Preaching Christ is preaching grace. They’re virtually synonyms. You can’t have one without the other.
Last time, we identified 7 interwoven themes that together form an “apostolic theology of preaching.” Now let’s look at the first four of them a little more in depth.
1. The purpose we pursue: “to present everyone mature in Christ.”
THE purpose…THE foundation… THE non-negotiable…of preaching is to be God’s mouthpiece in his “Creation Project”:
“Through preaching Christ Paul seeks to recreate people into the image of God, so they enjoy God’s presence in unashamed purity, serve his will in unreserved love, express God’s justice and mercy in relationships with each other.” (p. 66)
Notice, Johnson’s and Paul’s emphasis is in on “people”, community rather than individuals. Ours is the day of “me and Jesus” rather than “us and Jesus” so we need to let this sink in. The important themes of “maturity”, “the body of Christ”, and being “in Christ” point to the fact that God is not rescuing individuals willy-nilly, but is gathering a redeemed community that will live and love like Jesus on earth right now. And it is this community that mirrors in its interrelationships with each other a reflection of the image of the Holy Community, the Triune God himself. And it is preaching that God has ordained as a means of making this happen.
“The same gospel that initially called us to faith is the means that perfects us in faith…..The same gospel, faithfully preached, accomplishes both evangelism leading to conversion and edification leading to sanctification—both individual and corporate renewal together.” (p. 68, 69)
2. The listeners we address: “to make known…among the Gentiles.”
Apostolic preaching, new covenant preaching is by default missiological preaching. Why? Because God is calling men, women, and children from every nation to abandon their life-bleeding idols and to turn to His life-giving Son, Jesus.
“When God does the diagnosis through his whole Word, he pierces through the surface symptoms all the way to the heart, with the radical cure of God’s holy truth exposing our infection in all its ugliness and applying Christ’s amazing grace in all its sweetness and strength.” (p. 71)
The purpose in preaching is to announce to peoples everywhere that reign of the Redeeming-Creator, Jesus, has begun and that there is no nation, people group, or culture that is exempt from his rule or redemption. The message of our preaching is not tied down to a particular language or geography. Apostolic preachers are missional preachers.
3. The content we preach: “Him we proclaim.”
“How can contemporary preachers preach ‘nothing but Christ’ and at the same time preach the whole Bible as it addresses the whole spectrum of spiritual and ethical issues that confront our readers?” (p. 75)
In other words how can the simple notion of “preaching Jesus” possibly be enough? How can “Jesus” be the answer to all of life’s questions, fears, frustrations, pursuits and joys? Is this just preacher talk? I don’t think so. Have you ever noticed how much Jesus-talk Paul goes through when he talks to his Christian friends, when he prays for them, when he tells them how to do money, how to do sex, how to do parenting, how do singleness, how to do career, how to do entertainment, how to do conversation,…how to do life? He always calls his friends to orient/re-orient their life to the reality of how God has changed the world through Jesus. Paul demands that they live every aspect of their life in view of the actual death and resurrection of Jesus and the new creation that dawned because of it.
So here are the essentials of “preaching Jesus”:
Christ reveals God the Creator with a fullness and clarity unmatched by any other mode of revelation. The goal, or perfection/maturity that God has for his creation is out on public display in Jesus.
Christ’s supremacy is clearly seen in his role as the reconciler of God’s people. Jesus is the only cure for the lethal sickness of sin and death.
Preaching Christ is preaching the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for history. We’ll never make sense of the OT unless we understand how pointed to and is fulfilled in Jesus. We’ll never figure out what it means to follow Jesus unless we believe that he is the hinge-point of history.
4. The communication tasks we perform: “warning and teaching…with all wisdom.”
“Preaching not only informs the mind but also employs truth to appeal to emotions and to challenge the will to respond in ways appropriate to the truth revealed in the gospel.” (p. 85)
That’s a lot to expect out of preaching, out of preacher! But that about sums it up (cf. 1 Timothy 3:16). That’s why the 4 approaches in chapter 2 are not all wrong. The first three are just over simplified, emphasizing one aspect over another. Apostolic preaching is dynamic communication.
Well, that’s it for now; we’ll tackle 5-7 on “Him We Prolcaim 3.2.”
- If the purpose of preaching is ‘maturity in Christ’, what does this maturity look like? How do we measure it?
- How does viewing our preaching as missional clarify the purpose, content and communication methods of our preaching?
- Is there really an insurmountable chasm between “preaching Jesus” and preaching to “felt needs“? Shouldn’t “preaching Jesus, and him crucified” address felt needs?