I sent the following letter to our new students in Homiletics 1: the Preparation of Expository Biblical Sermons. I am sharing it with you for your possible study.
My Dear Students in the Gospel of Grace,
Grace to you and peace through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The late John Stott wrote of the priority of preaching in the ministry of the Gospel: “The preaching of the Word is the most important thing that happens in the life of the church because it is through the preaching of the Word that God’s people are fed and equipped for service” (Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today, Eerdmans, 1994).
Of course, the Rev. Dr. John Stott (1921-2011) was spot on. Because preaching is vital to the mission of God on earth, we must study every facet. One factor in preaching the Word of God is elocution. Sadly, sacred elocution is not mentioned much anymore, but there was a time when it held an important place in the education and training of ministers of the Gospel. The dignity of the pulpit and the priority of preaching demands we approach our subject with the attitude of “excellence in all things and all things for Christ” (D. James Kennedy).
Therefore, as you study the fundamentals of preaching, I want to remind you of the importance of sacred elocution. The way in which we deliver God’s Word should reflect our estimation of its origin, its priority, and its power. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is not enough to have the tongue of an angel if the manner of delivery be such as to obscure the truth, or to hinder its due reception” (Lectures to My Students, Banner of Truth, 2008).
What is sacred elocution? “Sacred elocution is the art and science of speaking well in the preaching, teaching, and public reading of the Word of God.” This definition is from my article on the relationship of sacred elocution and literacy. I want you to read this article this week. The article includes the “Principles of Sacred Elocution,” which you should know. The article is here: https://michaelamilton.substack.com/p/the-public- theology-of-lectio-sacra.
Remember, our goal as preachers is to communicate the truth of God’s Word clearly, compellingly, and faithfully. We are not searching for empty eloquence. We are searching for faithful delivery of the “Word from Another World” (Robert L. Reymond, 1931-2011). Such an effort requires a thorough understanding of the text and careful attention to our delivery so that the hearers may be edified and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God can speak the Word through a donkey. I would only say that “Balaam’s ass” (Numbers 22:26-30 KJV), a poor little jenny who startled her owner with an audible rebuke, gave the finest braying of her life. Let us do no less.
I pray for all of us as we move through our course. May the Lord grant us the vision for the work before us:
“God of grace and truth, as we prepare to preach your Word, grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may speak with courage, clarity, and conviction. May our words be filled with your love and our hearts overflow with your mercy, that all who hear us may be drawn closer to you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”A prayer adapted from Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.
May the Lord God bless you—anoint you with His Spirit—as you continue to grow in your dedication to preach His Word with clarity, conviction, compassion, and most of all, biblical integrity.