The situation Fred Craddock described still defines far too many pulpits today. His prescription was inductive preaching—preaching that leaves the big questions unanswered, that lets the congregation come to its own conclusion. This is not the method of Jesus. Jesus uses induction in his teaching, but he never leaves the big questions unanswered—nor can we. He speaks as God. We speak as his preachers.

The preacher’s authority is a delegated authority, but a real authority. We are assigned the task of feeding the flock of God, of teaching the church, of preaching the Word. We do not speak as one who possesses authority, but as one who is called to serve the church by proclaiming, expounding, applying, and declaring the Word of God. We are those who have been called to a task and set apart for mission, as vessels who hold a saving message even as earthen vessels hold water.

Our authority is not our own. We are called to the task of preaching the Bible, in season and out of season. We are rightly to divide the Word of truth, and to teach the infinite riches of the Word of God. There are no certainties without the authority of the Scripture. We have nothing but commas and question marks to offer if we lose confidence in the inerrant and infallible Word of God. There are no thunderbolts where the Word of God is subverted, mistrusted, or ignored.

The crowds were astonished when they heard Jesus, “for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt 7:29). Congregations are starving for the astonishment of hearing the preacher teach and preach on the authority of the Word of God. If there is a crisis in preaching, it is a crisis of confidence in the Word. If there is a road to recovery, it will be mapped by a return to biblical preaching.

Our hope and prayer is that you will go forth from here to fulfill a ministry of astonishment. To preach and teach and minister so that commas are turned back to periods, and question marks into exclamation points. Congregations long to have the thunderbolts brought down from the attic and loosed in their midst. They are starving for a word from God.

Go and astonish a church. Go and astonish the nations. Go and astonish sinners and saints alike. Go and astonish your generation. Go and astonish those who no longer even believe that they can be astonished.

Go and preach as one who has authority. Just remember always that the only true authority for ministry is biblical authority. May we always be mindful that the only authority that matters is God’s authority, and that God’s thunderbolts are what we must fear—and what we must seek.

If you go out and preach as one who has authority, you will be constantly amazed by what God does through the preaching of his Word. You will see those who hear you astonished—and no one will be more astonished than yourself.