Home > Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics, Preaching > What Does It Mean to Preach Biblically?

What Does It Mean to Preach Biblically?

I have often heard many people talk about how great the preaching is of a particular pastor.  When I ask these people what makes his preaching so great, the usual response is that he preaches from the Bible.  Therefore, the conclusion for people is that he is a biblical preacher because he gets his sermons from the Bible as opposed to somewhere else.  Just this last week I heard three sermons on the radio about various characters of the Old Testament.  Each of these sermons could be considered “great” because they were from the Bible.  Moreover, many also believe that if someone preaches in an expositional fashion, then he is a good preacher.  While it is true that “good” preaching involves preaching from the Bible and “good” preaching may be expositional in nature, I believe there is another key element that is necessary to a truly biblical sermon.   That element is preaching Scripture from a redemptive-historical perspective.   When we look at the preaching of the apostles we see very clearly that they preach from the Bible (i.e., the Old Testament).  We could also say that they preach expositionally in that they seek to disclose the meaning of the Old Testament text; however, they go a step further.  The apostles sought to preach in light of the cross.  In other words, their preaching was filtered through Jesus Christ and what he did at the cross.  The very nature of Scripture is about God’s mighty deeds and his interpretation of those deeds.  For example, when God led the Israelites out of Egypt (a mighty deed) he then gave the interpretation of that deed in the Song of Moses (and throughout the rest of the Old Testament, cf., Exo 15).  Likewise, the great act of God in human history is the cross and the explanation of that act is found in the book of Acts and the Epistles.  The cross is the summing up and end of all the previous acts of God and the interpretation by Jesus and the apostles is the final word of God’s final act.  Therefore, it is a priority that we understand how the apostles understand the Old Testament in light of Jesus and it is necessary that we replicate in our preaching this same approach.  When we look at the sermons and theology in the book of Acts we see that in every sense their understanding of the Old Testament was from a redemptive-historical perspective.  Let me highlight two points here.

1.) The early church was fed on the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42).  What was the teaching of the apostles?  I think that a good place to start in order to understand how to preach biblically is to see the hermeneutic (or teaching) of the apostles that the early church was weaned on. 

2.) The apostles also taught Jesus as the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament and exhibited this belief through their preaching.  Let’s look at some examples.  If you look at Acts 2:14-36, 7:1-53, and 13:16-43 (cf., 3:24; 26:22; 28:23) you clearly see Peter, Stephen, and Paul preach Christ from the Old Testament, but also preach from a redemptive-historical perspective.  In other words, the apostles preach the storyline of Scripture, from creation to consummation.  You will notice the apostles highlight various people and events of redemptive-history to support their primary thesis that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises.  Moreover, if you notice Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill to the pagan Gentile reflects a redemptive-historical perspective.  Paul begins with creation, clarifying the Athenian’s view of God and then proceeding to preach Christ as the goal and end of human history and existence. 

Whether the apostles preached to Jews or Gentiles, their Christotelic (Christ as the goal or end of the Old Testament) hermeneutic influenced not only their understanding of the Old Testament, but directed the content and nature of their preaching.  We should pattern our preaching after the apostles if we truly desire to preach in a biblical way.  If we fail at replicating the apostles’ pattern for preaching, we misunderstand our Bibles and fail to apply the Scriptures the way Jesus and his apostles did.   This failure means that the people in our churches have an inadequate view of Christ and an impoverished understanding of Scripture.  For too long this inadequate and impoverished trend has continued in churches, where preaching from the Old Testament (and often times the New Testament) is nothing more than moralism, which could easily be preached in a Jewish synagogue, just as it is preached in our churches.  In other words, there is a Christ-centeredness that is missing from the preaching in our churches.  It is not merely enough to mention Christ, but to preach him from all of Scripture as the goal and end to God’s redemptive purposes. 

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