Three P’s of Preaching from J.I. Packer

JI-Packer-Definition-of-Preaching2

How do you define preaching? You could answer that question a dozen different ways.

In an essay titled, “The Preacher as Theologian,” Dr. J.I. Packer defines preaching from a biblical and theological approach. Here is his definition:

“Preaching is incarnational communication from God, prophetic, persuasive and powerful…”¹

The second half of his definition includes three “P’s” describing God’s divine purposes for preaching and how it is that God can speak through human preachers:²

1. Prophetic

The preacher’s role is like the Old Testament prophets in the sense that he is bringing God’s Word to bear on his congregation. The difference between Old Testament prophets and preachers today is that preachers today communicate God’s message from the Bible instead of from a variety of means including oracles, visions, or revelations. According to Packer, the text of the Bible is “God preaching to us.”

When a preacher faithfully communicates God’s message from the Word, preachers act like God’s mouthpiece–which is one reason why Packer includes “incarnational communication” in his definition of preaching.

2. Persuasive

Preaching is different than merely giving a lecture–preaching demands a response to the truth of Scripture. It is to persuade others to receive and obey the Word of God. The Apostle Paul agrees, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Preaching should be targeted not only by knowing the main point of a passage, but also knowing the aim (or desired response) of the sermon. Knowing a desired aim will cause the preacher to focus on the persuasive element of the sermon.

3. Powerful

When the Word is preached, truth is communicated in a living and power-packed way. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). As preachers faithfully proclaim the Word, the same God that brought creation into being is working in His power to sow the Word into the hearts of hearers by His Spirit.

Much more can be said about preaching, but I find Packer’s definition quite helpful due to its focus on the nature of the preacher in relation to God (prophetic), the goal of the message (to persuade), and the heart-piercing effects of God’s Word as carried by the Spirit (its power).

May all preachers of the Word prophetically persuade their hearers backed by God’s power!

Kevin Halloran is the Content Strategist at Leadership Resources and on the Latin America Training Team. Follow Kevin on Twitter.

Leadership Resources International trains pastors and church leaders in the US and worldwide to study the Word of God in depth using a variety of hermeneutical principles. Learn more about our training in the US and around the world or how you can help strengthen the global church with the Word of God!

¹From Packer’s essay, “The Pastor as Theologian” from When God’s Voice is Heard: Essays on Preaching Presented to Dick Lucas.
²The categories are Dr. Packer’s, the explanations are mine.

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Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.