What Is Preaching?



“What Preaching Is,” I Corinthians 2:1-5

The Experiment of Faith


Occasionally we need sermons about sermons; preaching about preaching and what to do with it! What is the purpose of preaching? What constitutes a “good” sermon? Is it one that stirs the heart? Arouses the intellect? Challenges the audience to be more Christ-like? Addresses relevant issues? Uses great rhetoric? Exposits the Bible?


What makes a sermon good?! Spurgeon said a fog in the pulpit makes for a mist in the pews. Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “How the listen to a Sermon.” We tend to take the cue from commercial society that the “best” preaching is whatever happens in the fullest buildings. Big crowds only necessarily mean popular. What is popular preaching in any given age may not be what is “best.” Too often, popularity trumps faithfulness. Sometimes faithful is popular, not always, and these days, perhaps not even very often.


Paul gave us the key concepts for God-honoring fruitful preaching in our text for today. These 5 principles come from those 5 verses.


  • (v.1) Sound preaching is not eloquence or human philosophy.
  • (v.2) Sound preaching has one great theme: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
  • (v.3) Sound preaching is proclaimed with a great sense of inadequacy. (Genuine humility and sincerity at the monumental task of proclaiming the Word of God)
  • (v.4) Sound preaching is not persuasive words, but a demonstration of the Spirit and power.
  • (v.5) Sound preaching leads to faith.


Congregational Puritan Pastor, Richard Sibbes, said, “That age of the church which was most fertile in nice questions, was most barren in religion: for it makes people think religion to be only a matter of wit, in tying and untying of knots; the brains of men given that way are hotter usually than their hearts.”


*Faithfulness to Scripture, not oratory, is the measure of good preaching*


Pastors and Parishioners alike need desperately to think about sermons. We need more sermons about sermons, more preaching about preaching, more “How to listen to a Sermon” sermons. It is time the Church think critically about thinking and act seriously, about how we act in the world.


CIS: Good preaching is not subjective. It is in line with biblical mandate.



(v.1) Sound preaching is not eloquence or human philosophy.[1]

Religion that is right and true is infinitely more than brilliance and philosophy. It defines, fuels, and enriches a godly Christ-centered life! We need preaching that supplies faith and sets it on fire!


Religion that is right and it is true and it is biblical, historically Christian, and consistent with the deepest principles and meaning of the with-God life, points us, not to the oppressive and tragic things of this world, not into ourselves for betterment, not to man’s wisdom for enlightenment, but to the Lord God creator and sustainer and giver of life and grace for definition.


Sound preaching is the opening up of the testimony of God in His Word. Sound preaching is shining a lamp in dark places and pointing to God’s hope.

Sound preaching is making known eternal truth with no prospect of approval.

Sound preaching is defined by and rests entirely upon the testimony of God.

Sound preaching is the art of making God known according to His Word alone.


In other words, “good” preaching is that which flows from God’s Word as it is defined by God’s Word, elucidated by the witness of the Church throughout history and, most notably, as defined in this passage of Scripture.


The art of preaching is the art of pointing people in the direction of the God-ward side of life; of making eternal truths accessible according to God’s Word.

That is why…

(v.2) Sound preaching has one great theme: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.


The Puritan Preacher John Flavel wrote, “All other knowledge, how much soever it be magnified in the world, is, and ought to be esteemed but dross, [rubbish], in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”


“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things –  indeed, I regard them as dung!  –  that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8 NET) Preaching of any sort other than that which points men to Christ on the Cross is vanity, flattery, and platitudes. We need Christ.


(v.3) Sound preaching is proclaimed with a great sense of inadequacy.


No one who is not at least occasionally very intimidated at the prospect of speaking for God has no business speaking for God. Anyone who does not recognize the gravity of the task of preaching has no business preaching. It is famously an adage among preachers to tell would be preachers that if they can do anything else – do it! This sentiment is well rooted in Scripture,  such as James 3:1 , “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (NIV84)


“Paul’s personal appearance was apparently not impressive, not to the Corinthians. Paul says that he was weak in body, and that he suffered some physical infirmity. This should not matter to a congregation of God’s people, but it did to the Corinthians. Some among the Corinthians were more interested in the charisma, worldly ability, and preaching skills of a pastor than in his depth and knowledge of the Lord. Unfortunately, this seems to have been the emphasis among many people of the Corinthian church.”[2]


Look for a life of honest pursuit of Christ from a preacher. None of us are adequate for the call but some are called. [Christina. Chris is so gifted and wise! No. He’s not that wise or that gifted. He’s just genuinely called.]

(v.4) Sound preaching is not persuasive words, but a demonstration of the Spirit and power. Sound preaching flows from the experiment of faith in the preacher’s life. A preacher must be a practitioner. He must be a learned friend on the journey, which implies, that we all must be on the journey together!


That is what listening to a sermon or a preaching ministry is all about. This is a pilgrimage of faith; at least it should be! This is not a lecture or a course I am teaching and you are receiving. This is the schoolhouse of lived faith.


(v.5) Sound preaching leads to faith. Preaching is not for my gratification or your simple enjoyment. Entertainment is not out aim. Lived faith is our aim!



That kind of preaching is aimed at producing in us the kind of faith that bears fruit. That radiates into our lives from the Word, flows through our lives by way of the Holy Spirit in ways consistent with the Word, and inculcates the world around us everywhere we go.  In other words, the fruit of biblical preaching is spiritual fruit. That is the definition of “good” preaching.


It is not good rhetoric, wise insights, passion, making us feel good, or any other arbitrary standard. Those things may be present in good preaching but they are not the litmus test for good preaching. Is it faithful to the Word? Does it center on Christ and Him crucified? Is the preacher more concerned with God’s glory than his own pride? Is the preaching accompanied by real evidence of the Holy Spirit power in the life of the preacher? Does the preaching have an impact on people’s lives that leads to spiritual fruit?


Striving for this, living like this, aiming at this is, has always been, and will always be how I will define the direction of my preaching ministry. Listening to sermons like this, aiming at hearing them for this ought to be your goal.


How ought we to listen to sermons? Listen for the voice of God using the preacher. Look for the examples in the preachers life that point us – though imperfectly – in the direction of the perfection of God. Bear Fruit. Amen.


[1] Gaius Glenn Atkins, “The Godward Side of Life,” Pilgrim Press, Chicago, 1917, page 16.

[2] Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – 1 & 2 Corinthians.

Published by Mt Hope Congregational Church

Mt Hope Congregational is a collection of followers of Jesus bound together by a covenant to be the people of God in Livonia, Michigan, the surrounding area, and around the world!

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