This is the second post in a three part series on Christ-centered preaching and teaching (part one here). At the Southern Baptist Convention this year there will be a breakfast panel discussion on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching. This is an important topic and I am glad that our friends at The Gospel Project are hosting this event. Why is this an important discussion? Make sure you sign up here.
While there are many nuances to one’s definition of preaching, the common agreement seems to be that expository preaching is preaching that is governed by the text of Scripture. Bryan Chapell simply maintains that expository preaching “attempts to present and apply the truths of a specific biblical passage.”
Some theorists argue that expository preaching simply involves presenting and applying the truths of a particular biblical passage. Other theorists add that expository preaching involves preaching a specific length of passage or a specific type of sermon series. Both perspectives, however, emphasize the centrality of the Bible in expository preaching. The sermon should be driven by the text of Scripture.
Understanding the nature of Scripture seems to be an essential requirement for preachers who wish to expound what the biblical text says. Many homileticians assert that the primary emphasis of the Bible is upon redemptive history, which culminates in Christ’s person and work. If the Bible focuses upon Christ’s redemptive work, then this should have practical implications for expositors who wish to proclaim the Bible accurately. Those who wish to challenge the unity of the Bible and its Christocentric emphasis must give an answer to several biblical texts that seem to demonstrate this idea. For example, one should consider the following texts:
- [Jesus said,] “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, emphasis added).
- [Jesus said,] “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46, emphasis added).
- “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the
- Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, emphasis added).
- “Then he [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was with you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” (Luke 24:44-45, emphasis added).
While preachers should not jump to unwarranted connections to Jesus, they should not overlook or ignore what seemed to be very clear Jesus either — that the Old Testament writers were pointing to the Messiah. We must look at Jesus in the light of the history of the Old Testament, but Jesus also sheds light backwards on it. Christopher J. H. Wright says, “The Old Testament tells the story which Jesus completes.” Simply put, the person and work of Christ is the main message of the Bible. Recent homileticians have looked to Paul as a model for the necessity of preaching Christ. Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix referred to the early church saying, “Paul, too, centered on Jesus, claiming to the Corinthians that he had ‘determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2).”
Even though the need to preach Christ may be an obvious concern for evangelicals, there seems to be a missing element; namely, the need to preach Christ through careful exposition. According to some authors, such preaching is possible because the Bible is a unified book of redemptive history, and to treat one particular text means that one should consider how the selected text fits into the whole redemptive story. The preacher should emphasize the uniqueness of particular texts but also emphasize the unity of the cannon as well.
The implication for preaching, then, is for the expositor to look at the immediate context as well as the canonical context. D.A. Carson calls the process of explaining the whole Bible “inner-cannonical preaching.” The Bible is a witness to the saving activity of God in Jesus Christ, the meaning of whose life, death, and resurrection controls the meaning of every passage. This process is often called “theological exegesis.” Christ-centered preaching happens by relating the biblical-theological connections within Scripture.
Preaching must be Christ-centered! While it is true that unbelievers need to be confronted with the gospel, believers also need to be reminded of the gospel for perspective and pointed to the gospel for power. I’ll expound on this in my next post.