The Hearers Are In the Passage Itself

When a word is spoken which involves nobody as a hearer, that is not automatically meaningless talk; indeed many examples of such words are to be found, not least in the history of the teaching ministry of the Church. But such is not the word of the Bible. There, both under the old covenant and the new, we unfailingly find a chosen people. To think of the bible, and not to think at the same time of Israel and the Church, is to omit from the Bible its character as message. The Bible does not acquire that character because we preach its Word, but already possesses it as a historic fact, and having that character it preaches. Our preaching, then, is just the Bible’s own preaching – the passage to be expounded already has the meaning – and as God’s people belong to the Bible’s preaching, so the congregation belongs to ours. Hearers do not just come on the scene in a secondary way when the sermon begins, but that group was already there from the very first moment that the thought of preaching entered the preacher’s mind. They were present in the sermon from the beginning not because the preacher felt a missionary interest in them, or had a personal knowledge of his public, but rather because they were there in the passage itself. The preacher, on first reading the prescribed passage, found there words, sentences, promises, admonitions belonging to God’s people, which had been the water of life to them long before he was born and which will still be the same when his day is done. Now the Word is here in order that by means of a particular sermon it may speak to this congregation which has come to listen and which thereby reveals itself as the congregation of the Word.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, page 26

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