Aug 14, 2013

Logos, Ethos, & Pathos: Experiencing the Pleasure of God in Preaching

Do you ever long to sense the pleasure of God as you preach?

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:4,

Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

R. Kent Hughes, editor of the Preaching the Word commentary series, argues in the introduction to that series that

the pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion).

Logos (The Word)

This means that as we stand before God’s people to proclaim his Word, we have done our homework. We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context, and applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. And it means that we have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is—so that our outline springs from the text. Then our preparation will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God’s Word, but God’s actual Word, his logos. This is fundamental to pleasing him in preaching.

Ethos (What You Are)

There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. . . . Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos as possible. . . . When a preacher’s ethos backs up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.

Pathos (Your Passion)

David Hume, the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach: “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume replied, “I don’t, but he does.” Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.

One word of caution. I’m not sure that we should turn Hughes’ comments into a formula–if I do X then I get Y. As if God now owes me this sense of his pleasure as I preach because I was or did (fill in the blank).

However, like Paul, we should make it our great ambition to please God in our preaching. This means we should give careful attention to our logos, ethos, and pathos, all the while realizing that God’s pleasure in me and my preaching is ultimately due to the pleasure he has for his Son. Any offering of a spiritual sacrifice that is acceptable to God must be “through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).