The sacraments have been an essential part of Christian worship from the very beginning of the church, with baptism and the Lord’s Supper serving as signs and seals of God’s promises. As signs and seals of God’s promises, the sacraments may not be administered apart from the teaching and preaching of those promises. Without the proclamation of the Word of God, the sacraments are empty, for there are no promises to sign and seal when these promises, which we find only in Scripture, are not declared. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word are central to God’s worship, and to get a better understanding of what happens in preaching and the preacher’s task, we will spend a few days considering these subjects with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Preachers and Preaching.
One of the most remarkable things about the Reformation is how the Reformers responded to suddenly becoming the most well-known figures in Europe. Martin Luther’s protest against churchly abuses made him an international name, and the same was true of John Calvin. These Reformers very easily could have traveled to promote themselves or left their parishes for “bigger and better” things. However, that is not what they did. Both of them continued in their ordinary vocations as preachers and teachers of the Word of God. Over their lifetimes, they preached thousands of sermons, laboring to open the Word of God to their congregations on the Lord’s Day and throughout the rest of the week every week, fifty-two weeks a year.
In other words, the Reformers saw themselves as ordinary preachers whose most important work was preaching and teaching the Word of God. They took seriously the Scripture’s injunctions that church elders be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), and they devoted themselves to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). Certainly, they were capable administrators and gifted in many other areas, but that was not where they spent the majority of their time. Instead, they continually studied and proclaimed the Word in their sermons and in their writings. And the result is that God blessed their ministries, and the gospel spread throughout Europe and beyond.
Today, many Christians expect their pastors to be business managers, professional counselors, and creators of exciting programs. While none of these things is inherently bad, we should expect our pastors above all else to faithfully preach and teach God’s Word to us.