I see a serious problem in the western conservative evangelical church in regards to the relationship between the pastor-teacher and those who go to church to hear him preach. In this article, I want to focus on one aspect of that relationship that I believe is broken in many churches: the sermon.
Many people may think that the weekly sermon or sermons are just things that happen one day in the week, and there is no connection between what has happened in the lives of the preacher and those who listen to him at church in the days leading up to them. That is a lie.
The effectiveness of the sermon is heavily influenced by what the pastor-teacher does in the days leading up to it, and by what his listeners do in the days leading up to it. Both the teacher and the listeners have certain responsibilities that they need to fulfill in order to be most helped by the sermon. If those responsibilities aren’t dealt with, then there is the danger that the sermon will not do anything to help anyone, and also that it may even do harm to both the teacher and the listeners.
Before I go into the responsibilities, let’s see some reasons the New Testament gives for there even being a sermon in the first place:
1. The Lord has gifted certain men in the local church to teach and preach God’s Word to the rest of that local church:
“7 But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith,
When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive,
And gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers . . .” – Ephesians 4:7-11
2. The model of the early church shows us that the local church has always had a sermon preached to the congregation:
“30 So they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32 And Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.” – Acts 15:30-32
“7 And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.” – Acts 20:7
“26 What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation.” – 1 Corinthians 14:26a
Having seen that the New Testament teaches that there ought to be some sort of sermon during the church meeting, let’s look at the responsibilities that I’ve mentioned that both the listeners of the sermon and the teacher have to fulfill.
How the Church-Goer Prepares for the Sermon
1. By meditating on the Bible, both Old and New Testaments (to get the whole counsel of God), daily:
“. . . as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile [impurity], that ye may grow thereby unto salvation . . .” – 1 Peter 2:2
“8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
“19 And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts . . .” – 2 Peter 1:19
“2 Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:2
2. By being devoted to the members of his or her local church:
“10 In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another . . .” – Romans 12:10
3. By submitting his or herself to the elder or elders of the local church:
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you.” – Hebrews 13:17
4. By being devoted to the teaching of the Bible:
“42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching . . .” – Acts 2:42a
5. By being prepared to recognize any unbiblical teaching in the sermon:
“. . . 20 despise not prophesyings; 21 prove all things; hold fast that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22
6. By being prepared to correct the pastor-teacher if he is in sinful error:
“Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
Next, let’s see what the New Testament teaches about how the pastor-teacher is to prepare for the sermon. Even if you’re not a pastor-teacher, you need to know what responsibilities your pastor-teacher or pastor-teachers have, so you can help them to fulfill them, and so you can know what to pray for if the Lord moves you to pray for your teacher in his sermon preparation.
1. Pastor-teachers are to lead and oversee the local church:
“The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples [examples] to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:1-3
2. Pastor-teachers are to be diligent in preparing for their sermons:
“15 Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15
Now that we’ve looked at some of the ways in which the pastor-teacher is to prepare for the sermon, how does the New Testament even define the sermon?
1. A sermon is the preaching and teaching of the Word:
“13 Till I come, give heed to [the public reading of Scripture (NASB)], to exhortation, to teaching.” – 1 Timothy 4:13
“. . . 2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” – 2 Timothy 4:2
“10 according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; 11 if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles [utterances] of God . . .” – 1 Peter 4:10-11a
“But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine . . .” – Titus 2:1
2. A sermon is the preaching and teaching of the gospel:
“. . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ . . .” – Colossians 1:27b-28
“13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome.” – Romans 1:13-15
“And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
3. The pastor-teacher ought to attempt to teach the whole counsel of God:
“25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God.” – Acts 20:25-27
4. The sermon ought to be preached out of love for the listeners:
“. . . 15 but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ . . .” – Ephesians 4:15
For good measure, here’s what the biblical sermon is not:
1. It’s not a lecture
2. It’s not a speech
3. It’s not an academic or business presentation
4. It’s not a proclamation of what the pastor-teacher believes
5. It’s not a commentary
6. It’s not a talk
What is a biblical sermon, then? It’s a message from the Lord Jesus Christ given through the proclamation, exposition, and application of His Word by the preacher.
May we be more diligent to work toward improving our relationships between ourselves and our pastor-teachers or congregants, so that we may better glorify and please the Lord.
Are you absolutely certain, without any doubt whatsoever, that you know what the good news of Christ is? Please make sure:
Your Creator, God the Father, sent God the Son, His Son, to the earth, to become a man, without ceasing to be God. This man was Jesus of Nazareth, who lived the perfect life, perfectly pleasing the Father. Then, He was arrested by men, who were appointed by the Father to do so, and was nailed and hung on a cross. Although Jesus was perfectly pleasing to the Father, the Father ordained this event to happen to punish Jesus by making Him slowly die on the cross, and by treating Him as if He had committed our sins against His Father, all because of our sins against Him, which make us deserve physical, eternal, and spiritual death from God. For three hours, the Father crushed and forsook Jesus, putting Him to grief, because of our sins against Him. In so doing, Jesus satisfied the Father’s wrath and justice against sins. Then, He died, and was buried shortly after. His body lay in a grave for about 2 days, and then, He physically rose from the dead, and appeared to the apostle Peter, to the 11 apostles, to about 500 people at one time, to James, to all the apostles, and to the apostle Paul, during a period of 40 days, after which He ascended into heaven. The apostles then turned the Mediterranean world upside down with their new lives and preaching, revolutionizing the Mediterranean world, and undergoing incredible persecutions, while at the same time winning more and more converts, who gladly went to their deaths because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s command to all people everywhere is to change the way they think about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about His death, about His resurrection, about themselves, and about their sins, and to depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death because of their sins, and His resurrection as the only grounds for His forgiveness of their sins and His gift of eternal life. If you have changed the way you think, and depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for your sins, and His resurrection for God’s forgiveness of your sins, and your peace with God, then you will be saved from His wrath. If not, God has fixed a day on which He will judge you in righteousness through the Man He has appointed, having provided proof for all people by raising Him from the dead. If you fail to obey God’s command to repent and depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, then He will eventually cast you into eternal hell, and punish you for the sins you’ve committed against Him. Right now is the time to make sure that you have changed the way you think about the Lord Jesus Christ, and that you are only depending upon Him, His death for your sins, and His resurrection from the dead for His forgiveness of your sins. Depend upon Him, and you will be saved from His wrath.