Jon Moffitt: Today on Theocast we are discussing Christ-centered preaching -what is it and what it is not – how you have to have an appropriate understanding of the entire Bible before you ever want to try and attempt to preach Christ from all of scripture, and how we can easily slip into preaching moralism while we’re trying to preach Christ from the text.
In our members’ podcast, we have a fun conversation around how you can preach Christ and sound angry at the same time. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
Justin Perdue: I just mentioned being exhausted. We’re going to be talking about something today that can exhaust people in the church if not handled appropriately: we’re going to be talking today about Christ-centered preaching. We get a lot of questions and a lot of comments here at Theocast about the gospel itself. We did a podcast a few weeks ago called preaching About the Gospel where we made the observation that many preachers will get up at conferences (or even in their own pulpits) and be very fired up about preaching the gospel but then don’t actually preach Christ and hold him out to people.
Today we’re doing something that’s related but different. There’s a lot of language not only about the gospel in the church today, but there’s a lot of language, writing, and speaking done on Christ-centered preaching. We want to try to bring some clarity and light to this conversation and talk about what Christ-centered preaching is and is not. We hope this conversation is not only clarifying, but also encouraging; we hope it helps people diagnose and assess the preaching that they’re sitting under, even in their podcast feeds or whatever it may be.
I know it’s our conviction that that many guys who will wax eloquent about Christ-centered preaching may not be doing it. I know guys in our camp, with Theocast being a confessional, reformed place where we aim to preach the Law and the gospel, sometimes the representation of us is a little bit reductionist in terms of how we go about trying to preach Jesus. We want to shed some clarity on that, too. We’re going to talk about a number of things today. We’re going to try to define some terms for people in hopes that this is encouraging and helpful to folks.
Jon Moffitt: This is hermeneutic when we talk about how, when you get up and preach a sermon, and you open your Bible, what are you trying to accomplish? What are you leading people to? The phrase “expository preaching” is often thrown around, and we have some very dominant voices in the world for the last 50 years who have defined expository preaching.
The word expository is just a fancy word for explained. That’s what it means. It means to explain or exposit the text. There’s a debate on what is explaining the text.
When I was in seminary, I was taught to look at the immediate context. Let’s say you’re preaching 1 John 1:1-5. That’s what you’re preaching, right? Five verses. You have to look at your immediate context, and then you look at the broader context of the book, and then you look at their broader context of the New Testament, and that’s about as far as you would get. You really wouldn’t go any farther than that.
What we’re saying is that the Bible in itself is an entire context. It’s not just one book or one period of Christianity. When you grab Lord of the Rings, and you read a particular book out of the saga, you understand that there’s a whole world that functions there. When you understand the story, you have to understand everything that Tolkien is saying from beginning to end within this world he has created. The same goes when it comes to preaching the context of a text. When someone says they preach Christ-centered preaching, mentioning Christ, talking about Christ, or giving facts about Christ is not necessarily Christ-centered preaching.
When we say we are preaching Christ, from a reformed perspective, the most important part that has changed this and brought clarity for me is when we talk about the context of a passage: it is the redemptive historic understanding of scripture. You have to back out and ask, “What is the context of the Bible? What is the Bible about?” If you can answer that question, you’ll be able to understand and appropriately preach Christ-centered preaching.
Maybe we should take a couple of seconds here and talk about redemptive historic understanding of the scripture. What do we mean by this? Redemption – meaning that the Bible is about the redemption of creation from the beginning of the fall to Revelation – means that God is not only redeeming sinners, but He was redeeming all things. It’s the restoration of all things historic meaning that when we interpret scripture, we do it with a lens from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation; understanding that the purpose of the Bible is redemption and it unfolds through history. We follow it in a historic fashion.
Jimmy Buehler: Certainly, we want to be careful and very affirming of those who do try to seek to preach the Bible in its context. Don’t just hear us say that that is a bad thing. It certainly is a good thing when you are reading through a rather difficult letter like 1 Corinthians (or even 2 Corinthians for that matter) to try to understand the original context in which it was written.
But what we are saying is that while it is great to understand the cultural context, and that brings new meaning and new light – it’s even great to understand linguistic contexts and that brings new meaning in new light as well – ultimately what we are pointing to is the great end of understanding how this particular passage, book, or topic within scripture fits within the greater drama of redemption.
It’s not that we’re turning over every rock, and we’re trying to find silly allusions to the gospel, but rather we are placing the book within the greater context of how the gospel has been unfolded throughout history.
Justin Perdue: The way that I’ll frame it in our church often, and I think our people are almost catechized with this at this point, I’ll say the Bible is about God’s plan of redemption accomplished through Christ, and we preach, and we understand every passage of scripture in light of that main point. One way this could be illustrated is imagine that you were reading a book about Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, to make a sports reference. We’re reading about this great dynasty and all the championships they won and everything else – that’s the main point of the book you’re reading; it is about the Green Bay Packers dynasty. Maybe Vince Lombardi is a coach. Then within that book that you’re reading there might be an anecdote about how a player was meticulous in putting on his uniform. What often happens is we take hold of that one anecdote and we make a big deal about the particularities of how this man put on his uniform. We divorce it completely from the context of what the whole thing is about, meaning that the dynasty of the Green Bay Packers and their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi. It’s an illustration that I’m trying to make of what we do with scripture a lot of times: we zero in on an anecdote or a particular passage, a story that we see in scripture, and we divorce it completely from the context.
It’s just like how you would look at that person who read that book about the Green Bay Packers dynasty and then was geeked up about how a guy put his pants on. You’re thinking, “Did you not understand what the book was about?” We would never do that. Or a book about World War II where there’s an illustration about a soldier putting his uniform on. The book is about World War II, and we need to understand that everything that we’re going to talk about with respect to this book needs to be understood in light of World War II. That’s all we’re saying about the Bible. Whenever we go to a passage, we want to understand that passage in light of the main point of scripture, which is God’s plan of redemption accomplished through Christ.
One thing that Jimmy alluded to is we’re not trying to make silly connections. We’re not trying to read Jesus into every verse of Scripture; I think sometimes that’s what people misunderstand us to mean. When we talk about Christ-centered preaching, it’s like we’re trying to find Jesus on every page. Like the Bible is some sort of Where’s Waldo book – that’s not at all what we mean. Let me just frame it this way: the way that I approach sermon preparation every week is I’m asking a question that I think every preacher should ask, and that ought to be the main question. The question that I’m not asking first of all is, “Where is Jesus in this text?” I’m not asking that question. That’s the wrong way to approach it, in my opinion. The right question is, “Where does this text stand in relation to Christ?” When we go to the texts, where does this text stand in relation to Christ? That is the first and most important question that I ask every week when I get ready to prepare a sermon. That is what we mean by preaching from a redemptive-historical perspective with Christ as the center and Christ as the focus.
Jon Moffitt: When you think about the purpose of the Bible, is the purpose of the Bible to get the world to act better? Is the purpose of the Bible to create morality within humanity around the world? Then a redemptive-historical understanding of scripture would be a wrong perspective to have.
But if you understand that in Genesis, God sets up the entire story – Genesis 1, God creates the world; Genesis 3, the world crashes. From that moment on, even from John 1, we learned Jesus is in creation; He’s the one who created, so it starts with Jesus in creation. Jesus has then promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, and from that moment on, how will God’s promise to restore creation to Adam and Eve’s original garden happen? Everything from that moment forward is God proving that when He made this promise, He can fulfill it. No matter how many times Israel’s covenant with God fails and how many times people try and stop, the promise even got all the way down to one person at one point. The promise seed got down to one human being. If that one human being died and did not procreate, that would have been it. God would have been a liar. And so, you have this story that is unbelievable – highs and lows, beauty, and just horrific, disgusting things that humanity does, and yet every single one of those stories is the fulfillment.
This is why we would say at a Theocast that we are all confessional. Because we’re confessional, we understand that scripture is redemptive historic, and it is a story of the fulfillment of a covenant. The covenant of grace fulfilled as covenant of works in the garden with Adam and Eve. They failed the covenant of works, but God gives us a covenant of grace, promising that He will save us. Jesus comes and fulfills the original covenant of works with Adam. Every sermon is not disconnected from that. The moment you emphasize something other than Christ and the work of Christ, you are actually emphasizing a subset story. Because if the Bible began in Genesis with Jesus, and you know what the book of Revelation is all about – Jesus coming back to restore all things – beginning to end, and the filler in between is this epic proving to us that God is faithful. When you hear a sermon and that sermon is somehow emphasizing a soldier’s uniform – which is a great illustration – you should walk away a little disappointed. I’m not sure why we’re talking about that when the hero of the story is Jesus.
Jimmy Buehler: Justin, I’m going to play devil’s advocate at something that you said. The question that you asked before you prepare any sermon is, “Where does this text stand in relation to Christ?” I can hear people as they are processing that, and as the gears turn, there can be this idea that the text is undermined immediately; that as you look at the texts, you have this presupposition approach of question. “I’m just going to find where this text relates to Christ even if the text doesn’t mention Jesus. I’m going to work as hard as I can to get there.”
I’ve talked about this before, but I’m preaching through 1 Corinthians. When you are in the middle of 1 Corinthians, it’s a difficult journey, to say the least: you are talking about church discipline, you are talking about sexual immorality, and you’re talking about lawsuits between believers. As you approach these really practical Christian living topics, let’s just say the Epistles, how do you take a passage like 1 Corinthians 5-7 – where within that frame Paul talks about not suing believers and settling matters with one another in love – how do you take a passage like that and still preach it in relation to Christ?
Justin Perdue: When I said what I did about where the text stands in relation to Christ, I want to further clarify what I mean. I am not, just to reiterate, trying to find Christ in every single passage, but I understand everything that is written in holy scripture in light of Christ and his work and his sufficiency and what he has done in the place of his people.
It’s like that’s the North Star; that’s what’s orienting the compass; that’s what’s giving me my bearings as I look at scripture. Underneath the sufficiency of Christ in his redemptive work for us and the fact that he has accomplished our salvation, there are many things that we can talk about. I don’t know how to answer your question, Jimmy, without going into something that we talk about pretty regularly here on Theocast, which is the uses of the Law.
I’m going to anticipate another objection that may be raised. People will say that if you go about Christ-centered preaching the way we are talking about it, the way that we are encouraging people to do, then what you’re going to end up doing is preaching basically the same sermon every Sunday. You’re basically going to end up being a broken record saying something like, “Here is what God requires. None of us have done it adequately. Certainly, we’ve not done it perfectly. We all stand condemned but take heart because Christ has done it for you and trust him.” To say that this is the only thing that we would ever preach is very reductionist, and I think it’s an unfair caricature of the kind of preaching that the three of us aim to do in our own respective pulpits. We also will uphold the three uses of the Law, not just the first use – the first use being to show us our sin and drive us to Christ. We do preach that every Sunday, we make it clear even to the redeemed. We remind ourselves over and over again that all of us have failed to meet God’s Law and are therefore in desperate need of Christ.
We can also talk about what God prescribed in his word in terms of a way of living. Jimmy, like your question specifically about 1 Corinthians 5-7, or there could be any number of other passages that we could refer to, there are all kinds of imperatives and exhortations that we do preach to people underneath Christ and the gospel and the banner of all that. We say, “Now here’s how we live.” Because there’s the second and third use of the Law, where doing these things is going to be good for your life, avoiding these things is also going to be good for your life, and we strive in Christ Jesus to conform our lives to the word of God because it’s good for us, it’s good for our neighbor, and it honors the Lord. We can say all of those things.
The difference for us, and many people that will want to preach imperatives as well, is we strive to not preach those imperatives in a threatening way to the saints. In Christ, they’re no longer condemnatory or threatening.
I could happily preach about not suing each other and talk, at a commonsense level, about why that’s not good. We can do that underneath the banner of Christ and the gospel. But the whole tone and tenor of the sermon, I would contend, is very different if you’re preaching in light of Christ.
Jon Moffitt: To answer Jimmy’s question and to maybe connect everything that Justin just said about the Law-gospel as well: if the Bible is a story of redemption and it unfolds through history, what is God redeeming people from? Well, it’s an offense against the Law.
Their original Law given to Adam was to not eat of the tree. That’s the original one. Then Adam falls, and in order for men to see who they are because now it’s part of their nature, Adam and Eve were the only ones who went from pure nature to sinful nature and experienced both.
We are now born. And so, the new law, the Mosaic Law, was given so that we could see our needs. So, all of scripture is the unfolding of the Law. You see your need, and then the good news of the gospel; the gospel is “can’t be done. Christ did it for you, believe.” That’s the gospel. When you read scripture, you have to hold those two far apart because if you don’t, you start mixing the story and the purpose of the story.
To go to your question about 1 Corinthians and suing each other, Paul begins with the gospel – their foundation and their security in Christ is always based upon faith. This is why he even says, “I don’t want to preach nothing among you except for Christ and him crucified.” That’s the foundation of their faith. Yet we also understand that the human body is still underneath the curse; the Spirit lives within us, but the body is still broken. Paul is helping believers who have broken bodies to learn how to function underneath the Spirit. He is saying, “Listen, you have to live in grace and mercy. Unfortunately, you guys are messing this up.” So, if you preach that section of first Corinthians, which is don’t Sue each other, and you don’t end that series with hope of grace and gospel, you actually only give people Law and no hope. I just don’t see how, if you are a preacher of the Bible if you only preach one section of it, disconnected from the rest. If Christ is the point and Christ is the conclusion, and he’s the beginning, and the end and nothing else matters except for your eternity with God, yet provide instructions disconnected from hope in Christ, then I think you’re not actually preaching. You’ve gone from preaching to explaining some historic texts to somebody. There’s a difference between explaining historic text and preaching.
Jimmy Buehler: As we think about preaching Christ and preaching Christ from all of scripture, what’s important to remember is that it’s not that necessarily that the content looks different, but I think one of the things that are very different when you are truly preaching Christ is the tone and tenor of the pulpit.
Just to use the example that we’ve been playing with for the past couple of moments, there is a difference between saying, “Real Christians don’t sue one another, so get your act together and cut it out.” Certainly, that is true on some level. Don’t sue your fellow believer. As we see laid out in 1 Corinthians, there’s a difference between saying that and then saying this, “We have been given everything in our good Lord and shepherd King Jesus. As we think about living life together, there are certainly going to be times of conflict and hardship and difficulty with one another, but we have been given everything in the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting. As we approach one another as fellow pilgrims living this life, let us keep that in mind.” There’s just such a difference in tone as we think about preaching Christ that it’s not necessarily that we shirk the imperatives of what we see, particularly in the epistles in the New Testament, but rather when we see these things, we understand them within its greater context. We understand it within its greater place.
Michael Horton has given a wonderful illustration that if you think of the Christian life, the Law is like a boat with a giant sail. If you get in that boat, you know how it works, and you know what it does: it keeps you afloat.
Here’s the thing: with no wind, that boat is not going anywhere. He talks about how the gospel is like the wind in our sails, and that the gospel moves the boat. That’s a wonderful illustration. I’ve even shared that with our church in preaching on conflict management within our church and 1 Corinthians 7.
I think that’s just so important to keep in mind that when we preach Christ, the content may look the same as when people are just simply explaining the text, as John has talked about, but the major difference is the tone and the tenor of the pulpit.
Justin Perdue: Even in preaching a passage like 1 Corinthians 6, you’re preaching it in light of 1 Corinthians 1-2, where it all begins with Christ and him crucified, the message of the cross, and all these things. Even where he says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, that Christ has become to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, it’s quite clear that Christ is sufficient, in what he has done for the Corinthian Christians and for all of us, thereby. Even in 1 Corinthians 6, immediately after talking about the lawsuit piece, Paul talks about how when you sue your brothers and sisters in the church, you are essentially defrauding one another. Then he goes on immediately to say, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” And he talks about all these various kinds of sins, and it such were you, but you’ve been washed, and you’ve been sanctified; you’ve been cleansed; Christ Jesus has redeemed you. He continually goes back to the gospel and what Christ has done, and even in exposing people’s sin, he goes back to the gospel and drives people constantly outside of themselves to Christ, reminding them of their need for him.
So, I do agree with your statement, Jimmy, that a lot of times, the content will look similar, but the tone and tenor are completely different. I do think, at times, we all agree that the content will be presented differently, too. I know consciously for us; we’re preaching 1 Corinthians 6 through the lens of 1 Corinthians 1-2. We’re preaching it through the lens of that whole redemptive-historical framework of the Bible.
We’re always going to be holding Christ out and extolling the mercy and power and grace of Christ to people even as we say, “Hey guys, here’s how the redeemed live with one another. We don’t sue each other. It doesn’t do good things for us. It’s bad for our neighbor. It makes the faith look ridiculous, and we look just like the world.” Whatever it may be. We can say those things.
Then there is a tone and a tenor, and I’ll even use the word tincture – it’s an old word where everything that we preach and say are tinted and flavored with the grace and mercy of God in Christ.
Jimmy Buehler: There’s a member of my church, and I’m stealing this from him, and I think he says it really well when he said that if you were to summarize the Bible in one verse, he says it’s Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” Full stop.
That is kind of the lens through which we at Christ Community Church preach – that salvation belongs to the Lord. Even when we preach these imperatives, they in no way change the indicatives of what God has done for us in Jesus. What I mean by that is even when we preach things – ways to live and, dare I even say, ways to behave properly as a Christian – they are done with the greater context of salvation belonging to the Lord, that these in no way merit any sort of favor, these in no way merit any sort of righteousness before God because all of that has been given to you in Christ and Christ alone.
In light of that, in light of the wind and those sails, let us love and serve one another. Let us pursue one another with grace. Let us live a life towards holiness not because it gives us anything in terms of merit and righteousness or standing, but rather because those things have been freely given to us in the gospel. What God has demanded of us in the Law, He’s given us freely in Christ. Therefore, in light of this, this is how we go on living the pilgrim Christian life.
Jon Moffitt: If you look at scripture and say redemptive historic, the majority of the Bible is narrative and not instruction. You have a story of what God is doing and how men cannot live up to the expectation or the commands of God. I would say it would be fair to say that 5% of the Bible is instruction that applies to the believer. You have the Law that’s reinstituted in the third use of the Law in the New Testament, not the ceremonial Law, but the moral Law. Then you have the Epistles; if you read Ephesians, you don’t get to the instructions until chapter four; the same thing is true with Colossians and 1 Corinthians. What begins is either gospel or narrative. So, you have a very small section of scripture that is instruction, yet when it comes down to Christ-centered preaching, it seems like we preach instruction. That’s what we preach when the Bible if you’re just going to take it at face value based upon the weight of what is it is used there, is a story to prove to you that you should not trust yourself and that God is 100% trustworthy even though you may not fully understand.
I wrote an article recently called, “Where is God in COVID-19?” and in there, I say that there’s no way to solve the problem of evil, and we don’t know why God chooses to save someone. We don’t know all those things, but the one thing we do know is that He is good. He has proven that He is good, and He has never fallen on his promise. That is the point of the Bible.
Justin Perdue: One thing that’s helpful in this conversation is understanding that the Bible is full of what we would call – theologically speaking – typology, where there are things that occur earlier on in the story of redemption that are shadows and pointers to things that are coming later. We see a number of things transpire throughout redemptive history that is pointing us and driving us toward the Christ, the Messiah who is to come, who is going to accomplish all of the things that these shadows and pointers have been indicating. One way that we could even talk about this is biblical theology. Then even thinking about types and anti-types.
So, the type and then the one that’s coming, that’s ultimate. Think about one of the most famous stories in the scripture, and it’s David and Goliath. Right? There’s no imperative given in that entire story.
The irony is we read the story of David and Goliath, and the way that it’s often presented is here are the ways that you can do this or that and slay the giants in your life and all of that. The story is this: we have this great enemy of God’s people, this giant, this conqueror, the head of the armies of the enemies of God. Then we have this young shepherd boy who goes out to the front lines. He’s only there because he’s bringing his older brothers some food. Nobody will go and fight the giant, the champion of the enemy, so the young boy goes, “This guy is defiling the armies of the living God. I’ll go fight him.” Then we have this insane account where God’s plan of redemption is hanging in the balance of a young shepherd boy with some rocks.
The rock is thrown, and it hits the giant guy in the head, then the shepherd boy goes and cuts the head off of the champion of the enemy of God’s people. And we say, “Praise God. His plan endures, and redemption can happen.” But we look at that account, and we say, “Hey guys, here are some things that we can do. Here is some stuff that we can go about doing and slaying giants in our lives,” rather than saying, “There’s one coming greater than David who will sit on the throne of David forever, who is going to cut the head off of the serpent named Satan, and he’s going to be our Champion and our Redeemer and our Savior forever. “That’s the point of that text. David’s life is there because Christ is coming, and Christ is the greater David.
Rather than us looking at it and saying, “If we have faith like David, and if we go out there with our slings, and if we do this and that, and we’ll slay the giants in our lives, the giants of anxiety and fear, and we’ll have a purpose.” It’s crazy.
Jimmy Buehler: “Dare to be a David,” or “Dare to be a Daniel”.
I’m going to say something, and I’ll see what you guys think. I think that it takes a lot more work to moralize scripture than to preach Christ from Scripture. That’s my bold claim of the day. It takes so much more work and energy to throw morals where they don’t exist onto the framework of a redemptive-historical understanding of the Bible than it takes to actually preach Christ from the text. Case in point, look at the Psalms; the Psalms in so many regards are these difficult, hard words that, as Chad bird likes to say, hurled at the heavens, thrown at God, saying, “Where are you? What are you doing?” It is so easy for us to look at the Psalms and moralize them and say, “Here’s what we know we should be, and here’s what we should do.” When in so many regards, particularly the Psalms of lament, we just look at the Psalms of lament, and we say it’s okay for us to lament. God’s people have lamented throughout history.
Even as we think about different things within the gospels, we will look at the miracles of Jesus or the works of Christ within the gospels, and we try to moralize those when he’s right there. He’s right there. All you have to do is just turn the light on and let people see how glorious Jesus is. You don’t have to do much. You don’t even have to do much. He’s shining, but instead, you want to find your place in somewhere else. You want to find your place, in some moral within the greater narrative, which to me, is just so difficult. I think it just takes a lot more work, but that’s just me.
Jon Moffitt: I think that’s a great observation. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been both preachers: I’ve been a moral preacher, and I’ve been a legal preacher, and now I preach Christ. Trying to come up with clever outlines that give people instructions was very hard, and it was hard not to sound like you are preaching the same thing every single week. Topical ends up becoming easier because you can just pick whatever topic you want to cover. If you’re preaching a text and you’re trying to come up with instructions from the text in each one, it’s very hard. But if you are just going to lead people to rest in Christ and you’re going to explain the text in its context, to me, it is the best kind of preaching. It is wonderful because all you’re doing is just revealing the glory of God in Christ to people each and every week. When it comes down to providing morals, and it’s not in the text, it is hard. It is complex.
I will tell you what is hard for me – and thankfully my church has transitioned mostly out of this – what’s hard for me is that when I do preach this way, I get attacked because people say, “But Jon, you’re not giving me anything to do.” Then I get accused of being antinomian and not expository preaching. “Jon, you’re not expository preaching,” because, in their mind, expository preaching is, “Read the texts. Now give me something to do.”
Justin Perdue: To respond to the idea of is it more work to preach morals to moralize the Bible, I think my answer would be yes and no. On the one hand, it is harder where homiletically, wherein homiletically meaning how we actually go to preach and prepare a sermon. I do think it’s more work to moralize stuff and then fit it into a nice outline and make it hang and make it clever. I think to moralize the Bible, though, is as natural as breathing for us. I think it’s also what we are taught in many church contexts. We tend to go to scripture and immediately turn it into, “This is clearly about me and what I need to be doing,” rather than realizing that the whole point of scripture is about Christ and what he has done for me, and now I live in light of that.
Jon, to pick up on what you were talking about on the way that we’re charged with not being expository preachers because we’re not giving people imperatives – that’s a really old song. I think that’s the song regularly hurled and lobbed against us, usually accusing us that there’s no moral impetus in our preaching, that we’re not giving people any kind of moral imperative ever. My response to that initially is why don’t you come to some services and listen to me, or Jon, or Jimmy? Why don’t you get on our sermon audio podcast feeds? I think you’ll understand pretty quickly that none of us are antinomian. We’re talking plenty about how we live together in the church.
I’m not going to say it all again, but I go back to the fact that we use the Law lawfully. 1 Timothy 1:8, we uphold the Law when it’s used lawfully, and we drive people to Christ. Our, most important takeaway every Sunday from any sermon that we ever preach should be to trust Christ. If it’s not, we’re wrong. We’ll start there and then after that, sure, there can be a number of other things. I want to adjust how I’m doing that there because I want to love my neighbor better, or whatever it may be. We’re all saying that stuff. So, to act as though there is no moral imperative ever given when you preach in a Christ-centered fashion as we’re describing is just flat out not true.
I want Jimmy to tee this up for us about what people understand expository preaching to be, and then why they would even make such an accusation. Like you just mentioned, Jon, “You’re not preaching in an expository fashion because you’re not telling me a bunch of stuff to do. Even your tone is confusing to me.”
Jimmy Buehler: One of the things that I have noticed, and I see frequently is that there is this strange desire that you want to be yelled at when you hear a sermon. That there is this equating of feeling good and feeling spiritually filled if you also feel beat up at the end of a sermon. That if the preacher has like injudiciously yelled at you for 40 minutes and you feel all sorts of beat up and all sorts of bad for how you’re living, and you equate that to spirituality.
We take a couple of swings at this, but we really tee this up for the members. Maybe we should talk about some like angry preaching.
I have been guilty. I’m grateful for the first church I ever served in – they were beyond gracious, but I remember it was like hurling insults at God’s people. And I lament at the way that I did that, and the desire behind it is to wake up nominal Christians. I have some thoughts on that, but maybe you guys take some parting shots, and we hurl it over to the members’ podcast.
Justin Perdue: I’ll give a parting shot really quickly.
Jon, you said something earlier in the podcast, and I don’t know that I ever commented on it. You mentioned what the goal of preaching is? And we were talking to each other before we hit record about this. What do we understand the goal of preaching to be? My short answer to that question and I take my inspiration somewhat from John Calvin in his commentary on 1 John 5:13 where he basically says, paraphrased, that it’s the duty of any godly minister to extol as much as possible the grace and power of Christ so that we being satisfied in that might not look anywhere else.
In those terms, every time I get in the pulpit that, to use the language of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2, I seek to know nothing among you other than Christ and him crucified. I want to herald and extol the mercy, the power, the grace, and the sufficiency of Christ. And the prayer, of course, is that everybody who’s hearing the sound of my voice would trust in Christ alone.
Other people may frame it in their own words, but I think that if we’re going to talk about Christ-centered preaching, that’s the heart behind it. That’s the motivation, and that’s the goal – that everybody would trust and rest in Christ and know the peace that is ours in him.
Jon Moffitt: The goal really, if you’re a reformed confessional, is that preaching is a means of grace. We understand that, as we hear God’s word given to us, it should increase our faith. The goal of preaching is to help people rest in Christ. If you were to ask me what the goal of preaching was before I got into seminary, basically, I was a puritanical preacher, so the goal was to whip people into shape by getting them to stop being lackadaisical and getting them to start reading the Bible and praying. That was the goal of preaching.
We’ll talk more about angry preaching and what is the purpose of preaching in the members’ podcast.
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