The Worship by the Book campaign has lead us to many different areas of Christian worship, from the necessity of gathering, to baptism, giving, music and now we turn our attention to the practice of biblical proclamation, or preaching. Preaching is no modern invention, but a biblical paradigm given by God to his people. Proclamation is how the universe began as God said let there be light and there was light. Adam and Eve existed by the word of God, speaking them into existence. They stood, in Genesis 3, before another sermon, preached by a snake (having three points) and they tragically obeyed the sermon of the serpent and the human race was plunged into sin. God comes and preaches another sermon to them about redemption and forgiveness found in the crushing of the serpent’s head by Jesus Christ. The rest of the Old Testament is filled with preaching, echoing God’s Genesis 3 proclamation. Moses preaches three gigantic sermons to the people of Israel which make up the entirety of the book of Deuteronomy. Samuel, is seen as the first “prophet-priest” who declares truth to the people of God. Solomon, when writing Ecclesiastes, gives himself the title, “The Preacher”. All of the prophets essentially are preaching to the people of God, “Thus saith the Lord!” They call the people to repent and to follow God again in covenant faithfulness. When they return from exile, Ezra stands before them, on a platform, and preaches to them all day long and the Levites go from house to house explaining and encouraging through the Scriptures. When Jesus comes, he comes in the echo of John the Baptist who stood in the Judean wilderness…preaching and after his baptism and temptation, what does Jesus begin doing? Preaching. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” One of the most famous sermons in all of history comes from Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount! Jesus preaches all throughout the gospels up until the point of his crucifixion and even after his resurrection he is still preaching! All of the apostles gather in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, following the resurrection of Christ and what happens after the coming of the Holy Spirit? Peter preaches and 3,000 people are converted to Christ. Paul is converted on the road to Damascus and after Ananias prays for him and the scales drop from his eyes, the next passage says he arose and immediately began preaching in the synagogues. Paul trains Titus and Timothy and he explicitly instructs them to preach the Word. In the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, Jesus takes up most of the beginning of the book preaching indictments against disobedient churches and then tells John to write the words of the last sermon, “It is done, behold, the dwelling place of God is with men and he is making everything new!” Preaching is how God has, is and will get things done in the lives of his people.
To the people of God, that makes sense. If you have church background, preaching makes sense because it’s what you have always done. To the culture around us however, this seems crazy. Paul explained to the church at Corinth that preaching the wisdom of the gospel was critical even if the culture saw it as foolishness.
Paul has just made an argument for the church at Corinth to unite around the gospel and right doctrine in the midst of conflict. The church is torn in many different directions, especially when it came to their attachment to strong leadership. Some were Paul groupies, some were Apollos groupies, some were fans of the Apostle Peter, others were holier than thou people who trumped all other allegiances by saying, “I follow Christ.” The attachment to strong leadership is nothing new. Paul dealt with this in Corinth. Corinth was a town famous for it’s orators. They had the best orators in the Near East. People would follow public orators around and pay to hear them give speeches.
Paul explains that he was never sent to be a famous orator, nor was his intention to establish a following. The gospel needs no help from us. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV). The gospel is vital, living and powerful, as we will see tomorrow.