Martin Luther believed that preachers, when faithfully expounding the Word of God, were no less than the voice of God.
To this point, Luther emphatically stated “For God has said, ‘When the Word of Christ is preached, I am in your mouth, and I go with the Word through your ears into your heart.’ Therefore, we have a sure sign and sure knowledge that when the gospel is proclaimed, God is present there.” In other words, Jesus Christ is powerfully present in the proclamation of the Scriptures.
Consequently, Luther resisted any supposed private revelations to men. Dreams and visions, he asserted, must not be preached: “Whenever you hear anyone boast that he has something by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it has no basis in God’s Word, no matter what it may be, tell him that this is the work of the devil.” He added, “Whatever does not have its origin in the Scriptures is surely from the devil himself.” Luther believed that only the Bible, not the mystical intuitions of men, is to be preached.
Luther’s theology of preaching can be summarized by his assertion that preaching is God’s own speech to people. For Luther, preaching is Deus loquens—“God speaking.” The greatness of preaching, he maintained, lies in the fact that God Himself is active insofar as the preacher remains obedient to the Word and seeks nothing but for the people to hear the Word of God.
—Steven J. Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther(Reformation Trust, 2013), 30–31.
Luther’s high view of preaching is virtually unknown today. The reason for that may be, in part, that so little of today’s preaching deserves such honor. I think, however, the main reason preaching is so lightly esteemed is that the Word of God is lightly esteemed—which brings us back to the preacher. Luther could call preaching “God speaking” because he had committed himself to faithfully expounding the Word, and nothing but. Consequently, authority of God emanated from his pulpit.