A Jagged Contention: The Divine Human Word

A sermon, if it is a true sermon, takes up [the name of God and promise “I am the Lord, your God!”] and hands it on as a “proclaimable mystery” (according to Luther’s translation of 1 Tim. 3:16). This is not a mystery to be kept secret but one to be “proclaimed,” to be preached. It is a public mystery, and open secret. By proclaiming God’s name, the sermon is, by God’s will, his presence itself. Preachers deliver a message and are not the message themselves. But insofar as they speak “in the name of God the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” their human words are identical with the divine word, indeed, “they are on and the same.” For “whoever listens to you listens to me” (Luke 10:16; see 2 Cor. 5:20). IF in the name of God human beings preach God’s name, if they publicly, audibly, clearly, and intelligibly offer God’s promise of salvation to other people, then such a sermon, although it is a human word, is not only a pointer to God’s own word (like the extra long index finger of John the Baptist in Grunewaldt’s picture of the crucifixion on the Isenheim altar), but it is God’s own word itself. It is astonishing and highly offensive to a spiritualistic doctrine of God that God gives and forgives through human mouths and other creaturely means, such as the water of baptism.

– Oswald Bayer, Preaching the Word in Justification is for Preaching, ed. Virgil Thompson. Pgs. 207-208


Why does this extraordinary doctrine of preaching offend so many and cause other’s to fear? What would it do to our preaching if pastors actually embraced the promise of Jesus that when “they hear you they hear me”? What sort of freedom does this promise give to the hearer?

Share your thoughts in the comments below


3 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: The Divine Human Word

  1. This doctrine is offensive to many evangelicals because the verse, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1st Timothy 2:5) is taken out of context. They don’t want anything to get in between them and Jesus.


    1. I never thought about it that way. That’s interesting. I don’t meet many evangelicals, mostly main liners and Catholics where I live. But I do hear the strains of spirituality above the senses. usually it is some form of universalism – all gods being at heart the same and all faiths touching the one god; religion is utilitarian and good for society, teaches morality; faith is a personal issue and each person needs to find his/ her own truth.


  2. As a “hearer” in the pews, the voice of Christ from the pulpit is always a joy. In outreach, it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to share when the time comes. The words just happen and the joy is in the sharing, not in any result. That God is in His Word seems so natural, to me. I cannot imagine it any other way. In fact, it is in sharing that I find out that this is not always the case with people or with preaching. I have heard so many stories of preaching avoiding Gospel, weighted with law or personal testimony to spiritual power, exhortations to holiness. it is a joy and a privilege to bring Christ to those who have not heard, even in church.


Comments are closed.