preach

A Theology of Preaching

(This is Part 2 of a 4-Part Series on A Theology of Preaching)

What Do We Preach?

We preach Jesus Christ as the focus of the Scriptures for His redemption, restoration, and reign.

To say that we preach the Bible is perhaps simplistic and understood from the answer to the previous question. To be more specific, we preach Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote, “Him we proclaim” (Col 1:28). Bryan Chapell writes, “The entire Bible is Christ-centered because his redemptive work in all of its incarnational, atoning, arising, interceding, and reigning dimensions is the capstone of all of God’s revelation of his dealing with his people.”[1] If the Bible is what we preach, and the center of the Bible is Christ, then we must proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Thus, a theology of preaching boasts only in Christ: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). Even Jesus claimed and taught that he was the focus of all Scripture when he explained the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:44–47).

There are three aspects of Christ that are foundational to making him the focus of our preaching. First, we preach of Christ’s redemption. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers about this gospel saying, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3–4). This verse refers to the process Jesus endured to obtain our redemption. Ultimately, Jesus came to purchase our redemption (Mk 10:45; Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7; Rom 3:24). Thus, our preaching must direct its attention to proclaiming the truth that Jesus came to redeem lost man. Piper supports this focus on preaching Christ and the cross when he writes, “Now I hope you can see in all this that what God achieved in the cross of Christ is the warrant or ground of preaching.”[2] While the cross and its redemption may be foolish to the world, this is the power of the gospel and the center of our preaching (1 Cor 1:18).

Second, we preach of Christ’s restoration. When Adam sinned in the garden, the perfect world that God had created fell. From that point forward, Christ came not only for our redemption, but for our restoration. This is at the heart of Paul’s comment in Col 1:28: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” To present every man complete requires restoring man to the image of God that was first created. Thus not all preaching will be merely evangelistic in nature. While the believer needs to be reminded of the gospel, at the heart of their greatest need is now how to be restored.

Third, we preach of Christ’s reign. To preach only redemption and restoration is to become shortsighted. The teachings of Jesus certainly had a kingdom focus as well. One day Jesus will return and reign on the earth. According to H. N. Ridderbos, “The kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ preaching, according to the Synoptic Gospels.”[3] This must also become central in our pastoral preaching as well.

The three aspects of Christ’s redemption, restoration, and reign lead to a transformational preaching ministry. One of the goals of preaching is the transformation of humanity into the desired image of God. Thus, a theology of preaching must likewise focus on sin, salvation, and sanctification as an end goal. Sin separates us from God. Salvation is God’s salvific act to restore us from our sinful state into His image. Sanctification is the process by which believers grow into this image of God.

We preach Jesus Christ as the focus of the Scriptures for His redemption, restoration, and reign.
This is the message of preaching.

[1] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 276.
[2] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2004), 36.
[3] H. N. Ridderbos, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 647.