Posted On February 23, 2015

Christocentric expository preaching is more than pinning John 3:16 to the tail of the sermon. It is also more than a weekly theological treatise that speaks eloquently of the glories of Jesus Christ but lacks exegetical support rooted in a particular text of Scripture. Both of these approaches are inadequate.

Sermons that simply suffix Jesus lull their hearers into lethargy. Such redundant sermons also undermine the centrality of Jesus Christ in the mind of the listener; he or she cannot help but conclude that the preacher caboosed Jesus on at the end because he could not get him in the sermon in any other way. Likewise, sermons that are fine-sounding lectures on the glories of Christ but are not rooted in a particular text suffer from a lack of credibility and authority. Even though everything the preacher says in a sermon may be true, if the sermon is not latched to the text itself, it lacks divine authority.

Jay Adams noted after years of serving as professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary noted that many students were producing fine-sounding essays but not expository sermons. He recounts,

When I went to teach practical theology, with an emphasis on preaching, I expected to find that students would spend the lion’s share of their efforts to learn to preach by doing exegesis. To my surprise, and chagrin, that was not the case. Students were regularly engaged in preaching the big picture rather than settling down on a passage of Scripture or two in careful exposition and application. I discovered that the theology inherent in their sermons for the most part was precise and correct, but that their sermons lacked biblical support. Exposition was largely absent. Unlike Christ on the road to Emmaus, they failed to ‘open’ the Scriptures for their listeners” (“Westminster Theology and Homiletics,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple, ed. David VanDrunen [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004], 262-263).

A sermonic overemphasis on biblical theology and explaining the big picture of Scripture that results in losing the biblical text being preached is a problem but so is atomistic, moralistic preaching that loses the cohesive Gospel message of the biblical canon as a whole when preaching a particular text. The biblical text must not be ignored or abused in preaching. We are to preach Christ from the entire Bible because proper exegesis demands it.

The Scripture is not an inspired book of moralisms or a book of virtues; it is, from cover to cover, a book about the glory of God in Jesus Christ through the redemption of his people who will dwell in the kingdom of Christ forever. Bryan Chapell writes,

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the culminating message of Scripture, but the word about this Eternal Word is also woven throughout the biblical text. Either by prediction, preparation, reflection or result, the redemptive message of God’s provision radiates throughout the Bible, and no portion of it can be properly expounded without disclosing its relationship to His redemptive nature and work. Disclosing this relationship does not require imaginative or allegorical mention of some specific in Christ’s life, but rather insists on exegetical and contextual explanation of how the text furthers the covenant people’s understanding of His person and work (“The Future of Expository Preaching,” Preaching, September-October 2004, 42).

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