Many great sermons are recorded in the Bible, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6 & 7), Stephen's history of the Jewish nation (Acts 7), Paul's address on Mars' Hill (Acts 17), and Peter's first sermon under the new covenant (Acts 2). Men today have very little respect for preaching — maybe it's because they don't know the purpose of preaching. Why do we preach?
This sounds so simple, yet it is often forgotten by men today. In Acts 7, one-third of Stephen's sermon was from the Old Testament. His audience knew what the verses said, but he had to explain what they meant and how it applied to them.
When Philip preached in Acts 8, he explained Isaiah 53. The eunuch wanted to know "of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" (Acts 8:34).
After Artaxerxes released the Israelites, Ezra, a scribe and priest of God, read the "Book of the Law of Moses" to the people. With aid from the Levites, Ezra "helped the people to understand the law" (Neh. 8:7). "So they read distinctly from the book, in the law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading" (Neh. 9:8).
In Apostolic sermons no appeal was ever made to modern theological thought. Men of God simply proclaimed God's word. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
The apostles never claimed an emotional experience as the basis for salvation. They presented God as having revealed His will to man (1 Corinthians 2:6-13). This revealed will was placed into written form, "by which, when you read, you may understand" (Ephesians 3:4).
Peter did not soft peddle the truth in Acts 2. He accused his audience of killing the Son of God. As a result, these people were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37). Cutting a man to the heart is not a task to be relished — it is the end result of freedom, joy and salvation for which we seek.
The way some men preach today, a lost man might never know his condition. Sinners will never cry out "What must I do to be saved?" while listening to the "positive preaching" done by some today.
The first thing Paul did in every city he visited was to lift up Christ and set Him before men as their only hope. Paul told the Corinthians he "determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Salvation does not come by the preaching of politics or moral platitudes — our hope is in heaven, not Washington, D.C.
Some today tell us to "preach the man not the plan." But we can not preach the King without His kingdom, nor the Groom without His bride. When the gospel was preached in Acts 2, men were added to the church (Acts 2:47). This is the church Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18), and the only one which He will save (Eph. 5:23).
Let us not put our trust in denominations built by men, for they will be uprooted (Matt. 15:13). "The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one, but the kingdom of heaven remains."
David Padfield is the preacher for the Church of Christ in Zion, Illinois