God’s sovereignty should have a tremendous impact on one’s preaching. This short essay will state plainly the biblical truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, then discuss implications of God’s sovereignty for the preacher. While God’s sovereignty has numerous implications for the preacher and preaching this paper will focus on two: 1. How preaching should be done in light of the truth of God’s sovereignty and, 2.  How God’s sovereignty instills boldness in the preacher.

To be sovereign is to have both the right and the means to exert power and authority. One may claim the right to rule, but if the power to carry out that rule is impotent, then sovereignty is absent and a farce. The Bible speaks of the absolute sovereignty of God over all of creation. God not only has the right to rule but the power to carry out His rule. This is precisely what it means to be God. As R.C. Sproul succinctly puts it: “If God is not sovereign, then God is not God.”[1] The doctrine of God’s sovereignty should have a profound impact on one’s preaching.

The great truth of God’s absolute sovereignty is stated in many scriptures such as Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” This same truth is also applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” The sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all creation is directly linked to His relationship to creation. He created all things for Himself. The sovereignty of God and Christ as creator and the glory of God are expressed in Revelation 4:11: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” He is sovereign and receives glory as sovereign Creator. This is His self-given right to rule as Creator.

Scripture not only attests to the fact that God has the right to rule as sovereign but that He has the means to rule and exert power as sovereign and that He actually does so. God’s sovereign rule is explicitly stated in Psalm 22:28 “For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” While this truth is repeatedly stated in the Bible, for brevity's sake a few references are given here. Psalm 135:6 says: “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” Psalm 115:3 aggress: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” One of the greatest statements of God's ability to rule as sovereign comes from the lips of the King of Babylon in Daniel 4: 34-35:

"At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?""

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God rules His creation as Sovereign. Flowing from God’s sovereignty is His ability to perfectly reveal Himself in His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  God’s sovereignly breathed out revelation of Himself in His Word has massive implications for the preacher of that Word.

The first significant implication that God’s sovereignty has on preaching is how one preaches. God is sovereign King; the preacher is not. The preacher is only a messenger of the King relaying what the King has already said. The responsibility of the preacher is stated clearly by John Macarthur:

"First, the preacher needs to realize that God's Word is not the preacher's word. But rather,  He is a messenger, not an originator (εὐαγγελίζω [euaggelizo]). He is a sower, not the source (Matt 13:3, 19). He is a herald, not the authority (κηρύσσω [kerysso]). He is a steward, not the owner (Col 1:25). He is the guide, not the author (Acts 8:31). He is the server of spiritual food, not the chef (John 21:15, 17)".[2]

The sovereignty of God demands that any preacher that wishes to be faithful should never impose upon, alter, or manipulate God's word in any way.

Sadly, the reality today is that preachers seem more interested in saying what they want to say and use God's word to support their message even if that means God's word is twisted and manipulated to achieve that end. These preachers are the epitome of arrogance. They believe what they have to say to the Church is of such importance that they would use God’s word to get that message across even if they must take God’s word out of context and use it in preposterous ways. One explanation will suffice.

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At a conference of Oklahoma Baptists, the preacher of a large congregation gave the annual message and at one point used to Exodus 19:16 as application. This verse says: “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” The preacher’s attempted application was that God has raised up the Church and the churches of Oklahoma to display the power of God in the world. So, what is the problem with that? Well—Exodus 19:6 speaks about God raising up Pharaoh for the purpose of destroying Him and the Egyptians so that God’s name will be made great in all the earth. The Church had better hope that Exodus 19:6 doesn’t apply to us! This type of carelessness and flippant use of the Bible to say what the preacher wants is sickening, dangerous, and worthy of the judgment of God.

When I was a commander in the Army we received, what is called “The Commander’s Intent” from a commander several levels up from us. Our job was to take the senior-ranking commander’s intent and relay that intent to our soldiers. For all practical purposes, the senior-ranking commander who issued his commander’s intent to us lower-ranking commanders, was our sovereign, militarily speaking, of course. If I were to take his written commander’s intent and alter it, or misuse it to say what I wanted to say rather than what he had said, I would have been court martialed and thrown in a military jail. Do these so-called preachers think they will get away with manipulating and misusing God's word for their purposes when the military will not tolerate such arrogance and unfaithfulness in its leaders?

God is the absolute Sovereign of the universe. The preacher's job is to take what God has said and relay what He has said to His people and the world. This is the very essence of expository preaching. Alec Motyer has said: “Exposition is the restatement of a Scripture — whether a word, a verse, a chapter or a book — so that its message emerges with clarity.”[3] The sovereignty of God mandates a clear and careful exposition of what God has said. Anything less or more is unfaithful and treacherous for the church to tolerate.

The second significant implication that God’s sovereignty has on preaching is that preachers should be bold and confident as a messenger of the King of all Kings. Isaiah 55:11 says: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  As far as the preacher has communicated accurately God's word he can be sure God will use that word for His purposes. Therefore, the preacher can and should exercise great boldness in preaching. 

Biblical boldness in preaching, whether behind the pulpit or out in the street, does not come from oratory skill or cleverness on the preacher’s part. Boldness based upon oratory skill or cleverness is just veiled extreme arrogance. The origin of real biblical boldness is that God’s word will accomplish God’s purposes. Therefore, if the preacher preaches God’s word he can preach boldly, without qualifications, and without additions or subtractions. Then he will be confident God will use him for His purposes.

This essay explored briefly the impact the sovereignty of God should and can have on one's preaching. The absolute sovereignty of God is clearly taught in the Bible. God's sovereignty mandates clear and careful exposition. Because God has spoken and God is sovereign, the preacher simply can pass on what God has already said with incredible boldness knowing God's word will accomplish all God intends to accomplish.

[1] R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1994), 16.

[2] John F. MacArthur and Master’s Seminary Faculty, Preaching: How to Preach Biblically, 1st edition (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 20.

[3] Alec Motyer, Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching (Christian Focus, 2013), 30.

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