What is the Word of God that we are called to preach?
By Jonathan Stepp
First and foremost, the Word of God is a person. The Word is the second person of the Trinity who has become flesh and blood and lives now, fully God and fully human, as the man Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14). As the Word in the flesh, Jesus preaches the reality that he is the union of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with humanity (Romans 5:18, Colossians 1:20).
To say that preaching is about Jesus seems elementary and self-evident. On the other hand we have heard countless sermons (some given by us!) that have had little or nothing to do with Jesus except in the most indirect way. The fallenness of our human nature means that we will always find new and creative ways to talk about ourselves, our human work, and our self-effort, and ignore the reality of Jesus, the one in whom we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Secondly, the word of God is the word spoken about Jesus by the Church—the apostles, the prophets, and even regular old pastors and ministry leaders like us (Romans 3:1-2, 10:8).8 Thirdly, the word of God is the Bible, the written record of what the apostles and prophets spoke in their words about Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The analogy of a window might be helpful in thinking about preaching the three-fold word of God. Consider what a window does. It allows those who are inside a building to see outside. It reveals and makes known that which would otherwise be hidden from us. In this seeing and knowing, however, the window itself is not the object to be studied. We don’t pay much attention to them unless they need cleaning or repair.
In this analogy, the Bible is the window. What we see when we look through the window of the Bible is Jesus. We see that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. We also see that he is in us and we are in him (John 14:20). In seeing this reality—the reality of God the Father, Son, and Spirit, and humanity’s inclusion in that life—we understand ourselves and our relationships with one another.
There are times in our preaching when we need to look at the Bible – its history, grammar, construction, etc. – just as there are times we have to clean the windows of our house. But the window itself is not the subject. The subject is that which can be seen through the window. This is why we don’t preach the Bible, we preach Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Looking through the window of the Bible and seeing Jesus helps us to understand that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that humanity is adopted through Jesus into this Triune Life as children of the Father. It is this knowledge of Jesus that we are called to preach and it is this knowledge of Jesus that enables us to know why we are here, how we should live, and how we are created to relate to each other.
So, the Bible is not an instruction book on how to live. Nor is it an instruction book on how to do ministry. It is a window to help us see Jesus. Jesus shows us how to live and how to do ministry. He does not do it by giving us a set of written instructions to be followed. He shows us what life is and how to live, and what ministry is and how to do it, by living with us in relationship and participating with us in life.
Note: This article is a brief excerpt from Jonathan Stepp’s Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) class, Practice of Ministry. To learn more about the class, go to ww.gcs.ambassador.edu. It was printed in the February GC2 Equipper which is published monthly by Grace Communion International-USA Church Administration and Development. This issue of the Equipper can be found at
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