Preaching Articles

The church of the twenty-first century faces many crises. One of the most serious is the crisis of preaching. Widely diverse philosophies of preaching vie for acceptance among contemporary clergy. Some see the sermon as a fireside chat; others, as a stimulus for psychological health; still others, as a commentary on contemporary politics. But some still view the exposition of sacred Scripture as a necessary ingredient to the office of preaching. In light of these views, it is always helpful to go to the New Testament to seek or glean the method and message found in the biblical record of apostolic preaching.

In the first instance, we must distinguish between two types of preaching. The first has been called kerygma; the second, didache. This distinction refers to the difference between proclamation (kerygma) and teaching or instruction (didache). It seems that the strategy of the apostolic church was to win converts by means of the proclamation of the gospel. Once people responded to that gospel, they were baptized and received into the visible church. They then underwent a regular, systematic exposure to the teaching of the apostles, through regular preaching (homilies) and in particular groups of catechetical instruction. In the initial outreach to the Gentile community, the apostles did not go into great detail about Old Testament redemptive history. That knowledge was assumed among Jewish audiences, but it was not held among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, even to the Jewish audiences, the central emphasis of the evangelistic preaching was on the announcement that the Messiah had come and ushered in God’s kingdom.

If we take time to examine the sermons of the apostles that are recorded in the book of Acts, we see a somewhat common and familiar structure to them. In this analysis, we can discern the apostolic kerygma, the basic proclamation of the gospel. Here the focus in the preaching was on the person and work of Jesus. The gospel itself was called the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is about Him; it involves the proclamation and declaration of what He accomplished in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection. After the details of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God were preached, the apostles called the people to be converted to Christ — to repent of their sins and receive Christ by faith.

When we seek to extrapolate from these examples how the apostolic church did evangelism, we must ask: What is appropriate for the transfer of apostolic principles of preaching to the contemporary church? Some churches believe that a person is required to preach the gospel or to communicate the kerygma in every sermon preached. This view sees the emphasis in Sunday morning preaching as one of evangelism, of proclaiming the gospel. Many preachers today, however, say they are preaching the gospel on a regular basis when in some cases they have never preached the gospel at all, because what they call the gospel is not the message of the person and work of Christ and how His accomplished work and its benefits can be appropriated to the individual by faith. Rather, the gospel of Christ is exchanged for therapeutic promises of a purposeful life or having personal fulfillment by coming to Jesus. In messages such as these, the focus is on us rather than on Him.

On the other hand, in looking at the pattern of worship in the early church, we see that the weekly assembly of the saints involved a coming together for worship, fellowship, prayer, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and devotion to the teaching of the apostles. If we were there, we would see that the apostolic preaching covered the whole of redemptive history and the sum of divine revelation, not being restricted simply to the evangelistic kerygma.

So, again, the kerygma is the essential proclamation of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule of Jesus Christ, as well as a call to conversion and repentance. It is this kerygma that the New Testament indicates is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). There can be no acceptable substitute for it. When the church loses her kerygma, she loses her identity.

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Karl Crouch

commented on Sep 21, 2012

Amen ... hope it sticks

Karl Crouch

commented on Sep 21, 2012

Amen ... hope it sticks

Roger Wilson

commented on Sep 21, 2012

Brother Sproul you are right on the mark here! Thank God for people like you who understand that it is CHRIST whom we serve and it is CHRIST whom we must proclaim!

Dean Johnson

commented on Sep 21, 2012

I'd like to point out an implication of Dr. Sproul's point: Pastors, what we are doing on Sunday morning is TEACHING (didache). Now what are you teaching? We teach the Scriptures, because they are the Spirit's tool for the church for the growth of believers. Brothers, teach the Scriptures to your people.

Stuart M Guthrie

commented on Sep 21, 2012

As a Young Pastor I needed to hear this. It seems that so many offer these therapeutic promises all around us and how can I compete with that? Im encouraged to keep fighting the fight and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and keep my messages Christ Focused! Nice article, I think you hit the nail on the head. Pastor Stuart Guthrie

Myron Heckman

commented on Sep 21, 2012

The kerygma is (or should be) woven into our teaching. If the kerygma is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, our teaching ought to reflect that as a glory to God. One simple test is to count how many times you use the name of Jesus Christ in your message. If He is not there, or is mentioned only in passing, it's not Christ focused. One help is from Spurgeon (I think he said it) is preach your message and run to the cross. With a little thought, you'll usually see a direct link. If Christ isn't in some way the culmination of our sermon, then we have to ask if it's really a Christian sermon.

Joseph Wilson

commented on Sep 21, 2012

As a Catholic priest, I admire R C Sproul esp for constantly keeping the focus on the centrality of the Word of God, since faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. There are far too many therapeutic sermons which seem to be preparing the ground for the prophecy in 2 Tim 3:1-5. Our calling in the pulpit is to proclaim Jesus is Lord in season and out. God bless you.

Gerald L White

commented on Sep 23, 2012

That's good information and it gets an amen from me also. I'm saving this.

Tim Burns

commented on Sep 24, 2012

The proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching/teaching His life, death, resurrection, ascension, the giving of the Holy Spirit is to lead to salvation and the healing of broken hearts. We preach to sinful people who are hurting deeply. The Lord cares about both. He cares about it all. Doesn't the Gospel of Jesus have a therapeutic impact on the responder? Doesn't the Christ-centered message lead to a purposeful, meaningful life in which Jesus is the center of it all? We need to preach the Gospel, confession and repentance and that the Lord is close to the broken hearted and those crushed in spirit. Jesus came to take away sin , heal the broken heart and set the captive free.

John E Miller

commented on Sep 26, 2012

I think that this a very sound article. One other thing is that much more emphasis should be place on the return of Jesus Christ. Scripture clearly teaches that He will come FOR His own (1 Thess.4:13-18, 1 Cor.15:50-58) and will subsequently return to this earth WITH His own (Matt.24, Mark13, Luke 21, Jude vs.14,15 and many others). The solemn address to Sardis in Rev.3 intimates that it will be sudden, without warning and will be unexpected. Christians and non-Christians alike must be constantly alerted and warned of the solemnity and imminence of this, the next great event in the divine calendar. Those who have received Christ as Saviour should be eagerly awaitng His return.

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