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What Is the Mysterious Power Behind Every Great Preacher?

My old homiletics professor now in glory, Dr. Robert Strong, used to tell us that Charles Haddon Spurgeon often referred to his pulpit as “the throne of the Word of God.” It is a good name and one that reminds us that Scripture is to be elevated in all true preaching.

Knowing that, however, without recognizing there is a supernatural power in all truly great preaching can produce an empty homiletical exercise when we mount that throne each week. Hence, this reminder that behind all great preaching—and every great preacher—sits One who is often forgotten, misunderstood or downplayed in our preaching—and in our theologies.

Far too often, the Holy Spirit is left out of the preaching equation. This is often compounded by a flawed understanding of who the Holy Spirit is. Indeed, more theological gibberish has been written and spoken about the Spirit than perhaps any other theological issue in our time. Spurgeon neither forgets Him nor was he confused in his understanding. His understanding of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and preaching was more than sermon enhancing; it was life-transforming for Spurgeon and many people who sat under his ministry.

That should not surprise us. Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” who dwells with us and will be in us. Then said Jesus of this Spirit of truth, “The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (see John 14:16-18).

Moreover, soon after that, Jesus also said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you” (John 16:13-15). That is a mighty strong endorsement for someone preachers too often forget!

It is not overstating truth to say the job of the Holy Spirit is to keep the spotlight focused on the Lord Jesus. That, of course, is also the job of every true preacher. In its essence, each of our sermons should echo John the Baptizer’s message when he first set his eyes on the Savior: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). When that becomes our goal, we understand the biblical foundation for good preaching, and the same Holy Spirit who empowered Spurgeon empowers our messages, too.

Who is this One that Jesus said would become the long-term earthly extension of His message? The Spirit’s Deity is clear throughout Scripture. We meet Him first at creation: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2). From there, we follow His influence, supernatural power and work through to Scripture’s close in Revelation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!'” (Rev. 22:17).