the weblog of Alan Knox

The difference between sermons and the word of God

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 in blog links | 10 comments

Miguel at “God Directed Deviations” has written a thought-provoking post called “Well, we like to elevate the Word of God around here.”

In the post, Miguel is commenting on a couple of quotes related to sermons and the pulpit, and the relationship to those and the fellowship meal (or communion). He makes some interesting statements, many of which line up with what I’ve noticed when comparing Scripture to modern practices and beliefs.

For example, at one point Miguel writes:

I suppose I should make a personal distinction here. I do not necessarily equate the preaching of the word with “sermons” as they are thought of today. I believe we are all to be out preaching the word. “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

Yes, we run into problems when we equate sermons and the pulpit with the Scriptures or with the word of God. As Miguel points out in his post, a group of believers can highly value the Scriptures and encourage one another to listen to and follow the word of God with neither pulpits nor sermons.

Then, of course, there’s the question of the connection between the modern notion of “sermons” and the scriptural exhortation to “preach/proclaim” the gospel or the word of God. The two are not necessarily the same.

What do you think?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-1-2012

    It is easy to see how sermons have been elevated to a sacred place in the body of Christ. Man always tends to elevate things that make them look good. It is part of the sin nature. There is that thin grey line that separates “preaching” the Word of God and sermons.

    Sermons have taken an almost idolatrous place in the church. A church service is good or bad depending on the how “good” the sermon is. How silly is that? I would like to see “the modern notion of ‘sermons'”, go the way of the dinosaur, and the preaching of the Word brought back to the people with elders being the examples.

  2. 6-1-2012

    How would you view Paul’s speech in Acts 20.7? Also, have you studied the similarities between the early church meeting and that of the synagogue?

  3. 6-1-2012

    Since the early churches commonly met in homes (as in 1 Cor 16:19, for example), they did not have a synagogue arrangement such as an authoritative scribe of the Pharisees sitting in front on “Moses’ seat”, ruling over the rest (as in Mt. 23:2-4). 1 Cor. 14:1 says that all the members should want to “prophesy” (defined in 14:3-4 as speaking to others to edify, build up, exhort, encourage). So when they come together (to gather informally in a home), each one has something to say that can edify (14:26). After two or three prophets speak (without preaching from a pulpit), others weigh what is said and respond (14:29). So they can all prophesy one by one, so all can learn and be exhorted and encouraged (14:31). No prophet is the “authority” (the one true rabbi, teacher, father, or master–as in Mt. 23:8-10–since only Christ fulfills that role of “the” authority).

    There are house churches today throughout the world that somewhat follow this early model of the church, though many of them still have “the” pastor who “preaches” in front of silent spectators.

  4. 6-1-2012

    Steven, in reading Acts 20 it seems that a) the church gathered to share a meal, not hear a sermon and b) Paul conversed with the church rather than lecturing to them. Not exactly what we think of when we talk about pew sitters watching a performance.

  5. 6-1-2012

    Lucas, thank you for your feedback. The synagogue had a place of authority, but it also had public participation (4.16ff). Also, there was a caste system in the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 12.28; Eph. 4.11). Other than those additions, I agree with all your observations.

    Arthur, I wouldn’t call all public speaking “entertainment” per say. What Jesus did in Luke 4 wasn’t entertainment but exposition.

    Kindly, SH

  6. 6-1-2012

    I think the only good teaching comes from God in and through the believer, when that believer is no more than the example of the water glass. For a water glass was made for one purpose, to be used by its master when ever the master decides to use it and get a drink of water.
    We are to be the same yet never by force or coerceing. Which is done guite often today. So we are the water glass, made for the Masters use, and God the Father will use us as we are available for his use. It really is this simple, take no thought and be used by God to perform his will to all.

  7. 6-3-2012

    Lucas I agree with you in part.

    The authority of organic leadership does not rest with someone “sitting” or standing “in front of others.” As, “sitting” or standing in a “seat” or “in front” does not amount to either leadership or “authority,” regardless of the architectural setting (house, barn, park, etc.)

    The “Authority” in a meeting rests with the written Word of God alone; which is the sole standard, others, who “sit by” and “judge” are to use to evaluate those who speak or prophesy. This authority does not rest with any one individual. In this setting, the person and authority of Christ are represented by His Word.

    Nonetheless, although there is no division of clergy and laity, there is still organic leadership in the church. Namely, elders (who, by the way, are appointed) represent this leadership under Christ’s authority and have a responsibility both to govern and to teach among the Body, regardless of where they sit or stand (in front or otherwise).

    I mostly agree with your interpretation of 1 Cor. 14. However, to say that a prophet does not have authority, only Jesus does, is simply not true (Did I miss something here?).

    One who prophesies is not necessarily in the office of a prophet, and a prophet or other five-fold servant does have organic authority to operate in the sphere or measure of his or her gifts and calling. This will be evident in a house church setting.

    Nevertheless, I agree with you in that no one is “THE authority” in a meeting.

    What is annoying to me is the way some (not directed toward you) try to be the “authority” on all matters of House-church practice, but yet insist that no such authority exists in how we as believers meet.

    Let’s all try and relax a little and share our perspectives without assuming the authority we don’t want others to have, but yet impose on them.

    That said, in my opinion, pulpits and sermons tend to reinforce the clergy laity myth and do not reflect the organic every member functioning of the Body.

    Just my thoughts,

    Charles S.

  8. 6-4-2012

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I’ll add just a few notes. In Acts 20, Luke used the term “dialegomai” to describe Paul’s talk. This same term is almost always translated “discuss,” “reason,” “argue,” etc. In other words, it was most likely not a lecture.

    The authority of anyone’s words or actions (regardless of their spiritual gifting) rests in God and God alone. If someone (anyone regardless of gifting or position or maturity) is acting and/or speaking according to the will of God, then that person is acting/speaking with authority, but the authority is God’s not that person’s. If someone ((anyone regardless of gifting or position or maturity) is acting and/or speaking in a way that is NOT according to the will of God, then that person is NOT acting/speaking with authority.


  9. 6-4-2012

    One more thing, about synagogue. The synagogue was very different BEFORE the destruction of the temple than it was AFTER the destruction of the temple. It is only in the last few years that people have begun to notice this difference. Before the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, “synagogue” was more of a community center type thing including a shared meal and discussion of the OT Scriptures. After the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, the synagogue took on many of the functions of the temple. But, at the time the NT was written, the synagogue had not taken on the temple-like qualities.


  10. 6-4-2012

    Alan thanks for the comment, appreciated just went through this. And I know God will set it all straight, straight from God
    Thanks again Howard