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John Piper: Preach the Word

Preaching Is Heralding and Exulting

He gathers a group of people and says, “Here ye, hear ye, be it known to you today that by royal order of his highness, the king, there will henceforth be granted to this town an imperial watch of one hundred soldiers to protect you from the rebel bands who plunder the king’s subjects.”

And a cheer goes up among the people. (Those are the amen’s of the congregation.)

And he continues, “Furthermore be it known to you that the cost for this protection shall be born not by taxation, but by the beneficence of the king from his royal treasury!”

Again cheers! (Amen!)

“Moreover, the king would have you know that he loves you, his loyal subjects, and will use all his royal counsel and power to defend you and supply your wants.”

Again, cheers. (Amen! Amen!)

“And lastly, he sends through me his royal blessing. Blessed be the people whose trust is in the king!”

Cheers. (Amen!)

Preaching is more than teaching. It is exultation in the Word. “Preach the Word,” means “exult in the Word.” That is, announce it and revel in it. Speak it as amazing news. Speak it from a heart that is moved by it.

Two Reasons Why This Kind of Speaking Is So Crucial

There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death — matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment, matters about the life that pleases God or displeases him. In other words, no other group of people, besides the church, gathers regularly to deal in such tremendously important realities. This means that there is a form of speech that is fitting as part of that gathering that fits the greatness of that truth — namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.

The other reason why preaching is so crucial is that our hearts yearn for the truth to come to us in ways that highlight the worth of the truth. In other words, not only does the magnificence of the truth call for a heartfelt heralding and passionate exultation, but our hearts call for this too. Our hearts will not be drawn out to worship if someone just dissects and analyzes the worth and glory of God, but does not exult in it before us. Our hearts long for true preaching. Some of us don’t even know that is what we are missing. Like children who grew up in homes where mom and dad never exulted in anything. They never rejoiced or praised or verbally admired and treasured anything. They were always flat and unenthused (except when they got angry). You couldn’t tell if anything really moved them deeply and positively. So the kids grow up not knowing what they are missing. That is what many people in the church are like who have never tasted true preaching.

Preaching Must Be Expository Exultation

God exists to be worshiped — to be admired and treasured and desired and praised. Therefore, the Word of God is written primarily to produce worship. This means that if that Word is handled like a hot-dish recipe or a repair manual, it is mishandled. And the people will suffer. The Truth of God begs to be handled with exultation. And our hearts yearn for this and need it. Something in us starts to die when precious and infinitely valuable realities are handled without feelings and words of wonder and exultation. That is, a church starts to die without preaching.

But, of course, this assumes something massive. To treasure the Truth, and to love the Truth, and be impassioned about the Truth, and to exult in the Truth, you have to know the Truth. So it’s not enough to say that preaching is exultation. We must also say it is “expository exultation.” It is exultation in the Truth of God’s Word. And the exultation is in proportion to the Truth delivered.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” This too is part of preaching. Preaching is handling accurately the Word of truth. In other words you can never twist or exploit the Word in order to increase the emotional response of the people. Preaching is not exultation without exposition of the Word. Nor is preaching exposition of the Word without exultation. One error cuts off the head. The other rips out the heart. In both cases the victim dies. No heart. Or, no head. You’re dead. And so is preaching. And not too long after, the church.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.