The apostle Peter said that Christians have been born again by the word of God, which is the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23, 25). The Holy Spirit gives life to dead hearts through the preaching of good news: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit uses the words, sounds, speaking, and hearing the gospel to bring life. Preaching is a means of grace. Michael Horton comments well on this:
“This defense of the Spirit’s operations through creaturely means should not lead us to a general theory of the sacramentality of creation. In an effort to affirm the goodness of creation, it is often argued that everything is a medium of God’s saving revelation. The difficulty with this view lies not in its appropriate affirmation of created matter as capable of being taken up by God as a means of grace. After all, affirming this point is a major burden of this chapter [chapter 10] and, indeed, much of what I have said thus far.”
“Rather, the problem lies in failing to distinguish common grace and saving grace, general and special revelation. The world displays God’s invisible attributes and his law, but only the gospel reveals his way of salvation. The world is not intrinsically holy and revelatory of saving grace. Rather, God freely and deliberately sets apart certain elements of his creation in the act of binding us to himself. It is his use – that is, his word and promise – that makes them holy, and the Spirit’s agency that makes them effectual.”
“While creation announces God’s manifold wisdom and power, the gospel is a surprising announcement that God made after humans rebelled against God and his natural order. This gospel must be brought by a herald. God himself must tell us where to find him: in the manger, at the cross, and at church.”
“On the one hand, therefore, we should avoid assimilating the Spirit to the means of grace as if they were the efficient cause of saving blessings. On the other hand, we should not separate what God has joined together….”
Michael Horton, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), p. 253-254.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015