Spurgeon on Preaching to the Will of the Listener

W. A. Criswell defined teaching (from the pulpit) as “instructing a man in the will and ways of the Lord,” and preaching as “seeking to drive a man’s will God-ward.” There is a raging debate today over how much freedom people really have. A renewed fascination with Calvinism has brought this debate to the forefront. I’m not opening the whole can of worms here – just this one point. Preaching should be directed to the will of a person. Decisions count.

If you carry Calvinism as far as many, you’ll begin to say that there is no free will or free agency with man. This morning I read from Spurgeon’s evening sermon from December 27th, 1874 called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. Spurgeon never started a sermon softly. The second sentence declares “This every Christian minister must do if he would make full proof of his ministry, and if he would be clear of the blood of his hearers at the last great day.”

What Spurgeon said just moments later, however, issues a clarion call for addressing the will of our human hearers…

Remember, dear hearers, if the preacher does not push you to this–that you shall be converted, or he will know the reason why; if he does not drive you to this–that you shall either willfully reject, or cheerfully accept Christ, he has not yet known how rightly to handle the great ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’

We all do what we want every moment of the day. We make choices and decisions that impact eternity and preaching that does not appeal to the will of man fails to satisfy the expectations of the Great Commission. In case you wonder where I stand on the issue of God’s grace and His role in our salvation, I agree just as strongly with what Spurgeon said later in the same message:

The Lord alone must save you as a work of gratis mercy, not because you deserve it, but because he wills to do it to magnify his abundant love.


The sovereignty of God is an ever-mysterious issue that we must struggle with and come to terms with as we seek to have an understanding of God’s role. Salvation is all of Him and not of us at all. But there is a receiving, an accepting of Him that must be decided in the human heart upon the call of one sent with the gospel.

Preach to change the mind. Preach to move the emotions. And preach to drive the will of man God-ward.

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