The Content of Christian Preaching

Kevin DeYoung has an excellent post based on T. David Gordon's Why Johnny Can't Preach. Some excerpts:

After wrestling with the nature of preaching for 25 years, Gordon has concluded that the content of Christian preaching should be the person, character, and work of Christ. Kind of makes sense. Of course, preaching will included moral exhortation, but it is never appropriate, says Gordon, "for one word of moral counsel ever to proceed from a Christian pulpit that is not clearly, in its context, redemptive. That is, even when the faithful exposition of particular texts require some explanation of aspects of our behavior, it is always to be done in a manner that the hearer perceives such commended behavior to be itself a matter of being rescued from the power of sin through the grace of Christ" (70-71).

Gordon sees four alternatives to this type of gospel preaching: Moralism, How-To, Introspection, and Social Gospel/Culture War. That is, instead of preaching Christ crucified and the grace of God, we end up preaching "be better" or "here are three steps to being better" or "are you really a Christian?" or "we need to do more to fight the bad guys out there." It's not that we can't do any of this as preachers--Gordon says there is a place for three of the four (everything but the how-to)--but "the pulpit is almost never the place to do this" (91). What must predominate in our preaching is the person, character, and work of Christ. And everything else should manifestly flow from these things...


Sounds like a book that's worth getting.

Sermons on almost every topic

Found this story recently. It's a sobering warning:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied for a year in New York City. He visited a number of churches there, and this is what he concluded: "One may hear sermons in New York upon almost any subject; one only is never handled, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, of the cross, of sin and forgiveness."

Hope that's not true of us.

Two ways to read the Bible

Tim Keller comments on Luke 24:27: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

If you think the Bible is all about you - about what you must do and how you must live and how you have to do everything in order to get the blessing - then of course you don't need a Messiah who dies for you. All you need is the rules.

But there are two ways and only two ways to read the Bible. You can read the Bible as if it is all about you and what you must do, and what you have to run around doing in order to get the blessing. Or you can read every part of the Bible as all about Him and what He has done for you. Is it all about you or is it all about Him?

The sermon, Literalism: Isn't the Bible historically unreliable and regressive? (MP3), is available as a free download.

The challenge of preaching Christ from all of Scripture

A few years ago, I commented to a mentor that preaching Christ from all of Scripture is a challenging task. I was relieved when he agreed. It is something that many of us realize we need to be doing, but it's also important to recognize that there are challenges in learning how to do this.If I could choose to listen to anyone exposit Scripture, I would choose Jesus' exposition on the road to Emmaus, in which it's aid of Jesus: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). That would have been something to hear.Just to highlight the challenges of preaching Christ from all of Scripture, I'm going to list seven ways that a Christocentric interpretation may take shape. These are from Sidney Greidanus in his book Preaching Christ from the Old Testament:
  • To see the passage in the historical progression of God's redemptive plan through history;
  • To focus on promise fulfillment, in which Christ fulfills Old Testament prophecies;
  • Typology, moving from a type in the Old Testament to the anti-type in Christ;
  • Analogy, showing the relationship between God's message for Israel and Christ's message to the church;
  • Longitudinal interpretation, tracing a theme of the Old Testament to Christ in the New Testament;
  • Using a New Testament quote that cites or alludes to an Old Testament passage, and linking these passages to Christ; and
  • Showing the contrast Jesus brings to an Old Testament passage.
Each of these requires some explanation, but for now I want to highlight that preaching Christ from all of Scripture does take some effort. It is challenging - but it's crucial.More to come next week.