He is more than just a speaker. He is a divinely sent messenger of the Most High. He comes proclaiming the Word’s of the Triune God. His message is not his own. He is not authorized to edit any portion of the Word of God that he dislikes. He reads it, studies it, receives it, believes it, prays it, delights in it, loves it, obeys it, bows the knee to it (for it is the revelation of Christ the Lord) and preaches it. “Toning” it down or “spicing” it up are not options for the preacher.
He is a man called and gifted by the Spirit of God and if he is called, gifted and bears the message of God then it follows he must carry some authority. Although it is a limited authority it is still a divinely commissioned authority. After all what it the point of sending messengers with messages that can be discarded at will without any consequences? To reject the preachers of Christ is to reject the King Himself. That statement sounds strange in this age of “contemporary Christianity” but it is confirmed by Christ in the parable (among many other numerous places in Scripture) of the Rich Man and Lazarus, “29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”(Lk 16:29–31; see the following quote from Christopher Ash for further elaboration on the Word of God without the preacher). Think I’m overstating my case?
23 But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips (Je 7:22–28).
“But pastors smell like sheep too!” They do and they better. They are prone to error, sin and wandering therefore they need to be shepherded, too. Because they are sheep and smell like it doesn’t negate their authority. There was no one more sheep-ish than the Apostle Paul but yet could still write “For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything (2 Co 2:9).
There are a million objections to what I’m stating here and before I turn it over to Christopher Ash allow my to address one more. “Who keeps the pastor/preacher in check?” The Word of God and his fellow elders. This is a reason why God gives qualifications for those who will shepherd His flock in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9. The pastor or preacher cannot just over rule his elders on matters. He is subject to them.
Finally, here is Christopher Ash:
(b) The Authority of God is exercised not by the written word but by the written word preached
This is very significant. It means that the authority of God was mediated in Israel not by the written word, but by the written word preached. The word of the covenant was written on tablets of stone. But those written words must be preached. We see both written word and preached word in Deuteronomy. The ‘Ten Words’ of the covenant were ‘inscribed by the finger of God’ (Deut. 9:10), but they were preached by Moses. Moses’ preaching was written on large stones (Deut. 27:1–8); the law was written by Moses (Deut. 31:9). But it was to be read and preached in every generation by the prophets.
And so began that great prophetic succession by whose mouths the LORD preached the covenant to his people. As O. Palmer Robertson puts it, ‘This small single voice replaces all the fearsome signs that accompanied the theophany of Sinai. The smoking, shaking mountain … now finds its equivalent in the gentle voice of the brother speaking among brothers’. These were ‘the eyes of the people’, as Isaiah puts it (Isa. 29:10–14), and they were the watchmen (Jer. 6:17).
This is why the test of obedience to God was whether or not they listened to the prophet. To be stiff-necked is not to give ear to the prophets (Neh. 9:29). When Jesus sums up rebellion against God he calls it ‘persecuting the prophets’ (Matt. 5:12), being ‘the sons of those who murdered the prophets’ (Matt. 23:31) or being ‘the city that kills the prophets’ (Luke 13:34).
The written covenant was the anchor that tied the true prophet into the succession of true prophets. True prophets were preachers of the written covenant. Both were needed. Sometimes the word was written but not preached. But without the preacher the word gathers dust in a forgotten corner of the temple, to be discovered by the builders (as in Josiah’s reign, 2 Kings 22). At other times some kind of ‘word’ may be preached, but this preached ‘word’ is divorced from the written word. And yet without the written word, the prophet becomes simply a ‘dreamer of dreams’ (e.g. Deut. 13:1ff). Neither the written word alone, nor the prophet alone, is sufficient, but rather the written word preached.
God did not just give them the book. He gave them preachers of the book so that face to face they could be taught, challenged, rebuked and exhorted to repentance and faith. And therefore one of the worst things God could do was to stop speaking to his people by the prophets, as he had almost done before the time of Samuel, when things were very dark and everyone did what was right in his own eyes (e.g. Judg. 17:6; 21:25) and the word of the LORD was rare (1 Sam. 3:1). The word was there, written on the tablets in the Ark; but nobody preached it. In the time of Amos God threatens ‘a famine of hearing the words of the LORD’ (Amos 8:11f.); this famine is not so much the absence of prophets to tell them the future; it is more the absence of prophets to preach to them the covenant. Later, at the time of Psalm 74:9 (‘there is no longer any prophet’), they didn’t say, ‘Oh, well, it doesn’t matter because we’ve got the book.’ They said, ‘There is no longer any prophet … How long, O LORD …?’ because the loving authority of God is exercised by the written word preached. The preaching of the prophets was gradually collected so that the written word grew. But at every stage God governed his people by those who preached the written word, not just by the written testimony in the ark or on scrolls.*
*Ash, C. (2009). The Priority of Preaching (26–27). Geanies House, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.