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Text talk: What’s a sermon for?

It is a legendary story, but we can likely assume that it actually happened. A visiting preacher stepped into a pulpit which he was filling for a friend and saw a sign that would come to revolutionize his preaching ministry. It simply read, “What are you trying to do to these people?”

Good question. What is the purpose of a sermon? Why do we preach? Why do we gather every Sunday and sit under the instruction of a pastor?

The purpose of a sermon is not just to give listeners “something to think about,” or a tidbit for spiritual contemplation. While a biblical sermon does in fact do that, the goal is more than just providing mental grist for the mill.

Paul set forth the divinely mandated goal of every sermon when he wrote to the Colossians, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). A sermon is to communicate Christ. Warning and teaching, along with the utilization of all wisdom, were the means Paul employed to preach Christ. Such was the goal of Paul’s preaching, and it should be that of ours.

To truly preach the text is to preach Christ. If the latter is not done, then neither is the former. Every part of the Bible points to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44). Preaching any part of the Bible without preaching Him diminishes its truth and actually alters it.

No matter where it takes its biblical text, a sermon should be an explanation and demonstration of the greatness of Jesus. In the moment in which He is lifted up, worship is the response of a believing heart. To catch a glimpse of Christ in that moment, to see Him by faith, actually does a work of sanctification. To see Christ is to experience life transformation.

It seems that we have begun to isolate our response of worship to the times in which we are singing or listening to music being sung. I have heard myself, as a preacher, begin my sermon by saying, “Well, THAT was a great time of worship,” as to imply that all worship had come to a close. But if my sermon is lifting up Christ as an object of worship, then why would it cease just because the music has stopped?

As a preacher, I must continually ask myself, “Am I simply expounding the truth of Scripture to make it clear, or am I making it clear, so that God’s people can see Christ and worship Him?” Accomplishing the first does not necessarily achieve the second. It is not enough to affirm, “Isn’t this truth great?” in my exposition of the Bible. I must use it to also affirm, “Isn’t Christ great?” And He is.

Part of the purpose of a sermon is to interpret and teach the Scriptures, so that listeners can understand its meaning. However, exposition has an even greater goal—to lead the congregation to reflect on Christ, to see Him and His beauty in that text, and to worship Him accordingly.

Oklahoma Baptist pastors encourage one another to proclaim Christ in their messages and thus advance the Gospel. The 2019 Priority of Preaching Conference addressed the theme of “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture.” If you would like to watch the videos of the presentations from the conference, then you can access them at www.bgco.org/ministries/leadership/pop19, or for more information, contact Kdie Nix at 405/942-3000 Ext. 4401.

Author: Brett Selby

View more articles by Brett Selby.

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