Preaching in the New Testament
* This post is Part 3 of a series on Expository Preaching in the Local Church, where we are taking a look at the meaning of “Expository Preaching”, its Biblical precedence, and the importance of Expository Preaching in the life of our church. Read part one here. Read part two here.
This past Sunday, we began a new sermon series through the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Let me be honest for a moment; it is quite intimidating to be preaching sermons on the greatest sermon ever preached. I read and listen to sermons frequently, but there has never been a sermon like the one Jesus preached from this mountain.
Jesus, according to the timeline in Matthew, has just begun his earthly ministry. He has called his disciples (Matthew 4:17-22) and He has traveled throughout the region healing people (Matthew 4:23-25). All along the way, he was preaching the same message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). As the crowds begin to close in on him, Jesus finds a mountain with a great view of the Sea of Galilee.
Scripture does not call this sermon “The Sermon on the Mount”. It was likely Augustine in the 4th century who first gave the term. This sermon is actually the first of five sermons in Matthew’s gospel record, all of which pertain to the same theme and the same message that Jesus preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Though we are unsure, these are likely summary points of Jesus’ sermon. If Matthew 5-7 is actually the entirety of the sermon, then it would have been a 10 minute sermon. Which makes some sense, since it’s going to take a mere man like me 45 minutes to just get through a few verses at a time. The sermon on the Mount is also recorded in Mark and Luke, though not nearly as extensive as Matthew’s record.
English Theologian John Stott said,
“The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that Jesus ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted his followers to be and to do”. (1)
With every sermon, there are usually three main components: the preacher, the audience, and the message. Knowing who Jesus is, knowing who His intended audience is, and knowing the main point of His sermon will help us understand the content of the Sermon on the Mount.
It also helps us understand the role of preaching in the New Testament.
When Jesus spoke, people listened. He spoke with authority, His message was clear, and it pricked the hearts of those who listened. Though He was the Son of God, Jesus used God’s Word to reach out to those who would listen. When Jesus spent time in the synagogue, He took the Word of God and read it to them (Lk 4:16-21). The content of the Sermon on the Mount is grounded in the words God had already given to the people of Israel in Exodus 20.
Jesus understood that in order to bring people to His Father, He had to open His mouth. Pater Adam states,
“In public, formal teaching in synagogues or on the mountain, in private instruction to his disciples, in answer to questions raised by others, and in private conversations, he spoke the Word. By his preaching and teaching he both announced and extended the kingdom, called people to faith, refuted error, rebuked those who taught error, encouraged the weak, trained his disciples, explained the Scripture, rebuked sinners and summoned all to faith and obedience.” (2)
Jesus once told a parable in Matthew 13:3-23 of a sower who went about his daily business tossing seeds onto the ground. Some fell in rocky areas, others in thorny areas, and some landed in the perfect spot. The comparison Jesus uses is that the seed represents the Word of God. Just as the sower did with that seed, preachers must sow or toss the Word of God onto the hearts of people. How it affects the listener varies, but the sower of God’s Word never knows when it is going to fall into the perfect position. Through this parable, we see that Christ saw the Word of God as the gateway to reaching souls.
As the Sermon on the Mount unfolds, it is clear Jesus is after the hearts of the men and women who are listening to Him in awe. He spoke with authority the words of God and when men stand to preach to the church today, by God’s grace, they must speak from the authority of God’s written Word.
Another example of preaching in the New Testament comes from the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul understood the importance of preaching. He spent his entire ministry training young men like Timothy, on how to be effective preachers.
Acts 9:19-20 states, “For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘This man is the Son of God’.” Paul preached the Word. He wasted no time either. Paul’s ministry was focused on proclaiming the same message as Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Paul was committed to preaching the message of the Gospel.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells them that those who preach the Gospel have beautiful feet (Rom 10:14-15). Preachers have “beautiful feet” not because they preach what is on their mind; they preach what God has commanded them to preach and they are carrying the daunting title of preacher!. This command is to preach the Gospel.
Paul’s most popular student was Timothy. In his last letter to his beloved protégé, Paul urges Timothy to preach the Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the message (or word), be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction”. Paul urges Timothy to always be ready to preach from God’s Word. This demonstrates Paul’s drive to see the preaching of the Scriptures.
The next verse summarizes Paul’s position on the importance of preaching. “For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” Paul knew that soon a time would come when people no longer wanted to hear the truth of God’s Holy Word. Unfortunately, that day may have already passed.
Whether it is from the Old Testament prophets or from the New Testament apostles, the Bible clearly represents the intention of preaching. After understanding what God’s Word says about preaching, it is vital to understand that there is no preaching without the Word of God. No matter how creative the message, how beautifully arranged the outline, or how much concern comes from the speaker, effective preaching is effectively using the Scriptures.
If one is to develop a Biblical theology of preaching based solely on what God’s Word says about the matter, they must preach the Word the way It was intended to be preached.
And through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord in me, I pray I will always stay true to the preaching of God’s Word.
By His Grace,
(1) Stott, John. 2020. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount the Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1
(2) Adam, Peter. 2004. Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching. Regent College Publishing, 45