|PREACHING IN THE BIBLE |
Human presentation through the Holy Spirit's power of God's acts of salvation through Jesus Christ. This proclamation of God's revelation functions as God's chosen instrument for bringing us to salvation by grace, although its message of a crucified Messiah seems to be foolishness to people of worldly wisdom and a scandalous offense to Jews (1 Corinthians 1:21-23). True Christian preaching interprets the meaning of God's acts into contemporary contexts. A sermon becomes God's word to us only as God's servant reconstitutes the past realities of the biblical revelation into vital present experience.
Old Testament Traditions The great prophets of the OT heralded God's direct messages against the sins of the people, told of coming judgments, and held out future hope of the great Day of the Lord. God's revelation to families, regularly shared as private instruction (Deuteronomy 11:19), became the foundation of the public reading of the law every seven years to all the people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). During periods of special revival, natural leaders traveled about sharing the revelation in great assemblies (2 Chronicles 15:1-2;
2 Chronicles 17:7-9;
2 Chronicles 35:3).
Nehemiah 8:7-9 records that Ezra and his associates interpreted the “sense” of what was read in such gatherings. The continuing need for such public interpretation and instruction led in the faith gave rise to an expository tradition of OT revelation. This continued after the Exile in the regular services of the local synagogues which arose in dispersed Judaism as substitutes for temple worship.
New Testament Practice Jesus began His ministry in the synagogue by announcing He was the Herald who fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy concerning the preaching of the kingdom and its blessings (Luke 4:16-21). By the time Peter and the other apostles preached, their emphasis focused on the person and work of Christ as the central point of history certifying the presence of God's kingdom on earth today. In the NT, this message concerned a summation of the basic facts about the life, character, death, burial, resurrection, and coming again of Christ. It continues today as the main word of revelation to the world through the church. Although the NT uses some thirty different terms to describe the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles, those most commonly used can be grouped under either proclamation (to herald, to evangelize) or doctrine (to teach). Many scholars define these emphases as either gospel preaching (proclaiming salvation in Christ) or pastoral teaching (instructing, admonishing, and exhorting believers in doctrine and life-style). In practice each function melds into the other. Thus,
1 Corinthians 15:1-7 not only represents the “irreducible core” of the gospel message, but it also includes clear doctrinal teaching on the substitutionary atonement and the fulfillment of messianic prophecies. The same passage forms a foundation for the exposition of the extensive doctrine of general resurrection and its Christian dimensions taught in the following verses. Stephen's address in
Acts 7:1-53 represents the best of the OT tradition, weaving narrative and historical portions of Scripture together with contemporary interpretation and application to the present situation. Peter's sermon in
Acts 2:1 affirms the atoning nature of Jesus' death and the reality of His resurrection together with a clear call to faith and repentance forming a balanced argument framed around the central proposition that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Special Perspectives Paul firmly believed that proclaiming the full glory of Christ not only warns men and women of the need for salvation, but that through this preaching believers can grow towards spiritual maturity (Colossians 1:28). He wrote that the ministry of God-called leaders equips believers in each local assembly for service through mutual ministries to each other and leads to the healthy upbuilding of Christ's body (Ephesians 4:11-16). He defined his content as including “the whole counsel of God” and his practice as being “to Jews and Greeks,” and “from house to house,” as well as “publicly,” and “in all seasons” (Acts 20:17-21).
Homiletics Paul underlined the need for careful attention to principles of communication in preaching. While he refused to adopt some of the cunning word craftiness of the secular rhetoricians of his day (2 Corinthians 4:2;
1 Thessalonians 2:3,1 Thessalonians 2:5), nevertheless, he adapted his preaching well to a variety of audiences and needs. In the synagogue Paul spoke to Jews about the special dealings God has with His people (Acts 13:16-41); but to the Greek philosophers he presented a living God as a challenge to their love for fresh ideas, quoting from their own writers as he did so (Acts 17:22-31). To Agrippa and Festus, Paul molded the gospel message in lofty and legal terms (Acts 26:2-23). When meeting a charge of apostasy from the Jewish faith, he addressed the people in their own tongue concerning his origins and his experiences in Christ (Acts 21:40-22:21). Paul also counseled young pastor Timothy to work on himself as well as on his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul advised the need for diligent practice to improve Timothy's skills in the public reading of the Scriptures and in motivational teaching (1 Timothy 4:13-15). Paul noted that such responsibilities involved “hard labor” (1 Timothy 5:17).