If the church must recover anything in our day, it is confidence in the power of the Word of God. Our Lord did not choose to save His people through innovative programs; rather, He gave His Word to the church and appointed pastors and teachers to proclaim it to the people (Eph. 4:11–14). God could have written the message of salvation in the sky if He had so desired, but instead He has graciously ordained that His people will be a part of the outworking of His redemptive plan through their preaching of His Word. It has “pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).
We can be confident in the power of the preached Word of God because it is in this Word that our Creator has placed His might. The gospel belongs to God, as we read in Romans 1:1. It is something that He has devised and invested with the authority and power to call His elect to repentance and faith. A preacher does not have to trust in his own abilities, all he must do is exposit the Scriptures faithfully, knowing that all of His hearers who have been appointed for eternal life will receive from God the gift of faith and believe in His promises through Christ (Eph. 2:8–9). Practically speaking, this takes a lot of pressure off of the pastor. Salvation in the final analysis is not up to him but is up to the Lord.
However, the preacher is not allowed to be a merely passive actor in all of this, as if he can just walk into the pulpit on Sunday morning without having prepared himself. God expects ministers to study and work on improving their preaching in order that they may better handle the Bible and convey its meaning to their congregations (2 Tim. 2:15). The Lord works through our efforts, and we must strive to serve him with our very best, all the while remembering that any success the preacher may have is on account of God’s blessing.
Luther had a high view of preaching, and he argued that even average preachers should be well-taken care of. Especially gifted orators are rare, and, besides, the Lord works mostly through men who never achieve, much less seek, fame. Consistency — motivated by a heart filled with love for God and His people — and clarity is what He values, so let us also prize these things.