Jesus tells the disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (v. 10). In other words, the message of the gospel that Jesus preached is “the secrets of the kingdom” that must be revealed. It is the light that ignites the lamp of our lives. And that light must not be hidden but must shine so that others may see it too.
“Getting the Most Out of Expositional Preaching”
When I was a teenager, I often failed to do what my parents asked of me in a timely and adequate manner. At the root of my problem, they had often to point out, was the fact that I “just didn’t listen.” In many ways, a failure to listen lies at the root of most of our struggles to grow as Christians. We hear partially. We hear what pleases us and edit out the rest. We mishear. We ignore. We reinterpret what we hear. It’s not simply that we have failed to understand what God is saying to us. It’s that we have preferred not to listen.
Jesus’s famous parable of the sower in Luke 8 outlines various responses to the Word of God. Given how famous the parable is, the passage that follows is often overlooked, yet it has much to say to us about how we listen to God in the preaching of his Word. First, Jesus imagines a ridiculous scenario: lighting a lamp and then putting it under a jar or a bed. This, of course, defeats the purpose of lighting it. It makes no sense. Instead, the lamp goes “on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light” (v. 16). That’s why we light lamps. In the context of the chapter, read alongside the parable of the sower, Jesus is saying that those who have received the Word in faith are like lamps that have been lit. Their purpose is to shine the light of the Word in such a way that others might be drawn to it and welcomed in.
Jesus reinforces that point with this principle: “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (v. 17). To understand what is being said here, we should not miss how Jesus uses the same language to talk about his own message. He tells the disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (v. 10). In other words, the message of the gospel that Jesus preached is “the secrets of the kingdom” that must be revealed. It is the light that ignites the lamp of our lives. And that light must not be hidden but must shine so that others may see it too.
Well, so what? What difference should Jesus’s teaching about the Word here really make? Jesus drives home the implications: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (v. 18). This verse serves as a conclusion for the whole section of Luke 8, beginning with the parable of the sower, that deals with the way the Word of God works. Verse 18 tells us that the key issue, the vital factor, must be how we hear the Word.
Hebrews 2:1 makes a similar point. The author urges his readers to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” When it comes to the way we listen to preaching, the stakes are far higher than we may at first imagine. Hebrews 2:1 warns us of spiritual drift. Luke 8:18 goes even further and warns of eternal consequences if we “have not” when, through the preaching of the Word, every opportunity to “have” has been afforded us. So what does it mean to take care how we hear? How shall we “pay much closer attention to what we have heard”? These are the questions we hope to answer in this chapter. Put more directly, we need to know how we can get the most from expositional preaching.
The Westminster Larger Catechism offers some important help. It asks, “What is required of those that hear the word preached?” and answers, “It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”
This is an excerpt from the chapter, “Getting the Most Out of Expositional Preaching” from David Strain’s book, “Expository Preaching,” part of the Blessings of the Faith series. Pick up a copy of “Expository Preaching” for more insight into the importance and benefits of this approach to the Word of God. Used with permission.