I received this honest, sincere reply to my entry on the centrality of preaching from Jim (which I have edited for brevity):
You summarized the last entry by saying that “preaching is the highest form of corporate worship”. I do recognize that it is through the “foolishness of preaching” that those who believe are saved. What I don’t understand is why, if “preaching is the highest form of corporate worship” there was no provision for it in the model given to us in the Tabernacle. Why a regular “preaching service” did not occur in the religious life of The Great Congregation (except on those scheduled, but rare occasions when The Law was to be publicly read) until the development of the synagogue system during The Exile?Why The LORD did not include it even as He stated on “two or three” occasions regarding the Pilgrim Feasts, “No one shall appear before me empty(handed).” Doesn’t that make sacrifice “the highest form of corporate worship”?
Jim, my most immediate response to your final summation that sacrifice is the highest form of worship is ‘how is that expressed in a New Testament church’ (unless your suggesting that giving of Offerings is)? That system of sacrifice was a shadow and type of the Christ Who would come and fulfill the shadow. His sacrifice for sin was the Ultimate Worship Expression!
While we must be careful not to ignore the Old Testament instruction, the centrality of preaching is throughout the New Testament. With that being said, we can certainly look to the Old Testament examples of the preaching prophets and see that God put great emphasis on the declaration of His word (see Jonah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah). We certainly see a powerful picture of the scriptures being read and explained in the book of Nehemiah.
In short, a using of the Old Testament temple worship to lower the centrality of preaching is looking in the wrong place (no disrespect, Jim!). To look at the New Testament focus, we clearly see preaching as central (Romans 10). While no specific service orders are given in the New Testament, Paul clearly exhorts the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 14) to seek prophesy, i.e., preaching, as the greatest gift to, in, and for the Church.
Not only in terms of evangelism, but for sanctification, it is a necessary thing for a believer to be under regular, systematic, careful exposition from God’s Word through preaching. No other form of corporate worship can have as powerful an effect upon sanctification than preaching—not singing, not corporate prayers, not giving of offerings. The exegetical pulpit is the well-spring from which a local church receives its nourishment (while not the only source—private worship is ALSO very crucial in this process—but we are speaking in corporate terms).
There are certainly higher forms of worship. Jesus said that there is no greater gift that to give one’s life for another (John 15:13). However, I was speaking about worship in a corporate environment and specifically in regards to preaching verses singing, giving offerings, prayers, etc.
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are certainly those who disagree with this stance which gave rise to the liturgy. The liturgy seeks to give equal importance to all corporate forms (singing, reading of scriptures, offerings, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession, etc.). With all due respect, I do believe that God did put extra emphasis and value upon preaching in a corporate setting than all other forms of corporate worship.
This entry deserves much more development and focus. I would suggest that you read Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic book “Preaching and Preachers” for further study on this subject. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and kind question, Jim! (Don’t be shocked and seeing yet another follow-up to this entry—stay tuned!)