What makes a good sermon?

Pulpit-viewIts no secret, that when it comes to what kind of sermons are popular in churches today, those that are heavy on theological content are at the bottom of the list. Sermons which go deep in expounding a biblical text, or in explaining a doctrinal concept, are criticized as being boring and irrelevant. Part of the reason for this is that we have a wrong understanding of what sermons are for. I have often heard Christians make statements like, “I need a Word from the Lord for me,” or “I need to hear something that will get me through the week.” The assumption behind such statements is that sermons should be motivational by nature. The idea is that the purpose of a sermon is to help the individual deal with personal life problems. Its purpose is to motivate and prepare you to handle the challenges of life. While a good sermon can strengthen and inspire you to face difficult life situations, that is not the sermons primary purpose. The sermon is something much more than a pep talk or motivational speech.

The main purpose of a christian sermon is that God’s Word be made known. God is not silent, He has spoken. He has revealed certain things about Himself and about His will for us. His Words were written down by holy men who were uniquely inspired by His Holy Spirit. The Bible is a faithful copy of what those holy men wrote, and since what they wrote were God’s inspired Words, we can truly say that the Bible is God’s Word. When preaching a sermon, the responsibility of the preacher is to proclaim, explain and apply what’s in the Bible, in other words, he is to proclaim God’s Word. The apostle Paul, who was also a preacher, said that his job was to “make the word of God fully known” (Colossian 1:25 ESV). We do not come to church and listen to sermons in order to hear from a life coach. We do not come to learn the secrets to a successful life. We come to church on Sunday morning to humble ourselves and sit before our Creator. We come to Hear Him speak to us, not about our worldly desires, but about His eternal purpose.

If the preachers responsibility is “to make the Word of God fully known,” then, it’s worth asking the question, what exactly is the content of the Word of God? Nowadays, all kinds of people claim to be preaching the Word of God. You have some preaching that God wants his people to be rich, and that God wants His people healed of all sickness and disease. Others are preaching that miracles should be occurring regularly in the church. Some preach politics, others about the end times. You hear all types of messages being preached by preachers who claim to be speaking God’s Word. But, in too many cases, what you have is people taking Bible verses out of context and preaching their own message rather than God’s. Many treat the Bible just like an all you can eat buffet, they pick and choose whatever they like, while skipping over whatever is undesirable to them. They fail to see that the Bible is not simply a big book full of nice stories and loosely related verses. Rather, the Bible has one major unifying theme, which is Jesus Christ.

In Colossians chapter 1 Paul mentions his ministry of making the Word fully known. He then tells us what the content of that Word is; it is the Word about “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27). The Bible is about Christ coming to redeem God’s people. This is the Word that Paul was sent to make fully known. In order for us to know all that God wants us to know about Christ, we must know the entire Bible, for it was all given to reveal Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Every major figure, institution and event in the Old Testament is pointing us to Jesus Christ. And everything in the New Testament is explaining Him to us. This does not mean that the bible doesn’t address other topics, however, those topics are not properly understood if they are not viewed in the light of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The central message of the Bible is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. In order for us to really appreciate that message, we must be familiar with the entirety of biblical teaching. Its all interrelated. We can’t fully appreciate what the Bible says about the death of Christ without first understanding what the Bible teaches about sin and the sinfulness of the human race. We can’t understand sin and what makes it so evil without first knowing about the nature and character of God. Also, to really understand Jesus and his death on the cross, we must also know what his death actually accomplished. That means we must learn about the teachings of justification, sanctifation and glorification. It also means that we must understand the role of the Holy Spirit. We must learn how the Spirit applies the work of Jesus Christ to us by working regeneration, faith and repentance in us. I belive that Paul had all of this and more in mind when he spoke of making the Word of God fully known.

We should have very high expectations from preachers as they preach to us on Sundays. They are not there to entertain us, but to make God’s Word fully known to us. This is not lightweight work. This requires a clear and systematic exposition of the entirety of biblical teaching, from Genesis to Revelation. It means dealing with some very weighty theological truths. Who is sufficient for such a task? Let us pray that God would raise up preachers in our generation who will commit to making God’s Word fully known.


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