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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lines in the Sand: Preaching


In our currrent era, it is considered impolite to expose differences. Instead, "true love" is expressed by seeking common ground. However, the church (and individual believers) have lost their relevance as they have sacrificed the truths that make distinction. The following is a series devoted to drawing the line between genuine Biblical faith and not.

Why do we preach? Hasn't the culture changed enough where the church could find a better means to reach people? Is preaching really a central tool that God desires to use in the lives of believers and nonbelievers alike.

Consider the following:

Jesus, our Great Example, preached. (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 11:1; Mark 1:38; Luke 4:18; Luke 4:43)
Jesus called His disciples to preach. (Matthew 10:7; Mark 3:14; Mark 16:15)
Members of the Church were called to preach. (Acts 10:42; Acts 16:10; 1 Corinthians 1:17; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:2; 2 Timothy 4:2)
Preaching is a beautiful part of God's process of conversion. (Romans 10:13-15)

Preaching is not dialogue. Preaching is not conversation. Preaching is not story telling. Preaching is not teaching. Preaching, according to the original language, is "heralding." But what do we herald?

From the time of Christ's ascension, according to the Word of God, the church has preached:

that this (Jesus) is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and dead--Acts 10:42
"good news" or gospel--Acts 13:32; Acts 14:7; Acts 14:15; Acts 16:10; Romans 1:15; Romans 10:15; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 9:16; 1 Corinthians 9:18; 2 Corinthians 10:16; Galatians 1:8; Galatians 2:2; Revelation 14:6
Christ crucified--1 Corinthians 1:23
Christ Jesus as Lord--2 Corinthians 4:5
Him (Jesus) among the Gentiles--Galatians 1:16
the unfathomable riches of Christ--Ephesians 3:8
these principles--1 Timothy 6:2
the Word--2 Timothy 4:2

Clearly, "the gospel", "good news", "that Christ has been appointed Judge of the living and dead", "Christ crucified", "Christ Jesus as Lord" and "the unfathomable riches of Christ" are all ways of saying the gospel. The evidence is overwhelming that we are not called to preach self-fulfillment, how to have a better marriage, End-times timelines, or political activism. We are to preach the gospel...that's what we've been called to herald.

Aha, you say, What about Paul's exhortations to Timothy. Doesn't he call him to preach the Word and to preach how masters and slaves can get along. To which, I say, "Let us consider the context..."

When Paul tells Timothy to preach the Word in 2 Timothy 4:2, he is speaking to Timothy of the need to preserve sound doctrine. But nestled in the midst of Paul's exhortation is, "do the work of an evangelist" (one who heralds the evangel). Within the context of preserving sound doctrine, the gospel must be proclaimed.

But was Paul encouraging Timothy to preach more practical messages when he told him to preach about slave/master relations? It was certainly something to be addressed, but look closely at how Paul says to resolve the issue. He encourages the slaves to show respect to their masters because they are brothers (adoption together into the family of Christ) and they are partakers of the benefit as brother and beloved. The purpose and attitude to accomplish God glorifying response is in investigating the gospel.

Christian preaching must be centered around the gospel.

A few things that I do not mean by that:

Introduction/Conclusion. I am not saying that Christian preaching must just include the gospel. Recently, I was at an event where a speaker was sharing his thoughts. In his message, he quoted a verse in Isaiah and a couple of other random verses as he went. His message was largely about having a positive attitude and "being a conquerer." Then, when he was closing up, he stated, "I only believe this life of fulfillment can come to those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don't have that relationship, I encourage you to pray after me." His prayer then, to my surprise included repentance from sin, and a trust in Jesus alone for salvation, Who is your Lord and Master. Though I was encouraged to hear that he atleast mentioned those elements in his prayer, this is not Christian preaching (Do not misunderstand my definition. I am not saying that he is not a Christian, God alone knows, or that his message was demonic, though I did find several points contrary to Scripture. I am just saying his message lacked the very elements that make Christianity possible and distinct.) Using the gospel as your introduction to a topic, or your conclusion is not Biblical Christian preaching. We are not managers of an appliance store, giving people a gospel bait and switch. We should not allure them to the message by promising happiness, better income, better earthly living, and then try to tack Jesus on with it. The gospel must be the main thread going throughout the message.

Wacko Exegesis. Often called eisegesis. I am not talking about doing something goofy with Jesus. We do not need to turn Him into the ark that Noah was safely in, or into the male lover in Song of Solomon. However, we can see the gospel message in the story of Noah (he found favor in the eyes of the Lord), who was graciously preserved by God as part of His preservation of mankind so that He could reveal His gospel message. Furthermore, Jesus, like us, is an earthly decendant of Noah. In Song of Solomon, we do not create some disgusting context where suddenly we are to imagine ourselves in an erotic relationship with Christ, but rather, we are encouraged as married couples to enjoy a satisfying sexual relationship together. Why? Because our marriage relationships are a picture of the covenant relationship that God has entered into with the Church. Our motivation for healthy marriages (and our standard) is an accurate display of the gospel message in our union as man and wife.

Call to salvation only. Some people become concerned that gospel-centric preaching becomes a call every week for people to get saved. What's left for the believer who is in attendance? Don't they every receive meat, application, exhortation? Or is the message strictly aimed for the unbeliever? Actually, the pastor is called to shepherd the sheep. Therefore, my message should be directed at the believers in the room, not the unbelievers (Though I am glad they are there and am praying that God would do a work in their heart to cause them to be submissive to His Word). The character, nature and person of God is no more clearly articulated to us than through the gospel message. Therefore, there is no greater source for application, motivation and understanding than in considering our life issues in the context of the gospel. The believer is never called to move beyond the gospel, but rather, to offer ourselves to God "in view of His mercy." Genuine meat for the believer is not found in searching out things other than the gospel, but by searching deeper into the gospel to see how it relates to other things.

Sadly, much of the preaching the world hears today is not Christian. It may be presented by Christians. It may be presented to Christians. But it is not boldly displaying the distinction that makes us the Body, the gospel. The gospel is either tacked on at the beginning, alluded to at the end, ignored all together, or seen as something applying to the unbeliever only. Perhaps this lack of Christian preaching (again, a heralding that clearly proclaims the Christian message--the gospel) is why many churches are scoffing the need for preaching today and are looking for other alternatives.

As a pastor, I would love to see a line drawn in the sand for preaching. Not so that we could ostracize others or feel puffed up about ourselves. But rather, because like Paul, I feel compelled to preach the gospel. But I know I am weak, and I could use the accountability of others who also feel this compulsion to the gospel message that I keep my eyes on the task before me. Only by His grace can that be acheived.

9 Comments:

  • At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Brad said…

    Some theses in response to your post. (I'll go ahead and admit up front that they're tentative).

    The apostolic sermons in acts are models of the kind of discourse to be delivered to those outside the church.

    The apostolic epistles are models of the kind of discourse to be delivered in the context of the church.

    Preaching in scripture refers to the proclamation of the gospel to those outside the church.

    Teaching in scripture refers to the explanation and application of the gospel to those within the church.

    According to the biblical definitions, it is teaching, and not preaching that goes on within the church.

    Master/slave relations, etc. are part of the gospel and are to be taught within the church.

    To omit the practical applications of the gospel is to teach only a partial gospel.

     
  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    brad,

    interesting thesis, but don't ignore that paul's letters are to the church...and he says he can't wait to come and preach the gospel to them (though they are already gathered together).

    the context of 2 TImothy 4 is within Paul's instructions to Timothy in regard to the gathering of believers (with some wolves in their midst, no doubt).

    i will admit that the line between preaching and teaching can be a very blurred one.

    piper, in an attempt to help us understand the difference, offered that his definition of preaching is: exulted exposition.

    dunno if that helps or not.

     
  • At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Brad said…

    Good points.

    Do you think then that it would be fair to call the epistle to the Romans a "preaching" of the gospel?What about the epistle to the Ephesians?

    And if so, would these epistles be complete proclamations of the gospel without their latter applicational portions?

     
  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    well, easy answer is, of course the would not be complete without their latter portions...that's why the Spirit inspired those words to be penned.

    but to the thought you are actually talking about. i think both set out the premise, because of a, then do b.

    i heard a person once share that the first half of ephesians was about doctrine, the second half was about practice. i'm not sure i'm comfortable with that dichotomy. reading it in its context, and as the letter to a church it was intended to be, we see that the gospel is the foundation for the rightly living Paul then calls them to. without the gospel in the letters, the actions are empty and meaningless. without the application in the letters, the message is non-pursuasive and not lived out faith.

    i recently heard piper (man, i quote him a lot...i guess that's what happens when a guy faithfully preaches from the Word) say that romans is the most influential letter written of all time. that caught me off guard at first. but as i thought about it, even the God opposed world has been effected by the instruction of romans.

    therefore, it is probably a brilliant model for us to look at when considering our preaching.

     
  • At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Brad said…

    All right. I'm satisfied.

    P.S. Doesn't it creep you out a little that I follow your blog so closely?

    Don't worry. I won't be on vacation for ever.

     
  • At 1:56 PM, Anonymous mcgriff said…

    Preaching is not teaching or "evangelism" as we think of it today. It is proclaming the Glory of God without regard to human acceptance. A true preacher is more concerned with proclaim Gods Glory than he is whith appeasing his congregation.

    Love the series bro...

     
  • At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No interest in actually understanding the audience?

    No interest in making sure the truth is heard by the specific people you are trying to reach?

     
  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    anonymous,

    it is because i am interested in my audience, and i am quite aware that i have nothing to offer them of myself, that i want to accurately preach the Word of God and believe God to do His redeeming work.

    the gospel message has never been dependant upon our ability to adapt it to our audience, but has rather been used by our diligence to accurately proclaim it.

    paul planted, apollos watered, but the LORD provides the increase. i can't control how the audience receives the message, but i can be diligent to preach the message accurately, and then trust God.

    if the gospel were left to my working and adaptation, i can guarantee you that no one would repent of sin and trust Christ alone on account of my preaching. i'm just not smart or pure enough to do it myself.

     
  • At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Expository Preacher said…

    Three characteristics of a good sermon:

    (1) Hell.
    (2) Hell.
    (3) Hell.

     

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