The Purpose Of Preaching

By William C. Sexton

An understanding of the purpose of preaching is needed, from both the receptive and the supportive point of view. Such will enable us to work more intelligently and enthusiastically and with greater success.

We wish to look at three passages of Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-3; Col. 1:28; 2 Tim. 4:2) in this study, believing that as we analyze these passages we’ll be able to see something about preaching that perhaps we have not discerned before. At least the points should be more vividly impressed on our minds, resulting in more effective labor.

Three different words are used for “preach” in these three passages, each contributing its emphasis to the activity! When we observe the point of emphasis in each text, I believe we will have a more accurate and appreciative view of the activity in which preachers are to be engaged.

1. Paul had preached to the Corinthians the gospel message; it had been received and the receivers had been saved by it, conditionally – “if” they would hold fast to it!

2. Christ in the Colossians was the hope of glory, whom Paul preached, “warning every man,” to the end that he “may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” when the fruit of the activity was full grown!

3. Timothy was charged with preaching 91the word” in all seasons, in the manner that would fit the occasion, “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

I believe that the purposes of preaching is dictated, when we examine each of the three words, by content and manner. The purposes are to be found in a close examination of these New Testament words, which would not be easily observed in reading the English translation. Let us look at the words.

I. Why three words translated “preach, “preached, preaching? The basic idea involved in or associated with the word seems to convey to us a precise and distinct aspect of this activity called preaching!

Evangelizo is the word used in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 and it has as its basic idea “good news.” Thus the emphasis is on the message, that it is beneficial to the hearers. It is news-worthy, attractive and important. As we think about the criteria today for something to be “news worthy,” perhaps we can gain a greater insight into the good-news aspect of this message.

The word is used many times in the New Testament. Always, it seems to convey the concept that something good is near, available, to be received, to be responded to! “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also” (Lk. 4:43). Philip’s “preaching” was “concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12). When it was believed, the people responded immediately, “they were baptized, both men and women.” The message was “good news.” God’s rule was capable of being responded to and the benefits of doing so were so great!

“Jesus Christ” was the subject of the daily preaching in the temple and in “every house,” which could not be stopped by the persecutors; when the messengers were required to “suffer” for their activity, they “counted” such to be a “worthy” thing (Acts 5:42; 11:20).

They who were “scattered abroad” from Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4), the word, the source of the message, was “good,” beneficial! When Paul and his companion returned to Antioch, they continued to preach the “word of the Lord” (Acts 15:35). Peace by Jesus was preached (Acts 10:36; 17:18; Eph. 2:17). The gospel was preached (2 Cor. 11:7; Gal. 1:8) which was also called “The Faith” (Gal. 1:23). That which was conveyed to the hearers when this caliber of preaching was done was very valuable, being called by Paul “unsearchable riches” (Eph. 3:8).

Katangello is the word used in Colossians 1:28 and the basic idea is “proclaiming” – making known so that it can be understood. Here the emphasis seems to be on making the message available so that it is clear, understandable to all. There is a time and place when and where this is the main purpose in preaching! One has to have the message presented in terms and in a way that he can grasp the meaning, see clearly, unmistakenly what is required!

This word is used in some very meaningful ways, concerning some very significant matters. Preaching was done so that people could clearly see that through Jesus “the resurrection of the dead” was achieved (Acts 4:2). Also, Paul preached -made it clear – “through this man” (Jesus Christ) “forgiveness of sins” was received (Acts 13:38). Men had to come to grasp clearly that “Jesus” is Christ (Acts 17:3) and this was achieved through preaching of this nature! Men and women need to see plainly, unmistakenly, what is required of them so as to be “in” Christ now and when this life is over (cf. Rev. 14:13; Jn. 15:6; 2 Cor. 5:17).

This word seems to be used to describe the preaching that was done only in the Acts and epistles. But it seems clear to me that this type of preaching surely needs to be done today, as then. At times it seems that this aspect of preaching is lacking often today; instead, speaking of the message is done in general and perhaps vague, ambiguous language, so that people never really see clearly their condition, what is available to them, the dangers facing them, or the terms or conditions that must be met in order to avail themselves of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. Beloved, such ought not so to be!

Kerusso is the word used by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2 and the basic idea is that of a “herald” crying, announcing! Harper says of the word, “to announce as a matter of doctrine, inculcate. . . public inculcation”. Webster says of “inculcate,” “to impress upon the mind by frequent repetition or insistent urging.” Thus it is or may be done many times, often, with a sense of urgency!

This word, too, is used many times. It is used, too, relative to some very significant points which need to be preached with a sense of urgency!

John the Baptist came preaching – heralding the message: “repent” (Matt. 3:2) and Jesus did the same (Matt. 4:17). The message that the “kingdom” was “at hand” was made known in this fashion (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). The good news of the kingdom came in this word (Matt. 4-23; 9:35; 24:14). The coming of the mighty one (Mk. 1:7) was made known in this manner.

When Jesus told His apostles to preach the gospel message to the whole world (Mk. 16:15-16) and that the believer and baptized would be saved while the unbeliever would be lost, this is the word used. When Philip went to Samaria and engaged in the activity of preaching, this word is used to describe what he did (Acts 8:5). Paul preached “Jesus” in this fashion with this sense of urgency. When left two years in Rome to carry on in “his own hired house,” his “preaching the kingdom of God” was in this fashion or of this type (Acts 28:31). He affirms to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:5) that his preaching was not of himself, “but Christ Jesus the Lord and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

When Peter preached to those gathered at the house of Cornelius that Christ “was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead,” he did it according to this word with a sense of urgency (Acts 10:42).

Likewise, Paul preached to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:23-24) “Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greek’s foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” There is a need for this message to be presented with the sense of urgency!

II. Recognized This Three-Fold Purpose Of Preaching! It seems to this observer and participator that, at times, we are not as sensitive to the immediate need in preaching as we should be. We do not try to follow this pattern, or meet each aspect of the need. People need to see first that the message of Christ is for their eternal well being: it is good news! Not only do they need to be excited about the benefit it offers them, they also need to see clearly the terms, the conditions, on which this benefit is received by them: what is required of them by God in order for them to be the recipient of His grace?

When the first two aspects are achieved, proclaimed, conveyed, grasped by the hearers, then and only then, really, is it appropriate to kerusso – herald with the sense of urgency!

A number of “preachers” seem to stop at the “good news” phase. People are so excited and pleased that God has provided them with salvation; but, little or no effort is made to point to the conditions which must be met, leaving them in the dark – yet feeling safe! However, possibly many who present the good news phase and the understanding phase, stop short of the urgency phase; so, the hearer is still left in the state of sin – lost, unmoved. It appears that we could profit from a real consideration of these three aspects of preaching.

III. Application Of This Principle! Beloved friend, what about your response to preaching? What phase has challenged you? Have you been impressed with the good news? Have you understood the conditions which must be met by you? Have you been moved to respond? If you have not moved through each phase of this process, then by all means do it now!

My beloved preaching friends, what about your preaching? Has it had all the three phases in it? I challenge each to do a close complete examination of our preaching, to see if we are leaving out one phase and, consequently, failing to achieve the desirable results? If we are, then we need to correct that; if we are doing what we should, self-examination cannot hurt!

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 5, pp. 137-138
March 1, 1984