In my last article, I discussed the New Testament teaching on how believers are to prepare to listen or preach sermons. In this article, we will look at the biblical teaching on how we are to experience and apply sermons.
If you are an experienced student of the New Testament, and also pay attention to the theological and spiritual condition of a great number of conservative evangelical churches in America, you will realize that one of the greatest problems in these churches today is that the sermon doesn’t reflect the pattern of the sermon as it is seen in the New Testament. Also, you will realize that the impact of sermons doesn’t match the impact of the sermons in the New Testament. If you would like to read recent evidence of this, read my article Documented Evidence of the Blindness, Sinfulness, and Worldliness of the American “Evangelical Church” in Recent Times.
Seeing that this is the case, it is urgent that we make sure that we really know what the biblical teaching is on the church sermon and its relationship to churchgoers and the pastor-teachers who preach the sermon.
First, let’s examine what the Bible teaches about the preaching of the sermon:
1) A true Christian sermon is preached by the power of the Holy Spirit:
“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. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
2) A true sermon is preached from the Bible:
“I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word . . .” – 2 Timothy 4:1-2a
“13 Till I come, give heed to [the public (NASB)] reading [of Scripture (NASB)], to exhortation, to teaching.” – 1 Timothy 4:13
“. . . if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles [utterances] of God . . .” – 1 Peter 4:11a
3) A true sermon explains the Bible in order to help the listeners understand the Holy Spirit’s meaning of the passage(s):
“7 Also Jeshua . . . and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8 And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading.” – Nehemiah 8:7-8
“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
4) A true sermon applies the Bible to the listeners:
“. . . 2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove [correct], rebuke [chastise], exhort [encourage], with all longsuffering and teaching.” – 2 Timothy 4:2
5) A true sermon preaches about Christ and the gospel:
“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
“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
“. . . do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5b
6) A true sermon is preached with love for the listeners:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1
“. . . 15 but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ . . .” – Ephesians 4:15
Secondly, let’s look at how the churchgoer is to listen to the sermon:
“. . . receive with meekness [humility] the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21b
“. . . despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22
“Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” – Acts 17:11
“17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them . . .” – Hebrews 13:17a
“. . . as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile [impurity], that ye may grow thereby unto salvation . . .” – 1 Peter 2:2
Thirdly, how are both the pastor-teacher and the churchgoers to apply the sermon that they have experienced together?
1) By responding immediately to what they have heard:
“22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves.” – James 1:22
2) By keeping each other accountable to what they have heard:
” . . . exhort [encourage] one another day by day, so long as it is called To-day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin . . .” – Hebrews 3:13
3) By serving each other because of what they’ve heard:
“11 And he [Christ] gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ . . .” – Ephesians 4:11-12
“. . . 18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints . . .” – Ephesians 6:18
In summary, a true church sermon is a message from the Lord Jesus Christ to one of His local churches which is delivered through the pastor-teacher and by the power of the Holy Spirit, as the pastor-teacher reads, explains, and applies one or more passages from the Bible to the local church. As such, it is the duty of all members of that local church to humbly, submissively, carefully, and longingly receive that message and apply it to their lives by immediately responding to it in faith and obedience, and by serving the rest of that body in response. As the members serve one another, they are strengthened and spurred on to greater love for unbelievers, and thus, greater efforts at winning them to the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of us American conservative evangelicals, or those who follow the popular American conservative evangelical model of church sermons, must recover true biblical preaching and church life, or we will continue to dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ, and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. How did you respond to the preaching of the last church sermon that you listened to or preached?
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.