You can’t study Martin Luther’s theology without receiving a heavy dose of the Holy Spirit. Lutheran scholar Regin Prenter contends, “The concept of the Holy Spirit completely dominates Luther’s theology.” Another scholar agrees: “Luther was no merely academic theologian. He was concerned through his reforming career with the relevance and application of doctrine to life. For him theology was an urgently practical and not simply a theoretical discipline.” Truly Luther was, in the words of Paul Tillich, “Spirit-determined and Spirit-directed.”
Perhaps no sphere of Luther’s life was more “Spirit-determined and Spirit-directed” than the pulpit. To borrow from Prenter, the concept of the Holy Spirit completely dominates not merely Luther’s theology, but his preaching. From beginning to end, Luther saw the preaching enterprise as a Spirit-controlled event. For Luther, preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man by God’s Word in God’s way to bring God’s results.
Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man by God’s Word in God’s way to bring God’s results.
Over the next few weeks each individual component of this definition must be explored. First, the Spirit’s role in the sermon will be discussed. Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking. Second, the Spirit’s relationship with the messenger of the sermon will be considered. Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man. Third, the Spirit’s message will be delineated. Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man by God’s Word. Fourth, the Spirit’s manner of delivery will be addressed. Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man by God’s Word in God’s way. Finally, the Spirit’s results in the sermon will be outlined. Preaching is God’s Spirit speaking through God’s man by God’s Word in God’s way to bring God’s results.
Why it Matters
Recapturing the Spirit’s role in the sermon matters. And not just in the austere halls of seminaries and universities, but in the faded hallways of your local church.
It matters to the elderly church member, determined to reject the Word preached by his pastor. “Doesn’t this young preacher realize I’ve already paid my dues? Who is he to tell me what to do anyways?” The Spirit is the one speaking to you, Christian, not your pastor. Obey Him.
It matters to the antsy seminary student who’s ready to give up his studies and dive into the pulpit. The Spirit speaks through God’s man, so don’t neglect the importance of this season of preparation.
It matters to the college student in your church, wondering why preaching the Bible is so important. Wouldn’t we be more popular and accepted if we just stuck to lighthearted inspirational talks instead of constantly saying “thus says the Lord”? The Spirit speaks through His Word, not through funny stories and emotional anecdotes.
It matters to the busy pastor, tempted to take shortcuts on the nitty-gritty toil of sermon preparation. Tempted to fill his schedule with everything but time with God and His Bible. The Spirit speaks in God’s way, and God isn’t in the habit of blessing us when we try to do it our own way (see 2 Samuel 6:1-11).
It matters to the discouraged pastor, lamenting over the dry eyes and cold hearts in his congregation. The Spirit will bring results in His way and His time.
I firmly believe that the local church will not grow beyond her understanding of the sermon’s importance. Local churches will continue to wallow in selfishness and death as long as sermons are viewed as feel-good episodes of Christian entertainment. So let’s listen to one of church history’s giants to recapture the importance of the sermon and the power of the Spirit.
© M. Hopson Boutot, 2016
 Regin Prenter, Spiritus Creator, trans. John M. Jensen (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1953), ix.
 A. Skevington Wood, “Spirit and Spirituality in Luther,” The Evangelical Quarterly 61 (1989): 313.
 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 250.