Posted by: Billy Marsh | August 16, 2009

Of Preachers and Preaching

Martin LutherAs I read through Martin Luther’s Table Talk, I’m constantly strolling across one gem after another. From his wit to his wisdom, Luther is just as much a mentor as he is the entertainment. I found the section titled, “Of Preachers and Preaching,” chocked full of relevance for the modern day pastor in training or the one who is already at work. I thought that I’d sample some of my favorite portions for you. Hopefully through them, Luther will be a voice of truth for anyone who desires to shepherd a flock or preach the Word of God. Many of his comments find immediate relevance for today’s preachers. Though you don’t have to agree with everything Luther posits, it is still in your best interest to hear him out, for as Philip Melancthon and Justus Jonas testified, “Luther is old enough, and knows how and what to preach (282, #426).”

I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith, and the preachers hurt themselves.” ~ pg. 272, #396.

A preacher ought to remain by the text, and deliver that which he has before him, to the end people may well understand it.” ~ pg. 274, #402

A preacher must be both soldier and shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach; he must have teeth in his mouth, and be able to bite and to fight.” ~ pg. 274, #403

A preacher should needs know how to make a right difference between sinner, between the impenitent and confident, and the sorrowful and penitent; otherwise the whole Scripture is locked up.” pg. 275, #406

To speak deliberately and slowly best becomes a preacher; for thereby he may the more effectually and impressively deliver his sermon.” ~ pg. 276, #408

I would not have preachers in their sermons use Hebrew, Greek, or foreign languages, for in the church we ought to speak as we used to do at home, the plain mother tongue, which every one is acquainted with.” ~ pg. 276, #412

If I should write of the heavy burden of a godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know by mine own experience, I should scare every man from the office of preaching.” ~ pg. 277, #413

Preachers must be endued with a great spirit, to serve people in body and soul, in wealth and honour, and yet, nevertheless, suffer and endure the greatest danger and unthankfulness.” ~ pg. 277, #414

I learn by preaching to know what the world, the flesh, the malice and wickedness of the devil is, all which could not be known before the gospel was revealed and preached.” ~ pg. 281, #425

Cursed are all preachers that in the church aim at high and hard things, and, neglecting the saving health of the poor unlearned people, seek their own honour and praise, and therewith to please one or two ambitious persons. When I preach, I sink myself deep down. I regard neither Doctors nor Magistrates, of whom are here in this church above forty; but I have an eye to the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of whom are more than two thousand. I preach to those, directing myself to them that have need thereof. Will not the rest hear me?

An upright, godly, and true preacher should direct his preaching to the poor, simple sort of people.” ~ pg. 282, #427

Young divines ought to study Hebrew, to the end they may be able to compare Greek and Hebrew words together, and discern their properties, natures, and strength.” ~ pg. 283, #428



  1. I liked them all but it sounds like in the next to last quote he’s talking about the “common” man?

  2. Yeah, he’s talking about preparing sermons that are specifically directed towards the “common man” or “everyday person” in your congregation, which Luther says, most likely makes up the majority of your hearers.

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