Preaching proclaims God’s message of grace, Dever says at Southern Seminary’s Mullins Lectures
Preaching symbolizes God speaking to his people and must remain the church’s central focus, said Mark Dever in the Mullins Lectures on Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Feb. 23-25.
“Whenever God speaks to man it is an act of love,” said Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks Ministries. “He speaks as an act of grace. We do not deserve it; we contribute nothing to it.”
The gospel should therefore never be absent in sermons, Dever said, but present and central. Using Ezekiel 37 and Mark 7 to show the power of the preached word, Dever said sermons must call dead bones to live and the deaf to hear.
“Never preach without calling sinners to repent of their sins and place their trust in Christ,” said Dever.
Remarking on the current trend in culture and in the church of moving away from words and exulting the visual, Dever reminded that “Jesus inspired words,” not icons or pictures.
“We are in the age, not of the eye, but of the ear; and we will be until the visible return of the Son of God,” said Dever.
In his second lecture, Dever told his audience in Southern Seminary’s Broadus Chapel that the use of of preaching is to edify the church and evangelize the lost.
"Preaching is used by God to build his church and to give life to those who are spiritually dead,” said Dever. “Is there a more noble task?"
Dever said that expository preaching “should always have an effect” on those who listen and the application of the sermon should address the congregation’s struggle with ignorance, doubt, and sin. This is best accomplished when the gospel is the main application of the sermon, Dever said.
“We want people to hear our message, and by hearing change from sinful disobedience to joyful, glad obedience to God,” Dever said.
Preaching should always call unbelievers to repentance and faith in Christ and practice this by noticing unbelievers in the congregation and addressing them in their sermons.
“We are preaching to the spiritually dead, but we are preaching in expectation that God will use our sermon to awaken someone,” said Dever.
In the third lecture, Dever focused on the art of preaching, detailing the components of the preacher’s craft — introductions, illustrations, and homiletical tone. While preachers should refine and improve their methods, Dever said, they should never allow their people’s attention to waver from the text of Scripture and the God who inspired it.
“As preachers, we don’t have an interest in people becoming entranced by our sermon about God’s word, but by the God whose Word it is that we preach,” Dever said. “I’m not trying to get them to stare at my art. I want them to, by means of this [preaching], stare at God’s Word and God himself.”
Dever said preaching should refrain from obvious partisanship — featuring a “Calvinist sermon” or an “amillennial sermon” — but should exposit the text and allow it to shape party convictions.
“Any doctrinal distinctives we espouse should clearly arise from the text, so that the powerful attraction becomes not membership in your party, but faithfulness to God’s Word and its truth,” he said.
The Mullins Lectures are one of the nation’s oldest continuous lectureships in homiletics. The lectures are in honor of the life and ministry of Southern Seminary’s fourth president, E.Y. Mullins, and exist to show the model and methodology for expository preaching.
Audio and video of the Mullins Lectures are available online at sbts.edu/resources.