In Word Only?

It was my first preaching assignment in college. At breakfast in the school dining hall, the chair of our Bible department walked up to ask my companion if he could preach at a little country church later that morning. Knowing how badly I wanted to preach somewhere, my friend declined but pointed out that I was available. The professor looked at me — an untried commodity among the preacher boys on campus — and decided to take a chance.I had been preparing sermons for months. Grabbing a set of notes and my Bible I traveled about 45 minutes and pulled up to the front of the tiny, rural chapel. I was early, so the Sunday School director took me to a small kitchen where I could wait prior to the service.

I began to pray. In fact, I cried out to God with all my heart for His help. I didn’t know much at that time about God’s anointing assistance He provides preachers of His Word. I just knew I was young and didn’t know much. (I still don’t know much!)

The service was unremarkable. Yet, the impact on my life was dramatic. I began to be conscious that there was something God does during the act of preaching that goes far beyond my efforts and eloquence.

Paul observed this phenomenon among the Thessalonians: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.” (1 Thess. 1:5 CSB) By noting their message did not arrive “in word only” Paul acknowledges the possibility that it could have happened that way!

What kind of preaching arrives “in word only”? According to Paul, this kind of preaching is missing something. Specifically, he mentions three things that should accompany our preaching.

I’ll leave the word studies to you, but let’s pray each week for His words and for what He alone adds to the message.

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