Apr 30, 2013
neil

Making your sermon not just biblical but gospel centered

In the first extract from my seminar notes on ‘Gospel-centred Biblical preaching’ I focused on the need for preaching to be preaching that does not abuse the text of scripture, nor even use the text of Scripture but serve the text of Scripture. Biblical preaching is preaching in which the Bible sets the agenda for the content of the sermon because the big idea of the passage is the main application of the text.

However, it’s not enough to be biblical (in that sense).  Every sermon needs to be biblical in that it is Christ or gospel-centred. In this post we ask how Jesus is the answer to every question a sermon raises, the fulfilment of every hope put forth and therefore the centre of every text.

1. Every text is there to teach us about Jesus

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 NIV)

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 NIV)

The Bible is not Christ-centered because it is generally about Jesus. It is Christ-centered because the Bible’s primary purpose, from beginning to end, is to point us toward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation and sanctification of sinners.Darrin Patrick

2. Every text teaches us of our need for a Saviour

We also need to show in our preaching that, from beginning to end, the Bible teaches us about our need not just for Jesus as an example to follow but for Jesus as a saviour.

A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of ‘believe and live. – C.H. Spurgeon

What does this all look like?

There are a growing number of good books and resources showing how to find Christ and I particularly commend Preaching the whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graham Goldsworthy.

Tim Keller has said 

Once you know that all the lines of all the stories and all the climaxes of the inter-canonical
themes converge on Christ, you simply can’t not see that every text is about Jesus. For example:
+ Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is now imputed
to us (1 Cor. 15).
+ Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood that cries out for our acquittal,
not our condemnation (Heb. 12:24).
+ Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answered the call of God to leave all that was comfortable and
familiar out of obedience to God.
+ Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was in the
end sacrificed for us all. God said to Abraham, “now I know you love me, because you did not withhold
your son, your only son whom you love, from me.” Now we can say to God, “now I know that you love me,
because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love, from me.”
+ Jesus is true and better Jacob, who wrestled with God and took the blow of justice we deserved. Now we,
like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
+ Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who sat at the right hand of the king, and used his power to forgive
and save those who betrayed and sold him.
+ Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord, who mediates
a new covenant (Heb. 3).
+ Jesus is the true and better Job —the innocent sufferer who then intercedes for his foolish friends (Job 42).
+ Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory against Goliath was imputed to his people, even though
they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
+ Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but a heavenly one, and
who didn’t just risk his life but gave it—to save his people.
+ Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so the rest of the ship could be brought
in.

I’ve also been helped to see that when it comes to a specific narrative the ‘hero’ functions in that story in 1 of 3 roles.

• a type of Christ – see Keller’s examples above

• a type of believer trusting in Christ – that could be Abraham being justified by faith Gen. 15, Rom. 4 or David confessing his sin in the psalms eg. Psalms 32, 51.

• a type of unbeliever needing to trust in Christ – for example Abraham in Egypt, Gen. 12.

Let’s take one passage as an example of how New Testament authors quite clearly find Christ in Old Testament narrative – Exodus 2:11-25.

In this passage Moses strikes dead the Egyptian beating one of his own people. How should we find Christ here? When I preached this passage recently I called it God’s rescuer renounces his royal throne to rescue his brother(s). Two very important New Testament texts help us with this passage; Heb 11:24-26 and Acts 7:23-25. In them we find Moses commended for his actions.

Hebrews reminds us that Moses gave up a kingdom to rescue a people because he knew he would inherit a better kingdom

Acts reminds us that the one God raised up to rescue his people rejected him as their rescuer.

So in my sermon I argued that

Jesus is the greater Moses because he saw the suffering of his people and decided to get involved in our world. He is the greater Moses because didn’t forsake a human throne to come to the aid of his brothers he left his throne in heaven to save us. He is the greater Moses because he chose to suffer with his people not just in experiencing loss of status and reputation but choosing to suffer to the extent that he gave his life to death on a cross He is the true Moses because he delivers his people not just from slavery to Pharaoh but from sin and death itself through his own resurrection. Jesus is the true and better Moses because he too was prepared by God to deliver his people through suffering…

3. Every sermon must centre on Jesus

Biblical preaching is gospel-centred preaching. It shows us Christ as our only hope but does so not by

a. assuming the gospel (but not stating it). So in the sermon we learn about faith and life through David, Joshua, etc. but Christ is not mentioned.

b. bolting on the gospel in a way that eases our conscience but is not from the text. We hear valuable gospel truths but cannot relate them to the passage preached.

Instead it shows us Christ as saviour and Lord from a careful application of the passage demonstrating how it always pointed us to Christ.

In the next post we will look at what it means for preaching to be not just gospel-centred but gospel-driven.

 

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