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Preach the Word: Because Its Message Is Timeless and Truly Powerful

Thursday, January 09, 2014 | Comments (17)

by John MacArthur

A primary reason I still preach the Bible is that it alone is God’s eternal and divinely empowered message. Thus it is both timeless and truly powerful.

More than four decades of ministry (or any finite number for that matter) could never begin to exhaust its freshness and richness, its depth of teaching, or its ability to impact lives. The Word of God is timeless because its Author is timeless—and no matter how the culture changes, the message of salvation (which is the heart of God’s message) never changes.

Scripture is powerful because, unlike self-help programs and man-made solutions which never really get below the surface, the Bible is empowered by God Himself. That’s why it is able to transform people in the deepest reaches of their hearts. Hence I preach the Bible because this ancient book, in which the knowledge of God is revealed, contains all that people need for every aspect of life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). That reality defines true relevance, and that is exactly why Paul told Timothy to preach the Word in season and out of season.

Let’s face it—in our generation the Word is “out of season.” The market-driven philosophy currently in vogue says that plainly declaring biblical truth is outmoded and ineffective in this climate of postmodernism. Biblical exposition and theology are seen as antiquated and extraneous. “Churchgoers don’t want to be preached to anymore,” this philosophy says. “Generation Y won’t just sit in the pew while someone up front preaches at them. They are products of a media-driven generation, and they need a church experience that will satisfy them on their own terms by giving them what they are used to.”

Meanwhile, many influential church leaders insist that Scripture is unclear as to its meaning anyway. They blend, bend, and butcher God’s Word to suit their purposes and perspectives. The text doesn’t inform their preaching; their preaching informs the text.

We are definitely in an “out of season” time, which is exactly what the Holy Spirit anticipated when He inspired this mandate. But the modern evangelical misunderstanding of this text seems to indicate that many church leaders think it means, “Preach the Word in season, period. And let people tell you when it’s in season.”

There have always been men in the pulpit who gather crowds because they are gifted orators, interesting storytellers, entertaining speakers, dynamic personalities, shrewd crowd manipulators, rousing speechmakers, popular politicians, or erudite scholars. Such preaching may be popular, but it is not necessarily powerful. No one can preach with power who does not preach the Word. And no faithful preacher will water down or neglect the whole counsel of God. Proclaiming the Word—all of it—is the pastor’s calling.

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)


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#1  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 12:35 PM

I think that 2 Pet 1:3 says that it is knowledge of Jesus that gives us everything we need for life and godliness. It is talking about the living Word, who is Jesus, not the written word.

Also when Peter penned these words, the was no written and complied "word" (the Bible).

#2  Posted by Mary C Rodriguez  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 1:41 PM

I used to congregate in a church were the preacher was respected, he preaches the gospel, and i really believed that i was growing up as a christian, but unfortunately along with the true of God, there were other things, as histories, motivational messages ( in its time i thought that was great to have that in a church ), beautiful music and some kind of "evangelical tradition" as teaching how to speak tongues (angelicals as a private languaje between Holy Spirit and you), although in that place there was not healers, people there used to show admiration for Healers as Cash Luna. It is really sad for me now because I know that there are sincere people there, that really believe that they are following Jesus. I have almost six months without congregating myself and my child there because i asked a pastor to support with the Bible what he said about Healers as Cash Luna and " holy laugh" , he can not do it and also prohibed me to see strange fire conferences . Since i follow your preaching, and read your books i understand better my Bible. I use to attend the live stream of sunday's services and hear grace to you almost everyday as look for your preaching online. I would like to find a congregation of grace community church near from Mexicali, but there isnt. There is a lot of work here, biblical evangelism to do for the God´s Glory. We need more people Preaching the Word instead telling histories, or doing more "evangelical tradition ( as catholic tradition)". Than you, dear Pastor MacArthur, your life is a really bless.

#3  Posted by Todd Farr  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 5:52 PM

Steve,

"Hence I preach the Bible because this ancient book, [b]in which the knowledge of God is revealed[/b], contains all that people need for every aspect of life and godliness"

Ultimately, our knowledge of our Lord comes from His Word, not from what we perceive Jesus to be or other's opinions of Him. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the Word of God is [i]living[/i] and active". The Word of God is alive through the power of His Spirit. Also, from our Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." His Words [i]are[/i] Scripture. You cannot seperate our knowledge of Him from our knowledge of His Word.

#4  Posted by Hobie Holden  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 6:43 PM

Steve Carlton,

Dr. MacArthur actually clarified his usage of 2 Peter 1:3 within the sentence which he referenced the verse. He preaches the Bible "in which the knowledge of God is revealed." Thus, Scripture contains all that we need pertaining to life and godliness because it reveals to us all the knowledge of God that He determined we need.

Hope that helps!

#5  Posted by Todd Farr  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 7:55 PM

And I just found out that I have no "knowledge" of how to bold or italicize in this forum, ha.

#6  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Thursday, January 09, 2014at 11:11 PM

Are you saying that it is not possible to have a two way real time conversation with Jesus? I mean, I know He will never say anything to me that contradicts His word, but are you really saying that He can not speak to me and me speak to Him?

Is there a specific verse that says the Bible contains everything about God that He determines I need to know about Him? Again, I know it is my baseline, my ultimate authority and the cornerstone of my Christian walk, but does it say that it contains everything I should seek to know about Jesus? Or about walking in newness of life?

#7  Posted by Louis Bell  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 12:16 AM

The Truth that is found in the Word of God is complete. That is all that needs to be delivered from the pulpit. Our society has become too consumed with Political Correctness and Tolerance that it has driven preachers to abandoned serious truths of Scripture and the Gospel that are vital in one's walk with The Lord Jesus Christ. There are things that need to be discussed such as sin and the consequences of sin that are not popular but are an integral part of Scripture. To hinder, twist or manipulate Scripture in any way in fear of hurting someone's feelings, is shameful and blasphemous to God. His Word is perfect and complete. Preachers are to deliver the Word, as a waiter delivers the meal. They are not the cooks who prepared the meal.

#8  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 3:48 AM

Many Christians miss out on God encounters because they are satisfied with good theology.

Most of us came to Christ, not as a result of theology, doctrine, knowledge or intellect, but because we had an experience, an encounter, with the risen Christ. For us, this event was, and is, the most profound life-changing thing that has ever happened in our lives. If it was experience and encounter with Christ that formed the pathway to the single largest change we will ever see in our lives, does it make sense that God would then abandon experience and encounter as a primary way that He grows us up in Him?

Why are we so afraid of experience and encounter? Perhaps it is because it is not an exact science, and therefore it is highly subjective and capable of being manipulated by others for their betterment and gain. But to deny the importance of experience and encounter, to eviscerate its permissive use across the board, is to deny the relational nature of God. Intimacy can not be developed solely by reading a book about someone. It comes from time spent hanging out together, from dialog based in transparency and honesty, and from experiencing each other in the midst of life and life situations. It is, in reality, all about experience and encounter.

Freedom is always riskier than captivity. Experience is always riskier than doctrine. Love is always riskier than theology.

#9  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 9:56 AM

Hi Louis. I am not sure if you intended your post as a response to my questions in my earlier post. I will assume that the answer is no.

Is there a verse or verses that say that the Bible contains everything I need to know about God? Are you saying that I should not seek to know anything about God/Jesus that is not in the written Word? If I look at every situation, experience and personal interaction in my life by asking "Jesus, what do you want to show me about You in this?", am I doing something wrong? Is it wrong for pastors to speak about things that are not specifically covered in Scripture?

#10  Posted by Mary C Rodriguez  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 10:44 AM

Hi Steve, God bless you, as you ask for a specific verse here you have:

2 Timothy 3:16-17

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for all good works.

....Verse 17 saids that The Spcripture equipped the man of God for ALL good works ( that is why we daid that is COMPLETE, it is for ALL good works )

in other hand....about the Bible is closed, her you have other verse:

Revelation 22:18

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.

We just can not said that we are earing words of God out of Scriptures, if you have new revalation ¿ Should we preserve it as the Bible, should we know it? if each person have one fifferent...what can we do with that? is ti all real information from God to us, if that is fact, how can we do this other kind of " revelation from God" to live in obedience to Him?

Thank you for your attention and please forgive my bad english redaction

#11  Posted by Mary C Rodriguez  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 11:00 AM

Steve, here i am again...in your comment number 9, I agree with you about that Crist show as personal characteritics about himself in the way He acts in our lives, so that characteristics are all described in the Bible, it means that the Bible describe God, in all His forms, so if we knows that God is good, we can see His goodness in our lives, if we know by the biblical descrption of God that He is Faitful, we can see His Faitfulness in our daily living...so please see the difference: if we in our personal experience find that God likes to make us laugh without control, as crazy people, we CAN NOT think that we are seeing a personal characteristic of God, because it is not described on the Bible...again, i apologize for me bad redaction in english language...blessings

#12  Posted by Tim Eriksen  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 11:41 AM

Steve,

Let me make an attempt to answer your questions.

Are you saying that it is not possible to have a two way real time conversation with Jesus? Unless you are a prophet or apostle, then yes.

I mean, I know He will never say anything to me that contradicts His word, but are you really saying that He can not speak to me and me speak to Him? It is not a matter of can not (which implies ability), it is a matter of does not (meaning the means he uses is the Word empowered by the Spirit). We can speak to him through prayer. He speaks to us through His Word.

Is there a specific verse that says the Bible contains everything about God that He determines I need to know about Him? Yes. Scripture is sufficient, for example 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Again, I know it is my baseline, my ultimate authority and the cornerstone of my Christian walk, but does it say that it contains everything I should seek to know about Jesus? Or about walking in newness of life? Yes and Yes.

In your next post you stated, “Most of us came to Christ, not as a result of theology, doctrine, knowledge or intellect, but because we had an experience, an encounter, with the risen Christ.” I would suggest that is not entirely correct. We did not have an encounter like Paul did. We came to Christ through the power of the Spirit through the means of someone preaching the truth about our condition, God’s righteousness, and the person and work of Christ (Romans 10) from God’s Word. Is salvation an experience? Absolutely, but it is one based on God’s Word not outside of it.

Why are we so afraid of experience and encounter? We are not afraid of it, but we recognize the true nature of it - it is inferior to revealed truth in God’s Word (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Hope this helps.

#13  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Friday, January 10, 2014at 12:17 PM

Steve, in response to your comments and questions:

1. The Scripture speaks clearly concerning its total sufficiency for all matters of faith, life, and practice. In fact that is the exact counsel that Paul gave to Timothy:

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17)

2. Here is a something helpful John MacArthur said concerning spiritual experiences in a sermon called Does Experience Determine Truth (preached on June 9th, 1991):

“Now, what about experience? Is there such a thing as a true spiritual experience? Sure. A true spiritual experience will be the result of the quickening of truth in the Christian's mind. In other words, the spirit, all of a sudden gives dramatic life to a truth. It does not occur in a mystical vacuum. In an authentic, spiritual experience, there are emotions and feelings and senses and I want you to know that I believe that and I understand that. I have some absolutely exhilarating spiritual experiences. And I have some very difficult experiences; very sad and heart-wrenching experiences. And I'm not talking about an emotional experience or an earthly experience; some kind of worldly thing. I'm talking about a spiritual experience. I have them and I hope you have them. God has given us our emotions so that we can respond to his truth. But I do not have an experience that is godly that leads me to truth in a vacuum. I have an experience in response to truth.”

#14  Posted by Todd Farr  |  Saturday, January 11, 2014at 11:58 AM

Steve,

I just want to say that although this is through an electronic format, these are conversations that are an "encouragement to one another", intended to "build each other up" in the the faith. 1 Thes 5:11 I hope to never come across as arrogant or entitled in my own opinion but by God's grace, am striving for a better understanding of His Truth. That truth, sought out in love, is all that matters.

You have asked several good questions and I think these are questions many Christians struggle with. I have, and still do, struggle with these types of questions. I also think Mary and Cameron answered a couple of those questions very well. I kind of wanted to focus on one question because it was directed to me and carries significance in my life and I hope we can both grow through my response. You asked this question, "Are you saying that it is not possible to have a two way real time conversation with Jesus?" As our Lord and Savior, an intimate relationship is what He desires from His followers and conversation is essential to that relationship. In John 10:27, Jesus, after his great teaching on being the Good Shepherd, speaks to the Jews about His sheep knowing His voice and following Him. So, He makes it very clear that He speaks to His followers. But how do I know His voice? I mean, quite honestly, I am almost 32 years old but for the majority of my life, I have filled my head with so much worldly nonsense that this stuff still tries to creep in from time to time. So, how do I really discern when my Lord is speaking to me? There has to be a foundational truth and I know you agree because you said so.

But, I'd like to just share an example from the life of someone who I am very close to and I don't need to share too many details but I think an example such as this is important to this conversation. This individual gave their life to Christ at a young age, helped bring up a family in love and adoration for the Lord, and grew in the Word of God faithfully for many years. However, a bitter and painful divorce (aren't they all?) seemed to consume them and their life turned completely inward towards self. This person maintained that they were still walking with the Lord but the obedience and fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) were clearly missing and again, I don't need to go into details. However, I remember several conversations with this individual regarding hearing Jesus speaking to them about such and such and this and that. I also remember, as a young man (18-19 yrs.), feeling somewhat troubled by these conversations because I didn't hear Him in this way that they described. I had confessed faith in Jesus Christ as a youngster (7 yrs) but had really just began to take an interest in a real relationship with Him. Okay, to the point. Fast-forward 12 years or so and I find out that this person, shortly after the divorce I spoke of, literally threw their Bible in the trash. Everything started to make sense. Con't

#15  Posted by Carlos Betancourt  |  Saturday, January 11, 2014at 12:16 PM

Hi, I'm newcomer here. I do really believe that is enough to preach based on the bible. Nothing more important thant that. I believe that people have had strange, beautiful, i could say or think divine experiences, but it really doesn't mean it is enough to affirm is contact with God or Jesus. I respect every body opinions but i'll be firm with John McArthurs "philosophy" of preaching the Word of God from the Bible. (English is not my maternal language)

#16  Posted by Todd Farr  |  Saturday, January 11, 2014at 12:33 PM

con't.......This person was not engaged in corporate worship with the Body of Christ (Heb 10:24-25), was not seeking His Truth through His Word in the manner of reverence and obedience (John 14:23) but had very realistically sought personal experience and encounter as their own sort of truth in whatever they felt Jesus speaking to them about. Honestly, after witnessing the regression into self that this person took, this information didn't surprise me much.

My purpose in this probably longer-than-needed-to-be story was not to drag this person, (who again, is very close to me and who I love dearly) through the mud. I have had several very good conversations with them regarding this after much prayer, seeking wisdom and direction from the Lord. My purpose is ultimately to glorify God and possibly help strengthen a brother or sister who may have wrestled or are wrestling with similar questions.

We cannot be certain we are hearing our Lord's voice if we are not actively and obediently following His Word. The more desire and love that we have for His Word, the more intimate our relationship with Him becomes as we grow in sanctification. Dr. MacArthur wrote a very good article in 2012 on Biblical Sanctification:

https://www.gty.org/Blog/B120913

In His love,

Todd

#17  Posted by Benjamin Mcmillan  |  Saturday, January 11, 2014at 4:54 PM

Steve,

Would you please define the words, "experience" and "encounter" more precisely for me? I am really at a loss to understand what you mean when you use them in relation to Christ.

Another question I have related to your post is this. If you received a letter from someone you had never verbally spoken to or physically seen, would it still be possible to build relationship on the basis of communication using written language, possibly even intimate understanding?