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Faithful preaching is expositional, which means that it explains a biblical text in its context and applies the text to the hearers. There have been times, however, when I've heard expositional preaching that makes little or no mention of the Lord Jesus Christ (sadly, I've done this myself). If an unbeliever had been sitting among the hearers, he would not have heard enough of the gospel to be saved. Furthermore, saints would not have heard enough of Christ to move them to live and obey out of love for Him. Scripture teaches that every expository sermon should be Christ-centered.

  1. An expositional sermon, even from a New Testament text, without mentioning Christ except in an evangelistic appeal at the end.
  2. A sermon filled with illustrations and humor, while only nominally mentioning a text, or Jesus Christ Himself, occasionally.
  3. A "practical series" on marriage, joy, etc., without explaining how the person and work of Jesus Christ applies to marriage, joy, etc.
  4. A running commentary on a passage of Scripture without preaching Christ because He is not mentioned explicitly in the text. 

None of the above measures up to the Bible's requirement for preaching. Scripture gives us clear instructions about how to preach. Consider the following.

1. Our Lord Jesus and His Apostles practiced Christ-centered preaching. Every word our Lord uttered ultimately was about His own person and work as our prophet, priest, and king, even when He expounded Old Testament texts, which did not always mention Him explicitly. Christ's Apostles followed His example in their preaching. Every evangelistic sermon in Acts and every epistle was centered on Jesus Christ. The epistles were read to churches in their entirety, including the parts about Christ and the gospel. In every application of the epistles, there is always a reference to Christ, His person and His work. I am not saying that Jesus Christ was mentioned by name in every text of His preaching and the Apostles teaching. What I am saying is Christ was the foundation and goal in the proclamation of every word of God. 

2. The Bible mandates preaching Christ to unbelievers and believers.

First, it is clear that the Apostles preached Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to unbelievers (Acts 5:428:3511:20). Jesus was the center of their message. When Paul first came to Corinth to preach the gospel to the unconverted, he said, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). Jesus Christ was the substance of Paul's evangelistic preaching in Corinth. Peter also preached Christ on the day of Pentecost as well as in the other evangelistic messages of Acts (Acts 2; 10; 17).

Second, the Apostles preached Christ to believers. The Apostles constantly tied their rebukes, exhortations, and doctrinal instructions to the person and work of Christ, past, present, and future. It's impossible to read the epistles without seeing that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the center point of salvation and sanctification. To the Colossians, Paul described his preaching and teaching to Christians: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Col 1:28). It takes little research to see how Paul tied his exhortations to the Corinthian Christians to the person and work of Christ for them. For instance, when warning against adultery, Paul said, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:19-20). Paul based his warning against adultery on Christ's work. Christ Himself was the substance of Apostolic preaching, both to the unconverted and the converted. The Bible mandates Christ-centered preaching both to the unbeliever and believer.

3. The Bible mandates preaching Christ in every sermon from every text. In Genesis 3:15, Jesus Christ is declared the center of God's revelation to man. Adam represented all of his posterity and fell into sin, breaking the covenant of works, which required perfect obedience for life. But Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the only mediator between God and man. Christ satisfied God's just wrath in the covenant of redemption and did what Adam failed to do. Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord of all who believe in Him. The Old Testament records the unfolding of the promise of redemption in Christ found in Genesis 3:15. And the New Testament reveals how Christ came to fulfill that first promise in Genesis 3:15. The Bible's own structure provides us with a theological mandate to preach Christ in all the Scriptures because both the Old Testament and the New Testament are theologically centered in Jesus Christ.

Preachers in the New Testament did not preach in the manner that has become customary to us. They did not take a text out of the New Testament, analyze it, expound it, and then apply it. What did they preach? They preached the great message that had been committed to them, the great body of gospel truth, the whole doctrine of salvation revealed from Genesis to Revelation. My argument is that this is what we should always be doing, though we do it through individual expositions of particular texts. That is the relationship between theology and preaching.

So, dear brothers, are you preaching the Lord Jesus Christ in every expository sermon? Could an unbeliever be saved through your exposition? Can a believer hear enough of Christ to be moved to love Him more and obey Him by faith working through love? May God help us to proclaim Him!

By
Fred A. Malone - Founders Ministries Blog

Sourced by The Gospel Coalition

Every Christian loves the gospel. By definition, you cannot have a Christian who isn’t shaped by and saved by the gospel.

So three cheers for the gospel. Make that 3 million cheers.

But let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation. They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside. They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are.

Too much “gospel” preaching sounds like a slightly spiritualized version of that old Christina Aguilera song:

You are beautiful no matter what they say.
Words can’t bring you down.
You are beautiful in every single way.
Yes, words can’t bring you down.
So don’t bring me down today.

I don’t doubt that many of us feel beat up and put down. We struggle with shame and self-loathing. We need to know we can be okay, even when we don’t feel okay. It is good news to hear, then, that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in his sight.

But the gospel is more than positive self-talk, and the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug.

There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel. It’s the word repent.

Yeah, I know, that sounds old school, like an embarrassing sidewalk preacher with a sandwich board and cheap tracts with bad graphics and lots of exclamation points. And yet, even a cursory glance at the New Testament demonstrates that we haven’t understood the message of the gospel if we never talk about repentance.

When John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, he preached repentance (Matt. 3:811), just as Jesus launched his Galilean ministry by preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Jesus understood the purpose of his ministry to be calling sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Just before his ascension, the resurrected Christ implored the disciples to be his witnesses, that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” would be preached in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47). In fact, if there is a one-sentence summary of Jesus’s preaching, Mark gives it at the beginning of his Gospel: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:14-15).

Notice that pair: repent and believe. The two are virtually synonymous in the New Testament, not that the words mean the same thing, but that they are signs of the same Spirit-prompted work and lead to the same end times inheritance. Strictly speaking, the proper response to the gospel is twofold: repent and believe (Matt. 21:32Acts 20:21). If only one item in the pair is mentioned—which happens often in the New Testament—we should realize that the other half is assumed. You can’t really believe without also repenting, and you haven’t really repented if you don’t also believe.

You can’t really believe without also repenting, and you haven’t really repented if you don’t also believe.

The gospel message is sometimes presented as a straightforward summons to repent (Acts 3:18-19). Other times, forgiveness is linked to a singular act of repentance (Acts 5:31Rom. 2:42 Cor. 7:10). The message of the apostolic good news is that God will be merciful when we repent and that repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18). Simply put: repent, that your sins may be wiped out (Acts 3:19).

If the call to repentance is a necessary part of faithful gospel preaching, then maybe we don’t have as much of it as we think. The summons to turn from sin, die to self, and turn to Christ is missing from prosperity preachers, from preachers in step with the sexual revolution, and from not a few gospel-centered preachers, too. It’s certainly missing from most of our worship services that long ago did away with a deliberate confession of sin.

To be sure, we aren’t called to beat people up Sunday after Sunday. Many folks stumble into church in desperate need of the Balm of Gilead. I get that. I think anyone who listens to several weeks of my sermons will hear that I’m not a finger-wagging scolder. And yet, if I never call people, with God’s authority, “to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it” (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 89), then I’m not doing the work a gospel preacher should do.

The unpopular fact remains that the ungrateful and impenitent will not be saved (1 Cor. 6:9-10Gal. 5:19-21Eph. 5:1-201 John 3:14). The New Testament has nothing to say about building the kingdom, but it does have everything to say about how we can enter into the kingdom. The coming of the King is only good news for those who turn from sin and turn to God.

If we want to give people a message that saves, instead of one that only soothes, we must preach more like Jesus and less like our pop stars.