What Preaching Christ Is not
Do all the preachers who claim to preach Christ actually preach Christ? The unfortunate answer is no. Many contemporary preachers might claim that they preach Christ, but upon closer inspection of the content of their sermons, their claim is identifiably false. Preaching Christ from all of Scripture is more than just saying “I preach Christ”. After a brief recount of the biblical mandate of preaching Christ, I hope to address a few examples of what preaching Christ is not.
What does preaching Christ from all of Scripture actually mean? To many people, it is merely a nice catch phrase. Scripture repeatedly affirms that the totality of its content is about Christ:
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:25-27
Jesus said to the Jews: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” – John 5:39, 45-47
Scripture also affirms that preaching is ultimately to be about Christ:
Paul, in exhorting the Christians at Corinth, describes to them the content of preaching and says,
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24
In the next chapter, Paul again exclaims to them,
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
These verses are just a few of the many that affirm that all of Scripture is about Christ and that preaching is ultimately to be about Christ.
With Scripture's consistent message on its Christ centeredness, we shouldn’t be surprised when preachers throw around the phrase “preaching Christ”; after all, it is a very biblical concept. However, what does the idea of preaching Christ actually entail? Luckily for us, we don’t have to guess as to what it means. In addition to Scripture leaving us the principle of preaching Christ, as evident in the above verses, Scripture also leaves us methodological principles evident throughout the various sermons recorded in Scripture, such as in the book of Acts and the book of Hebrews. Time does not permit me the opportunity to dive into the biblical methodology of preaching Christ. For that, I will have to recommend you to external resources listed in the “recommended” tab above. To succinctly sum up in a phrase what it means to preach Christ; preaching Christ means preaching every text of Scripture showing how it is ultimately rooted in, pointing to, or fulfilled by the person and work of Christ. That can sound like an incredibly daunting task. How does one effectively preach Christ from the Wisdom Literature, the Pentateuch, or seemingly irrelevant Old Testament stories? Make no mistake, it is an incredibly daunting and important task for preachers to undertake. Thankfully, Scripture gives us guidelines as how to do it, and I again refer you to the recommended resources in the tab above. Although I haven’t the time to dive into the biblical methodology of what preaching Christ is, I do want to dive into some examples of what preaching Christ isn’t.
One way of preaching Christ - that actually isn’t - is repeatedly using the phrase “preach Christ” throughout the sermon. Many preachers will sprinkle such phrases as “preach Christ”, “always preach Christ”, and “we got to preach Christ” throughout the sermon without actually doing it. Although one might be under the impression that the preacher is preaching Christ, since he mentioned it so much; upon closer examination, one can see that the sermon is devoid of showing how the text under consideration is even rooted in, points to, or fulfilled by the person and work of Christ. My friends, we mustn’t be swayed by mere catch phrases alone; we must always thoroughly evaluate the content of the message itself.
Another method of preaching Christ - that actually isn’t - is merely tacking on the gospel message to a sermon. Although proclaiming the gospel in a sermon is an opportunity a preacher should always strive for; we mustn’t mistake that for preaching Christ. I theorize that the reasoning behind such ideas is that the preacher might think, “Hey, Christ is in the Gospel, right? Therefore, if I preach the Gospel, I preach Christ.” Although Christ is very much in the gospel, just tacking it onto any sermon doesn’t magically make the sermon Christ centered. Remember, preaching Christ involves showing how the text of Scripture you’re preaching is rooted in, points to, or fulfilled by Christ. One must preach Christ from the Scripture under consideration. The amazing thing is that a thorough preaching of Christ from the text of Scripture often results in discussion of the gospel message. In other words, preaching Christ usually lends itself to discussion of the gospel message, but discussing the gospel message isn’t equivalent with preaching Christ.
I hope you were able to see that preaching Christ is more than just claiming to do so or tacking on the gospel message to a sermon. It is a richly informed, biblically based methodology which helps to show how Scripture reflects a deep, infinitely complex, and sovereign God. I encourage you, dive into the subjects of Biblical Theology and Christ Centered / Apostolic Preaching and study the depths of how all Scripture points to Christ. Let us always evaluate the preaching we hear in light of the Bible’s mandate and methodology of preaching, and let us encourage the preachers we know to preach Christ from all of Scripture.