The purposes of biblical preaching

What are the purposes of preaching? What is the purpose of preaching from a scriptural passage? What is the pastor aiming at? Why does he mount the pulpit and speak for half an hour or so? What is behind it all?

The Christian church being the full bloom of the Old Testament dispensation, we do expect to find some relationship with the Temple and synagogue usages. It was Jesus' custom to attend the synagogue (Luke 4:16) and be given the opportunity to address the hearers by reading a portion of Scripture to them, expound it and apply it to their hearts.

There also seems to be a reference this teaching format inherited from the synagogue in 1 Timothy 4:13, where it is stated that it is a part of the pastor's task to read the Scriptures publicly, to teach what the Scriptures mean, and to exhort the congregation to follow the teaching.

The most fundamental purpose in preaching from a Scripture portion is to obey Jesus and follow His example. This is the all-embracing purpose, but it is so general that it must be broken down into several compartments for easier comprehension.

Today we can "teach" Christians to "observe all" that Jesus "commanded" only by turning to the pages of the New Testament on which those commandments are found. So, again, as in Old Testament times, we must turn to the Scriptures as the sole source of what we teach. The Reformed principle of sola Scriptura comes to the fore and is found to be extremely relevant when it comes to preaching, for a foundational purpose in preaching is to preach nothing else but the Word of God. Secular philosophy, psychology, positive thinking, Freudian ethics and eclectic teachings have no place in the pulpit.

The preaching must be thoroughly biblical so that it might be authoritative. Preachers today have no authority for preaching their own notions and opinions: they must "preach the Word" - the apostolic Word as recorded in Holy Scripture. Scripture is read publicly, explained and applied, to the end that the hearers might be conformed all the more to the image of Christ and be presented perfect in Him - that is the pervasive purpose in preaching.

Following Jay Adams, "the purposes of preaching from a Scripture portion” may be summarized as follows:

1. To obey God;

2. To preach with authority;

3. To preach with power;

4. To preach effectively;

5. To preach at all!"

When it comes to the task of preaching the Bible, there is perhaps no better outline than that found in 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Here we have it asserted that the whole Bible is theopneustos, that is, God-breathed, and given so that it may lead to faith in Christ, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This must be the primary purpose: to the hearers may consider the person and claims of Christ and respond to him in faith, relying wholly upon Him for their eternal salvation.

But it does not end here: every believer then must take heed of the Bible being preached because therein they have the means to be:

1. instructed in the truth;

2. reproved;

3. corrected in their moral and intellectual failures;

4. and finally trained in righteous living. For this grand purpose the ministry of the Word need to be ongoing, with nothing competing with it, being offered in season and out of season.