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Passages on Preaching

God left instructions about preaching. Several "job-description" passages distinguish God's pulpit purposes from man's. Although contemporary religion has redefined preaching as entertainment, as therapy, and as happy-talk, these passages define preaching as something else.

I Corinthians 3:2

Jesus (Mt. 4:4) quoted Moses (Deut. 8:3) saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." With these words a "nutrition" theme is established. We should "long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation" (I Pet. 2:2). Due to spiritual immaturity, many "need milk" (Heb. 5:12). Consequently Paul fed the Corinthians "with milk, not solid food" (I Cor. 3:2).

These passages direct preachers away from contemporary theology and send them back to the Bible. "Speak the things that are consistent with the sound doctrine," said Paul (Tit. 2:1). Peter said the same thing: "If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God" (I Pet. 4:11).

Lesson: there are many different kinds of communication; preaching is when the basic teachings of scripture are communicated.

Nehemiah 8:8

Publicly declaring the Bible is not unique to the New Testament. Many Old Testament characters were also preachers. How did they preach? Nehemiah is a great example. He "read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and...gave the sense so that they understood" (Neh. 8:8).

Nehemiah's mission text was he Bible and his purpose was to explain. He wanted his hearers to have a better, deeper, and fuller understanding of the Bible's books, chapters and verses. We should tailor our tastes to prefer the same kind of meal.

Lesson: the best measure of preaching is our own measure of Bible understanding afterwards.

I Corinthians 2:1-5

Preachers tap-dance across a razor's edge. The natural inclinations of human psychology make listeners focus on the person doing the preaching, either responding to or rejecting him. We either like, in other words, of dislike the preacher and adjust our hearing accordingly. The tap dance of preaching can become a matter of adjusting the message according to these likes and dislikes.

Understanding the centrality of the Bible, Paul side-stepped all personality-based preaching. "When I came to you, brothers," he said, "My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God " (I Cor. 2:1-5). he did not preach " to captivate the affections," but "to the conversion, comfort, edification, and salvation of many" (John Gill).

Lesson: preachers must step aside an let the word take center stage.

II Timothy 4:1-3

Paul passed along his philosophy of preaching to the next and succeeding generations of preachers. "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus... preach the word... reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (I Tim. 4:1-3). Several words in this purpose statement are worthy of extra attention.

  • "Preach the word" is another reminder about the importance of Bible-based preaching.
  • "Reprove, rebuke, and exhort" are elsewhere translated as "correct, warn, and encourage," and as "Point out errors, warn people, and encourage them;" at least two of the three terms have "negative" connotations.
  • All of this is to be done with "teaching." The KJV reads with "doctrine." Doctrine is taken from the Greek word didache, which refers to "patient" communication of "the fuller and more extensive  doctrinal and moral teaching and instruction in the Christian Faith."

Lesson: these words describe Christian preaching as Bible-based, often corrective, and always instructive.


I have come to be a great fan of classical music. Mozart, Beethoven and Holst were my mortal enemies during my rock-n-roll years. But tastes can change; tastes can improve.

The world would love for you to adjust your tastes in preaching to its own flavors. Part of being "transformed" and "not conformed," however (Rom. 12:1-2), is transforming our tastes and bringing them into conformity with the passages listed above. Learn to love the Bible (see Ps. 119:97).