At the center of Christian worship stands the pulpit. Anything less than authentic Christian preaching causes enormous and catastrophic problems in the life of the local church. The first mark of an authentic church is expository preaching. When substitutes are made upon the preaching of holy Scripture in attempt to become relevant, cool, and attractive to the culture—the church becomes less than authentic.
By way of summary, expository preaching is a verse-by-verse approach whereby the preacher sequentially works through books of the Bible in a systematic manner. While there are various forms of expository preaching that would include topical exposition where the preacher preaches a series of sermons from various texts in an expository manner—the normal approach is to preach verse-by-verse through an entire book of the Bible over a period of time.
In a more definitive manner, expository preaching is the communication of a biblical text derived from a literal, historical, grammatical interpretation. The preacher observes, interprets, and applies the text with hermeneutical precision and communicates the single meaning of the text with homiletical skill in such a manner that preserves the author’s original intent while pointing people to Jesus Christ.
If Christian preaching is expository preaching and if the first mark of an authentic church is expository preaching, it goes without saying that at the heart of a Christian sermon is Jesus Christ. Far too many sermons from the Old Testament within Christian churches on Sunday morning would not offend a Jewish synagogue if preached there on Saturday morning. Why is this the case? Because in many cases the preacher explains everything about the text itself from a micro-perspective including the central point and contextual background without ultimately pointing people to the macro-perspective or the canonical whole which will always lead us to Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon has been quoted as saying, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” However, Spurgeon never actually made that statement. It was Lewis Drummond, in 1992, who attributed it to Spurgeon in his biography, Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers. Although Spurgeon never made this statement, it is an accurate description of Spurgeon’s preaching style. He would make his way to the cross in every sermon—from both the Old and New Testaments.
As we make our way to the cross in our preaching, we must avoid the errors of allegorical interpretation along the journey. It would be wrong to take any random text in the Bible and make the interpretative claim that it’s a reference to Jesus Christ. That is certainly not true and such a pattern of preaching leads to massive error. It butchers the authorial intent and opens the door to all sorts of enemies of the cross who will gladly use that same hermeneutic to fulfill their postmodern attempt to harm God’s Church.
As we study the nature of Scripture, one thing we learn is that the Holy Spirit moved upon 40 different human authors over a period of some 1,500 years of history to bring about the biblical canon. It is the goal of the Holy Spirit to point people to Jesus. In Luke 1:35, it is the Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary. In John 15:26, Jesus said the following, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” If the role of the Spirit of God (who is called the Spirit of Christ in Romans 8:9) is to point people to Jesus Christ from holy Scripture, why would Christian preachers have any other goal in their preaching?
In the New Testament, Peter proclaimed the Old Testament text by pointing people to Jesus. He likewise made clear and pointed application about the guilt of killing the Son of God as he applied the text to the entire crowd. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 when Philip found him on the chariot in the remote desert region as he was returning to Ethiopia. Peter began at that same text and pointed the man to Jesus. This should be our goal in preaching.
In Romans 10:17, we hear these important words from the apostle Paul. He writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Evangelicals pool multiplied millions of dollars together each year in order to print Bibles into the languages of unreached peoples, plant churches around the world, and send missionaries to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must not be guilty of adding the gospel to the end of our sermon by way of conclusion. We must actually preach the gospel as the central part of our sermon and demonstrate how Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment and our eternal hope. If we are passionate about getting Jesus to the unreached peoples around the world and less passionate about getting Jesus to the people in our pews every week, we will be viewed as inconsistent in our gospel ministry. We never outgrow the gospel and we never out-know the gospel of Jesus.
We find these words of Jesus in Revelation 1:8, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” While Jesus is indeed the first and the last and demonstrated by his victorious resurrection—he was, is, and is to come the sovereign Almighty God—sadly he is not preached in many sermons on the average Lord’s Day. People preach about Jesus or around the gospel without actually preaching the gospel of Jesus. He is crowded out by moralistic therapeutic deism. He is replaced by American politics. He is overlooked by preachers who are intoxicated by church growth pragmatics as opposed to firmly committed to exegeting Scripture and feeding God’s sheep.
May the testimony of your church and your pulpit be that you preach Christ.