he said. "We are to mentally assent to God's Word, and our hearts are to respond and love His truth. These two constitute true worship."
Preaching has historical precedence as well, Piper said, highlighting texts such as Nehemiah 8 and Luke 4. In Nehemiah, Piper said, Ezra blessed the Lord, and the Israelites worshiped in response to the reading of the Word. Additionally, the priests helped the people understand the instructions from the Word.
In Luke 4, Piper noted, Jesus traveled to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath. After arriving, He read from Isaiah and said, 'Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'
"As these two texts show," Piper said, "there is a history of people gathered for worship, the Word read and someone opening the Word for the people to be affected by it. Worship is both a right knowing and a right feeling in response to the Word of God. Without right knowing, we have emotionalism. Without right feeling, we have intellectualism."
Piper concluded, "Preaching is something more than explaining the Bible. Preaching is a valiant form of communication that is in accord with its eternal worth. All vital, Christ-exalting and authentic communion with the living God is to be saturated with the Word of God, and this is essential in preaching."
Michael McEwen is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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