According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become.
One such rule, put succinctly in English prose that now sounds dated, but which is as needful now as when it was first penned, comes from the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, written in 1645 by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. When raising a point from the text, the directory says, preachers are to ensure that “it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence.” In other words, preaching must enable those who hear it to understand their Bibles.
In laying down this principle, the divines were following the first book on homiletics to be produced by the English Reformation, William Perkins’ The Arte of Prophecying (1617), which included this instruction: “The Word of God alone is to be preached, in its perfection and inner consistency. Scripture is the exclusive subject of preaching, the only field in which the preacher is to labour.”
As incredible as it seems, Perkins found it necessary to underline the fact that preachers are to preach the Bible and the Bible alone. As Paul urged Timothy, the preacher’s task is to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Earlier, Paul had assured the Corinthians that he and his companions were not “like so many, peddlers of God’s Word” (2 Cor. 2:17). The word Paul employs here, kapeleuô, is rendered variously as “peddle,” “corrupt,” or “deal deceitfully”; the New Living Translation renders the verse, “we are not like those hucksters—and there are many of them—who preach just to make money.” This word comes from the world of ancient tavern-keeping. It suggests the practice of “blending, adulterating, and giving bad measure.” Paul was concerned for purity and honesty in handling the Scriptures.