Monday, June 17, 2013

Why We Should Preach Christ in Every Sermon

My last post asked: “Should we preach Christ in every sermon?” I answered: “Yes.” The thoughtful comments have spurred me to now post: “Why we should preach Christ in every sermon?”

There are two thoughts I would offer in answer to this: (1) Biblical Hermeneutics, and (2) Biblical Example.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Christ-centered expositor
1. Biblical hermeneutics requires us to preach Christ in every sermon. The historical rise of literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutics in the history of interpretation has been a very good thing. There is general agreement among evangelical teachers that the Bible should be taken literally (unless it uses metaphor, typology, allegory, parable, etc.), grammatically (using the original languages for exegesis), and historically (dealing with the historical context of the text). As part of this method, we also include the idea of “Scripture interpreting Scripture.” This is the foundation of exegeting a text and then expositing it in the sermon. This method is intended to prevent eisegesis in a text in order to be faithful to God’s specific Word. Sometimes, this method is used to justify not preaching Christ in every sermon if He is not mentioned specifically in the text, especially when expounding an OT text.

However, grammatical-historical exegesis is not the complete hermeneutical method used by Reformed interpreters. Reformed hermeneutics espouses grammatical-historical-theological exegesis. The addition of theological exegesis for each text is sometimes called “the analogy of faith.” It means that the exegesis of each text must look at the full theological context in which it resides; i. e., the place in biblical history, the covenant context in which it resides, and its relationship to the overall theology of the Scripture. This means that the overall theology of Scripture, which is Christ-centered, must be included in the full exegesis of the text. This is not eisegesis. It is theological exegesis.

Let me add that this theological element in hermeneutics is not quite the same as “Scripture interpreting Scripture.” An exegete may use cross-reference or word-studies of a text, comparing Scripture with Scripture and still miss the overall theology of Scripture in the exegesis. The analogy of faith takes the whole counsel of God into account, the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints, when interpreting the text. For instance, when preaching on an OT text, one may use the literal-grammatical-historical method, including Scripture interpreting Scripture in cross-references and word-studies, expounding the text faithfully in its original meaning in the OT. However, our Lord explained that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. To explain the OT text and to expound its original contextual meaning without taking into account how our Lord fulfilled it in His person and work ignores the full theological interpretation of the text. So, one may expound accurately the OT text and its meaning in context without its full theological meaning in light of the completion of all revelation according to the analogy of faith.

To preach Christ in every sermon is more than just preaching a text in its literal-grammatical-historical meaning then going off into an unconnected explanation of the gospel. Rather, it is to expound how that text is connected to and fulfilled theologically in Jesus Christ, the theological center of God’s revelation to man. This method does not demean the OT as less inspired or not as important as the NT. Such caveats are not helpful or accurate. Rather, it recognizes that every OT text reaches its full meaning as contributing the revelation of Jesus Christ in all the Scriptures.

One more thing about the theological method of interpretation. It recognizes that all men are born condemned under law in the fall of Adam and that from Gen. 3:15 on, the rest of Scripture reveals the coming of Christ under grace. This is the old Law and Gospel theology that was central to the Reformation’s rediscovery of the gospel. All Scripture must be interpreted in light of the Law and the Gospel theology which reveals Jesus Christ to man. This enables the expositor to preach the gospel in every sermon legitimately without eisegesis. Charles Bridges, in The Christian Ministry, said:
The mark of a minister “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” is, that he “rightly divides the word of truth.” This implies a full and direct application of the Gospel to the mass of his unconverted hearers, combined with a body of spiritual instruction to the several classes of Christians. His system will be marked by Scriptural symmetry and comprehensiveness. It will embrace the whole revelation of God, in in its doctrinal instructions, experimental privileges, and practical results. This revelation is divided into two parts--the Law and the Gospel--essentially distinct from each other, though so intimately connected, that an accurate knowledge of neither can be obtained with the other (222).
2. Biblical example requires us to preach Christ in every sermon. We now live under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, the completed revelation of God to man. We have been given the full revelation of God in the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. Our example of preaching and teaching is now displayed in how Christ and His Apostles preached and taught. His teaching of Himself, each sermon in Acts to unbelievers, and each Epistle to believers is fully Christ-centered. Even if we take a text from Christ or the Apostles' writings which do not explicitly mention the Lord Jesus Christ, they must be explained in light of their whole teaching in the context of His message and the whole Epistle’s message. These are our examples of biblical preaching under the New Covenant.

For modern-day examples of such preaching, you only have to look at the greatest preacher of the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, and the greatest preacher of the 20th century, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. They both followed the grammatical-historical-theological method of hermeneutics to preach Christ in all the Scriptures.

Fred A. Malone

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