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OceanSide church of Christ

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THE PURPOSE OF PREACHING

Victor M. Eskew

 

            Preaching the gospel is a very important part of the worship assembly.  It was done in the first century.  When Luke describes the worship activities of the church in Jerusalem, he notes that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).  In Acts 20, Paul worshipped with the saints in Troas.  A portion of that assembly was dedicated to Paul’s preaching.  “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7).

            Because preaching was part of the first century worship, it is still part of our worship today.  It is that time when God communicates to us through His holy Word.  The minister who stands before the church is responsible for the proclamation of the Word.  The inspired writers make it clear exactly what is to be taught.  Paul commanded Timothy, saying:  “Preach the word…” (II Tim. 4:2).  To the young preacher Titus, Paul wrote:  “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1).  Peter put it in these words:  “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (I Pet. 4:11).  When a man addresses the church on the Lord’s Day, his lesson must be backed by a “thus saith the Lord.”  He should confirm his points with book, chapter, and verse quotes from the Good Book. 

            This, however, still leaves a very wide door for sermon selection.  The Bible contains hundreds and hundreds of topics that need to be discussed with the church.  So, what type of messages might be selected by the preacher?  Well, the preacher might choose a topic for instruction.  He might want to instruct the church about our attitude when it comes to giving.  He does this because there is a diverse group of people within the assembly on Sundays.  There are the little ones and youth who are hearing these messages for the first time.  There are young Christians who need to learn what is required of them by their Lord and Savior.  There are the older members who are simply reminded of the precious truths that they are already practicing on this particular subject. 

            A preacher might also select a topic that rebukes sins that are found within the church.  II Timothy 4:2 in its entirety reads:  “”Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”  There are times when member of the church are involved in sinful activities.  These sins could range from the sin of gossip to the sin of adultery.  These individuals must be rebuked.  Thayer defines the word “rebuke” as:  “to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely.”  God’s children must be told that their sins are wrong.  They are in violation of God’s will.  If they are not rebuked, they could lose their souls.  In II Timothy 2:25-26, Paul gives these instructions to “the servant of the Lord:”  “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

            Another topic that a preacher may select involves a word of warning.  Warnings are usually issued before something transpires.  We warn our children, saying:  “Do not go out into the street,” or, “Do not talk to strangers.”  Warnings are issued so things do not happen that are harmful.  In I Timothy 4:1-5, Paul foretold of the departure from the faith that would happen to some members of the church.  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines devils.”  After he tells about the departure, he says this to the young evangelist, Timothy:  “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, where unto thou hast attained” (I Tim. 4:6).  Paul exhorted Timothy to warn the brethren.  A good word of warning would keep some of them from falling.  If he failed to warn, many more would be carried away in the apostasy.

            Instruction, rebuke, and warning are three things that a preacher does when he preaches.  What he preaches might be able to be applied immediately.  Some of the things that are taught might be needed in the future.  Some might be a simple reminder of the things that members of the church are already doing.  The key for listeners is to give heed.  James admonishes all listeners with these simple instructions:  “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man we swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:  for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:18-20).  If a person needs a sermon right now, he needs to apply it to his life.  If it is not immediately applicable, he needs to keep it firmly in mind.  When the time arises to make application of it, he needs to do what God’s Word instructs him to do. 

            Preachers never preach lessons for no reason at all.  But, preachers do present lessons that are not immediately applicable to every member of the church.  Therefore, members need to ask themselves some questions about the lesson that is presented.  First, what kind of lesson is this?  Second, is this lesson needed in my life right now?  Third, does the church need this lesson at this time?  Fourth, can I hide this lesson in my heart and use it when it is needed?  Dear reader, may God give us more ministers of the gospel who will teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  May each one of them seek to instruct, rebuke, and warn us with the message that comes from their lips.  Then, may all of us as listeners do the will of God (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:9; Rev. 22:14).