Recently I have been made aware of a new method (at least new to me) for evaluating preachers of the Gospel. Some believe the messenger should give Scripture references whenever they refer to a text from the Bible. By “Scripture reference” I mean they expect the preacher to give “book, chapter, and verse”. The fewer such references provided during the message, the lower the evaluation given to the servant of the Lord.
Such a method for evaluating a preacher and/or a sermon is a poor one at best. I know of no place in the Scripture where God’s Word commands the messenger to give the reference whenever he quotes a Biblical text. Certainly he is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) but Paul never told him to give book, chapter, and verse. In fact, in those days, there were no chapters or verses!
Many of the greatest preachers throughout church history have proclaimed the Word of God without giving the accompanying reference to the Scripture they just quoted. Look at Spurgeon’s sermons and how often the “Prince of Preachers” doesn’t even tell you which book he’s quoting, let alone give the exact reference. Sometimes when the sermons of these famous servants of God are published, the actual reference is added. Often, though, the reference was not delivered as part of the message. Does this make them “bad preachers”?
Even when the New Testament authors quoted their Old Testament counterparts, they certainly never gave us book, chapter, and verse. Sometimes they tell us the author. Sometimes they simply say “It is written”. Sometimes they quote the passage and never tell the reader anything about its location. Does that make them “bad preachers”?
Now don’t take me wrong. When a minister of the Lord quotes a work other than Scripture, he should make certain to notify his audience that this quote is not his. The messenger of God should NEVER take credit for another man’s work. But even in that situation the messenger doesn’t have to indicate the exact location of the reference. “Someone has said” is sufficient for me. “Luther noted that” is good enough to indicate a quote from Luther.
But when it comes to Scripture references in the midst of a message, simply noting “the Scripture says” or the “Bible notes” is good enough when I am listening to a message. If I ever want a specific reference location I will ask the speaker after the sermon. Actually, those of us sitting in the pew should have enough familiarity with God’s Word to recognize when the man of God is quoting it!
If you are a preacher who always gives his Scripture references as he proclaims the Word of God, good for you. If you are a preacher that frequently quotes Scripture as he preaches but does not always provide the reference, good for you. Just make certain you are a preacher proclaiming the Word of God.