I Corinthians 2:4
My preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): To me, when a man is truly preaching, he has been given the message. Or, what he may himself acquired as the result of his study of the Scripture and understanding of a passage and the ordering of it, is [that] he’s taken up, and it becomes a prophetic utterance. He is speaking in the Spirit, in demonstration of the Spirit and in power. I think this is an absolutely vital element in true preaching…The man is taken up! He’s in this realm of the Spirit, and God is giving a message through this man to the people.
E. J. POOLE-CONNOR (1872-1962): With all [C. H. Spurgeon’s] great gifts, he could not preach with ease or power—sometimes he felt he could not preach at all—without the assurance that he was then and there the Divine mouthpiece. When preparing for public service, a dozen subjects would present themselves to his mind; but he must needs wait until some Scripture was impressed upon him as the paramount theme for the occasion, one from which without disobedience he could not escape. It was this feature of his ministry which gave his utterances their peculiarly prophetic character. Like Haggai, he was supremely “the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message.”
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There is all the difference in the world between a preacher himself preaching and a preacher preaching in the liberty and freedom of the Spirit. Yet any man who has ever experienced this will not only know exactly what it is, but he will also know that, in a sense, it is impossible to describe it; it is just one of those things that you know.
JOHN LIVINGSTON (1603-1672): There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that can not be ascribed either to the matter or expression, and can not be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections, and comes immediately from the Lord.
E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): We call it unction. It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life begin—life which receives or life which resists. The unction pervades and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart. This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Oh, there is preaching, and preaching! What is the test of preaching? I will tell you; it is power! “Our Gospel came unto you,” says the apostle, “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,” I Thessalonians 1:5. Who had the assurance? The preacher!―Paul knew while he was preaching to them that something was happening. He knew he was being used of God, he knew the Holy Ghost was driving his words deep into their hearts and souls, he was conscious of that power which changes men and women and which had changed him. So he says that he had preached with “much assurance.”
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I wonder how long we might beat our brains before we could plainly put into words what is meant by preaching with unction. Yet he who preaches knows its presence, and he who hears soon detects its absence. Samaria, in famine, typifies a discourse without it. Jerusalem, with its feast of fat things, full of marrow, may represent a sermon enriched with it.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: How does one know it? It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy…What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them. They know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.
JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): Preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit, which men so much quarrel about, is nothing less than the evidence in preaching of unction.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: You cannot be filled with the Spirit without knowing it…George Whitefield tells us that he was aware, actually in his Ordination Service, of the power coming down upon him. He knew it. He was thrilled with the sense of power. The very first Sunday after his ordination he preached in his home-town of Gloucester, and it was an amazing service. It was so remarkable that people wrote to the Bishop—Bishop Benson—complaining against Whitefield, and asserting that as the result of his sermon fifteen people had become insane. The Bishop was not only a wise man but a good man; so he replied saying that he wished all his clergy could produce some effect on people, for most of them had no effect at all.
J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): On this subject the opinion of such a man as John Livingston will have weight with you; for you know he was honoured of God to awaken five hundred by one sermon at the Kirk of Shotts.
JOHN LIVINGSTON (1603-1672): The only day in all my life wherein I found most of the presence of God in preaching was on a Monday after the communion, preaching in the churchyard of Shotts, June 21, 1630. The night before I had been with some Christians, who spent the night in prayer and conference. When I was alone in the fields, about eight or nine o’clock in the morning, before we were to go to sermon, there came such a misgiving of spirit upon me, considering my unworthiness and weakness, and the multitude and expectation of the people, that I was consulting with myself to have stolen away somewhere and declined that day’s preaching. But I thought that I durst not so far distrust God, and so went to sermon, and got good assistance about an hour and a half upon the points which I had meditated on: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:25,26. And in the end, offering to close with some words of exhortation, I was led on about an hour’s time, in a strain of exhortation and warning, with such liberty and melting of heart, as I never had the like in public all my lifetime.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I was reading about the first principle of Emmanuel College in Cambridge―Chadderton―who lived towards the end of the sixteenth century. He was preaching on one occasion, and after he had preached for two hours he stopped and apologized to the people: “Please forgive me, I have got beyond myself, I must not go on like this.” And the congregation shouted out, “For God’s sake, go on!” You know I am beginning to think that I shall not have [truly] preached until something like that happens to me.
C. H. SPURGEON: Brethren, we want to do our work rightly and effectively, and we cannot do it without power…Unction is a thing which you cannot manufacture, and its counterfeits are worse than worthless.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There is no text, perhaps, of which we need to be reminded so much at the present time as I Corinthians 4:19 & 20, I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. There is certainly no lack of words; but is there much evidence of power in our preaching? “That,” says the Apostle, “is the test.” And it is still the test of true preaching―If there is not power it is not preaching. True preaching, after all, is God acting. It is not just a man uttering words; it is God using him.