The means of grace are God’s appointed instruments by which the Holy Spirit enables believers to receive Christ and the benefits of redemption. God in His sovereignty could have as well chosen to immediately reveal Christ to His people but instead, He has put in place certain instruments by which to enable people to come to Christ and grow in Christ. The apostle Paul in Romans 10 mentions that faith to believe in Jesus comes by hearing and by hearing the word of God and this is achieved primarily through a preacher.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? – Romans 10:14
A few anomalies exist, but generally speaking, God brings sinners to faith and repentance through the proclamation of the gospel by a preacher. This article will explore central truths regarding the importance of preaching and listening to the word as a means of grace.
The Example of Jesus and the Apostles
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. – Luke 24: 44-45
From the temptations of Jesus to the first time He read in the synagogue, the scriptures have always been the central focus of Jesus’ ministry. Preaching the Word by displaying the truth of the scriptures to His followers was how Jesus taught His disciples. Following His ascension, His apostles continued this practice, making preaching and teaching the Word central to their ministries. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41), Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13-28), and numerous examples throughout the epistles reveal the essential role of proclaiming the gospel as a means of grace. The apostles emphasized the importance of preaching in the early church, declaring that it was their primary focus (Acts 6:2-4).
Preaching as a Means to Salvation
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. – Acts 16:14
The Word of God instructs believers to live good, holy lives and to have our conduct free from blame amongst unbelievers, but you’ll be hard-pressed to see an example of an unbeliever coming to Christ in the scriptures by just observing the good works of the believer. Instead, it is through the proclamation of the gospel, the preaching of the Word, that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of unbelievers, convicting them of sin and leading them to salvation. Both Peter at Pentecost and Paul with Lydia exemplify how preaching serves as the conduit by which the Lord pours out His grace upon those who hear and believe.
The scriptures contain the pathway to salvation, Paul emphasises this in 1 Timothy 3:15:
and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
It’s by preaching and expounding on what is found in the scriptures that men understand their need for repentance and salvation and finally put their faith in Christ Jesus.
Preaching as a Means to Sanctification
Preaching the Word does not merely serve the purpose of initiating faith in an unbeliever’s heart but also plays a critical role in the believer’s spiritual growth and sanctification. Through the exposition of Scripture, God educates His people and nurtures them in their faith. The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105), helping us to navigate the complexities of life in a fallen world. Paul while speaking to the Ephesian elders emphasized the importance of the word of God as He was leaving in Acts 20.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. – Acts 20:32
Paul also emphasizes the essential role Scripture plays in equipping believers for good works in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
As the believer grows in their understanding of the Word through preaching, they become better equipped to live a life of holiness, imitating Christ’s character and participating in the transformation process the Holy Spirit conducts in every believer – a process known as sanctification.
Furthermore, enriching sermons that accurately expound the Bible inspires believers to grow deeper in their personal study and devotional Scripture engagement. Acts 17:11 illustrates the commendable practice of the Bereans who, upon hearing the preached Word, eagerly examined the Scriptures daily to verify its truth, cultivating a deeper understanding of the gospel and its implications for their lives.
Preaching and Community
It should also be noted that preaching serves as a way for believers to exhort, encourage, and sometimes, lovingly correct one another. As we attentively listen to biblically faithful preaching, we are reminded of our common spiritual journey and our mutual accountability in nurturing our faith and sharpening one another in love and grace (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Attention to preaching fortifies our ability to discern truth from falsehood and equips us for the defense of the gospel in a confused and often hostile world. In doing so, we unite as a community, standing firm in one spirit, and striving together for the faith of the gospel, as Paul encourages us in Philippians 1:27:
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
Churches and communities that highly value and prioritize biblical preaching tend to foster environments where believers can share their wisdom, repent together, inspire one another to love and do good works, mobilise for evangelism, and build one another up in grace.
The importance of preaching and listening to the Word as a means of grace provides the believer with a unique opportunity to both partake in the continuing work of reconciliation and the sanctification of our souls. God in His infinite wisdom has provided this tool to bring men to Him and to make men more like Him. Let us, as believers, actively prioritize and embrace preaching and listening to the Word, recognizing that it is not only a means of grace but also a powerful catalyst for spiritual growth, unity, and maturity in our journey of faith.