Preach Christ not the scriptures

Sky McCraken wrote this as preaching advice in a recent post:

As Wesley was clear to note, preach the Christ whom the scriptures witness, not the scriptures themselves.

That was a zinger that hit me right between the eyes. It may explain some of my recent frustration with my own preaching, too.

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12 thoughts on “Preach Christ not the scriptures

    1. I took Sky’s comment to mean that some preachers spend too much energy talking about how the Bible was written and what the Greek or Hebrew words mean and other kinds of things that you learn while studying to prepare the sermon. You end up talking about the Word instead of preaching it. It is more like an academic lecture about the Bible.

      I’m not sure if that makes sense or not, but that is the best I can explain it at the moment. It is one of those things that would be more obvious if I could take you to hear a couple sermons by people preaching in the two ways Sky is talking about here.

  1. Letter on Preaching Christ (London, December 20, 1751) – John Wesley

    I mean by preaching the gospel, preaching the love of God to sinners, preaching the life, death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ, with all the blessings which, in consequence thereof, are freely given to true believers.

    By preaching the law, I mean, explaining and enforcing the commands of Christ, briefly comprised in the Sermon on the Mount.

    Now, it is certain, preaching the gospel to penitent sinners “begets faith;” that it “sustains and increases spiritual life in true believers.”

    I think, the right method of preaching is this: At our first beginning to preach at any place, after a general declaration of the love of God to sinners, and his willingness that they should be saved, to preach the law, in the strongest, the closest, the most searching manner possible; only intermixing the gospel here and there, and showing it, as it were, afar off.

    (From The Works of John Wesley, Vols 11-12.)

    1. One of my favorites from Wesley. My practical concern is that most churches are a mix of unrepentant and penitent sinners, and have been for years and years. So, I’m never sure what the right way to balance the law & gospel approach would be if I were to try to follow Wesley’s advice.

      1. I think if you read Paul’s letters you get a good idea.
        The one thing I see in all the greats is all were well educated.
        Educated int the gospel.
        Educated in history.
        Educated in the writings of the early church fathers.
        You can hear them in Wesley, Luther and others.
        They preached with confidence and absolute assurity.
        That is what their preaching reflects.

        1. I always thought it would be interesting to ask the congregation for a show of hands and ask:
          Who here want’s to be mislead?
          Who among you wished to be lied to?
          Who would like to know the truth? and proceed from there.

    2. It seems Wesley did not approve of the preaching of Wheatley & Sir John Suckling’s.

      “James Wheatley came among them, who never was clear, perhaps not sound, in the faith. According to his understanding was his preaching; an unconnected rhapsody of unmeaning words, like Sir John Suckling’s”

      “Verses, smooth and soft as cream,
      In which was neither depth nor stream”

      “Yet (to the utter reproach of the Methodist congregations) this man became a most popular preacher. He was admired more and more wherever he went, till he went over the second time into Ireland, and conversed more intimately than before with some of the Moravian Preachers.”
      (From The Works of John Wesley, Vols 11-12.)

  2. I ran into this piece early this morning.
    I agree with her comments and thought they may be something to consider when writing your sermons.

    Marg Mowczko writes:
    We so often approach the New Testament, thinking that the early church was somewhat similar to ours. There are actually very few similarities. We need to be careful that we don’t read the New Testament with preconceived views of what their church meetings were like, what their governmental structures were like, what their family and church relationships were like, or even what their moral standards were like.[3] It was all very different to our experiences of church life!
    I have rarely, if ever, heard a contemporary church leader warn church members to stop having sex with shrine prostitutes,[4] to stop having sex with anyone who asks, to stop having sex with boys,[5] or to stop teaching sorcery and occult, pagan practices to fellow church members. Yet these were not uncommon issues in New Testament churches that were surrounded by pagan society. The influence of pagan culture meant that sexual immorality and false doctrine were real and persistent problems for the early church.

    Understanding the New Testament Letters
    I believe that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand spiritual truths from the Bible. However, having some understanding of the culture of the original readers of the books of the Bible, elucidates even more meaning and can bring clarity to some enigmatic passages. This is particularly true for the New Testament letters! Many of the New Testament letters were written to specific churches in specific localities, experiencing their own set of specific problems. We must not be hasty in making assumptions based on the plain text of the letters, without taking into account the cultural background……..

    Understanding the issues and culture of the churches that the New Testament letters were addressed to, makes reading them more meaningful, coherent and enjoyable.

    New Life

  3. Meunier is right that many preachers dwell on scriptural analysis rather than the actual message of the scriptures. Mowczko is correct that we need some understanding of the context in which the scriptures were written. That is why we need classes. Worship service is a poor time to try to teach. It is a time to convict that repentance is needed and inspiration that salvation is possible for the sinner right now.

    1. I try to teach something in every sermon I give; that’s my comfort area in preaching. That doesn’t always mean teaching something from or about the Bible specifically but I do think learning is an important part of our worship.

      1. I can tell you, ” If I am not learning, I am leaving”.
        Analysis is designed to come to conclusion so, how can one analyze and not teach the message?
        I don’t understand that.

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