Category Archives: Gustaf Wingren

Preaching Is God’s Audible Address to Sinners

The uniqueness of Luther’s theology of preaching lies in that preaching is not mere human speech about God; rather it is God’s own speech to people, which corresponds to God’s own action. God’s word acts and thus accomplishes his will, but through the agency of human speech. Preaching then is not the preacher’s discursive reflection about God and life, an exercise distinctive of the custom of the university, but is God’s audible address to sinners in need so that he might confer good on them, and clothe them with Christ’s righteousness. The preacher speaks and, in his speaking, the justifying action of God is accomplished. God creates through his opposite (i.e., the preacher) the object of his love – a people no longer under divine wrath. Preaching is not a rehashing of the old stories, nor is it a memorial speech about God’s deeds. [Gustaf] Wingren’s words elucidate Luther’s view:

[P]reaching, in so far as it is Biblical preaching, is God’s own speech to men, is very difficult to maintain in practice. Instead it is very easy to slip into the idea that preaching is only speech about God. Such a slip, once made, gradually alters the picture of God, so that he becomes the far-off deistic God who is remote from the preached word and is only spoken about as we speak about someone who is absent.

Dennis Ngien, “Luther As A Spiritual Adviser”, pages 157-158. Wingren quote from “The Living Word”, page 19.

Tagged , , ,

Preaching Sets Men Free

Luther…deduces no ethic out of Christian doctrine, but plunges right into human life as it is and finds that all evil in the world comes from our own sin, from our slavery. We have no need of being fashioned into something or other: we only need to be set free, and then to take the place that is ours in our usual calling. Slavery simply means that we cannot be men, but when freed from the clutches of the Evil One we can be men again, we have reached the goal, we are redeemed. The Church of the first Christian centuries shared this conception of ethics, as is especially evident in the theology of Irenaeus. The fundamental view of the Early Church and of the Reformation on this may be briefly summarized in the expression, “the restored life of man”. If we think of the kerygma against its background of man’s slavery under the Devil this way of looking at things becomes natural: the message of Christ’s cross and resurrection restores the enslaved, that is, it gives man his natural life and thus redeems him. Subjective and objective preaching are alike in this that they have got to make something out of man’s life, either a “personality” or a “churchman” – to be just a man seems too tame. A characteristic action of Jesus as a healer, to which the Gospels bear witness, is his sending of those whom he had healed back home again to their everyday life. Christ looses the bonds of the prisoners and bids them return to that place in the life of the community to which they belong.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, pages 30-31

Tagged ,

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

Tagged ,

The Living Word as Kerygma

All four Gospels show by their construction and proportions that for them the death and resurrection were the central part of Christ’s ministry. It may, of course, be said that the New Testament as a whole is missionary writing, just as the Church is missionary. But in that case the liking for mechanical distinctions must give way, and the Christian life, both in its beginnings and its continuation, must be seen as life from the Word, as a continual returning to the one Gospel, to the Word about Christ. It is false intellectualism to separate those who belong to the Church from the missionary kerygma. That is considered possible only because of the idea in the background that once anyone has heard the Gospel he ought to go on gradually to something else. In fact the message of Christ’s death and resurrection has as its most prominent objective that we who hear it should die and rise again and, since our own will refuses to submit itself to this living process, the word about Christ is always new, unexpected and fresh even to the day of our death. To apply the one kerygma to all the situations of life, to “instruct” so that it conquers, overturns and builds up, certainly demands new formulae. There are marked differences even within the New Testament; the one kerygma is still there, however, in the midst of the differences, yes, even because of them. It is of the utmost importance that the New Testament’s unity does not consist in expressions that are repeated in unchanging words in book after book. The living breath of the kerygma is change. The moment that change departs, the deep unity of the message will have gone.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, page 18

Tagged ,

Preach Christ Instead of Preaching About God

The Lutheran assertion that we have just now mentioned, that preaching, in so far as it is Biblical preaching, is God’s own speech to men, is very difficult to maintain in practice. Instead it is very easy to slip into the idea that preaching is only speech about God. Such a slip, once made, gradually alters the picture of God, so that he becomes the far-off deistic God who is remote from the preached word and is only spoken about as we speak about someone who is absent. It does not help to say of God that he is God the Creator, and is near to those who are in distress, if the word of the preacher is not his converse with the men who are assembled there. God is creative and near simply by speaking his Word.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word” pages 19-20

Tagged ,

Preaching, Kerygma, Death, and Resurrection

Biblical students in non-Lutheran countries who see the New Testament kerygma as centering on the fact of the death and resurrection of Christ may very well be unaware that in using these twin terms, death and resurrection, they have penetrated to the very core of Luther’s theology, to the centre around which all that Luther says revolves, as a wheel on its axle. That applies not only to Luther himself but generally to the whole Lutheran Reformation as it was carried through in several European countries in the sixteenth century. The Reformation principle for preaching was very clear and simple: “to preach” means to convey the content of the Scriptures to listeners, to say that which the Bible itself is saying. God speaks in the Bible, and when the Bible is proclaimed God speaks to men from the pulpit. God’s Word is Christ. so when the Gospel sounds forth it is the living Christ come down among men who listen in faith. If the effort of the modern Biblical theologians is in the right direction, then Luther’s preaching in the years when the Reformation was beginning stands forth as an unusually pure declaration of the New Testament kerygma. Moreover, this sixteenth-century preaching is, in its basic form and type, quite definitely congregational preaching. The Early Christian kerygma of Christ’s work in death and resurrection has demonstrated, as no other factor in human history has, that it holds the power of renewing the Sunday preaching. In analysing the essential nature of preaching it is impossible to overlook that. The message of the cross and the resurrection is the main pillar, not only of missionary preaching, but of preaching in general.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, page 19

Tagged , , , , ,

Gustaf Wingren on Missionary Kerygma

It may, of course, be said that the New Testament as a whole is missionary writing, just as the Church is missionary. But in that case the liking for mechanical distinctions must give way, and the Christian life, both in its beginnings and its continuation, must be seen as life from the Word, as a continual returning to the one Gospel, to the Word about Christ. It is false intellectualism to separate those who belong to the Church from the missionary kerygma. That is considered possible only because of the idea in the background that once anyone has heard the Gospel he ought to go on gradually to something else. In fact the message of Christ’s death and resurrection has as its most prominent objective that we who hear it should die and rise again and, since our own will refuses to submit itself to this living process, the word about Christ is always new, unexpected and fresh even to the day of our death. To apply the one kerygma to all the situations of life, to “instruct” so that it conquers, overturns and builds up, certainly demands new formulae. There are marked differences even within the New Testament; the one kerygma is still there, however, in the midst of the differences, yes, even because of them. It is of the utmost importance that the New Testament’s unity does not consist in expressions that are repeated in unchanging words in book after book. The living breath of the kerygma is change. The moment that change departs, the deep unity of the message will have gone.

The Living Word: A Theological Study of Preaching and the Church, page 18

Gustaf Wingren

Tagged , ,