Failing to Preach Christ (Continued)

Monday, March 07, 2005

I alluded to the following failure a few days ago. It is this marked tendency in those of us who practice expository preaching to exegete the text with such a view to detail that we lose the bird's eye view, which leads to preaching the text without the bird's eye view of redemption in Christ, of the gospel. Or we could say it this way: There is a seeming tendency to preach truths from Christ, yet without showing how they flow out of Him or back into Him. I have only myself in view here, by the way, so if you notice other expositors doing this, it isn't because I'm criticizing them! I'm looking in the mirror when I say these things.

McIlvaine spoke of this tendency in his book Preaching Christ: The Heart of Gospel Ministry. In his day (early 19th century) he understood it in terms of preachers who preach Christ and Him crucified, "only when the text so obliges...that we cannot avoid it" (p. 16). And even if we preach topically, or topico-expositionally (topical expository sermons), the author says, "such texts may not be chosen very often." He describes it this way...

"Passing from subject to subject, the preacher comes, from time to time, to one which leads to the manifestation of Christ, in some leading feature of his grace and salvation; and then all may be well done, and calculated to enlighten a mind hungering for the truth. But, meanwhile, you may hear many a discourse which contains scarcely more of anything distinctive of the gospel, or pertaining to Christ, except perhaps his name sometimes introduced, than if it were some other religion than Christ's of which the preacher is a minister" (pp. 16-17).

This is scary! Really, really scary! How often do we do this with our flocks? I've done it far too often! And I've heard many sermons before where I sat wondering if it was even a church in which I was sitting, and a 'Christian' preacher to whom I was listening!

I close today with these three thoughts, explained in more detail tomorrow. In contrast to what we just read, the cross-centered, gospel-focused preacher himself must:

1. Be fond in heart for the gospel message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
2. Be feeding himself from pastures that are watered by the living water from the cross of Christ.
3. See all truth in relation to Christ and able to keep it in proportion to Him.
4. Know all truth as illumined by Christ and Him crucified.

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