Matthew Henry, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (“Do not despise prophecies”), makes this striking statement: “We must not despise preaching, though it be plain, and not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, and though we be told no more than what we knew before.”
What a strange thing to say, some would think. Isn’t it boring to listen to plain preaching? Isn’t it a waste of time to listen to what you already know?
Now these words are not addressed to preachers, who are not to be satisfied to put out sermons that are dull, thinking that the congregation should be glad enough to hear them. These words are addressed to hearers.
As hearers of the word, we ought to recognize that faithful preaching of God’s Word is something rare and precious. We ought not despise it, but gladly hear it. Though we are hearing what we already know, we need to be reminded of it.
We perhaps need to guard against the temptation to think lightly of preaching especially during the season of Lent, when we have midweek services. In these services we hear the history of Christ’s sufferings from the four Gospels read in its entirety. We hear sermons on portions of that history or on other related Scripture texts.
It is easy to pass up these services. Our attendance may not seem very important. Have we not heard the passion history read many times before? Can the pastor say anything about the passion that we haven’t heard before? Yet there are several reasons why we need to hear the familiar message again.
A young man home on leave from the service told his pastor that as a child he had wondered why he had to study the same Bible history lessons over and over again. After being out of Sunday School for a few years he began to realize that he could no longer remember all the details of those lessons.
It is generally true of knowledge that we lose it if we do not use it. It is true especially of knowledge of the Scriptures. We have a sinful nature and are naturally dull of hearing when it comes to spiritual things. If the knowledge of Christ and of salvation is not renewed in us constantly, it begins to fade. We ought to welcome every opportunity to renew it by hearing faithful preaching of the Word.
The Heart of the Story
The story of Jesus’ passion is the heart of the greatest story ever told. God’s own Son become man willingly submits to the death of the cross because it is His Father’s will. He offers His life as a sacrifice to the Father to carry out the love of God and ransom a race of sinners. The Son suffers to the point of being forsaken by His Father. The Father accepts the offered sacrifice and declares man justified.
The preaching of the cross of Christ speaks directly to our own hearts. It sharpens our awareness of our natural sinful condition. In the cross we see the horror of our sin and its consequences. In the cross we have to face where we would be without Christ. It moves us to sorrow and repentance.
The preaching of the cross assures us of the forgiveness of all our sins. It frees us from guilt. It liberates us from fear of death and the judgment.
There are many sounds that grow tiresome with repeated hearings. There are other sounds we never tire of hearing: a beautiful piece of music, the sound of a loved one’s voice.
Let the passion history of our Lord be to us a somber yet beautiful melody–the voice of our God speaking to us in love. We cannot hear it too often.
–Pastor John Klatt