Gospel Preaching vs. Biblical Commentary – March 21, 2019

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and these are the ones that bear witness about me (John 5:39).

Most congregations expect preachers and teachers to base their sermons/lessons on the Bible. Regardless of whether a church exhibits a “low” view of biblical authority (i.e. the Bible is merely a collection of ancient documents through which God continues to speak) or a “high” view (i.e. the Bible is the written Word of God), most Christians would take offense if a preacher never read or referenced Scripture. What many fail to realize, however, is that a sermon/Bible study can be thoroughly biblical without ever proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

How so? Even the most well-intentioned expository preachers and teachers can sometimes fall into the trap of confusing gospel preaching with biblical commentary. They assume if they have accurately interpreted a passage and if they have faithfully applied the passage’s teaching to life, then their job is done. Yet our calling is to preach “Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We aren’t finished preparing a sermon or a Bible study until we can show the ways in which any given text testifies to Christ.

We need to ask, for example, is there a promise here that God fulfilled in Christ? Is there a foreshadowing of something Christ accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection? Who does this passage reveal Jesus to be? What does this text tell us about how we are to live in light of what Christ has done for us? How can we live with hope because of what this verse assures us about Jesus’ return?

Jesus pointedly addressed this issue with his opponents when he said he—not the Scriptures—possesses power to give eternal life. The whole Bible bears witness to Christ and coheres around Christ. It really doesn’t make sense as a collective whole apart from Christ. Trying to read the Bible without reference to the person and work of Christ is like trying to read a series of chapters without any overarching plotline.

All of this shows that the only way to gain true and saving knowledge of Jesus is ultimately through studying Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (the One who inspired the sacred writings in the first place). I believe, moreover, the most fruitful way to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is to preach the Bible expositionally—book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, word by word. The form in which Scripture has come to us is no accident; it is the Lord’s gift to build up his people in faith and to equip them for ministry.

May the Spirit use our Bible study, therefore, to fill us “with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).

Your Pastor,