Reshared with kind permission from Leadership Resource International.
LRI’s Kevin Halloran sat down with his pastor, Colin S. Smith, to talk about what it means to preach Christ. Listen to the audio or read the transcript below.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified,” and a few verses later, he said he was determined to “know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). But what does this mean? And how can a preacher faithfully preach Christ?
With me is my pastor, Colin Smith, of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, and the author of Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes, Heaven How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief On The Cross, and most recently, Heaven So Near So Far: the Story of Judas Iscariot. Welcome, Pastor Colin.
CS: It’s fun to be together, Kevin.
KH: What does it mean to preach Christ, and why is it so important?
CS: Well, I think first of all, it means more than getting Jesus into a sermon. I sometimes hear guys saying that. How am I going to get Jesus into the sermon has got to be more than getting some reference to Jesus in the sermon. It’s got to be more too, I think, than preaching about Jesus. Even if we say the great things about Jesus, it’s possible to say even the great things about our Lord Jesus, His death, and His resurrection in a way that is detached from people – so that we’re merely giving information about the Lord Jesus Christ. But when Paul says that he’s determined to preach Christ, what he’s saying is not simply, “Tell people about Jesus,” but actually, “Hold Jesus and all that He is and all that He’s accomplished and all the He offers before people in such a way that they actually are confronted by a living Christ who is reaching out to them in the preaching.”
Christ speaks in the proclamation of His Word. And so, when Christ is held forth in the proclamation of his Word, people are able to discern the very voice of God speaking to them. That’s why it’s so important that we proclaim Christ and don’t simply speak about the Bible in a way that’s detached from the one who’s at the very center of the entire Word of God.
KH: Christ uses the task of preaching to reach out to the audience – I love how you said that. As you think about preaching Christ, what are some principles you use or keep in mind?
CS: Well, one of the things I learned early on in ministry back in England. So, I have to put this in an English way. A great English preacher once said that there’s a road from every village and hamlet in the country that leads eventually to London. I thought quite a bit about that. It’s true of course of any other major destination. You know there’s a road from everywhere in America that takes us to Chicago, I guess.
The point is that wherever you are the Bible, there is a road that does lead to Jesus Christ. And so, my job as a preacher, as I’m getting into any part of the Scripture, is to discern where that road is – what that path is. It might be a road that’s quite extensive. It might be a long way. It might not be just one connection; there may be some junctions along the way. But there’s always a road that takes us to Jesus Christ. My task is to find that road and to help people traverse it so that we’re brought to the feet of Christ. This is something that the apostles always did.
A number of years ago in the church here, a group of us sat down and said, “Let’s go through the New Testament and try and identify as many references as we can to preaching, then see what was it that was preached.” So, we started going through Acts. Then we went through the rest of the New Testament and Epistles. In about an hour and a half, we jotted down 39 references to preaching or proclamation. In every case, what we found that was proclaimed was the Lord Jesus Christ or His death or His resurrection or the gospel itself. It was always the same thing. The apostles gave themselves to that proclamation of Jesus Christ. That’s the task. Wherever we are in the Bible is where we begin. Proclaiming Christ is where we’ve got to end.
KH: That’s very helpful. What difference, then, does preaching Christ make for those who are in the pew?
CS: If Christ is not in a sermon, then what good is it ever going to do? I mean, our hope and our life is in Jesus Christ. So, a Christ-less sermon is actually a sermon that’s sub-Christian. It may lay out some moral principles, it may call a person to live a better life, but what use is a call to live a better life if a person doesn’t have the power to live that better life residing within them? That power comes from Jesus Christ. The experience of a person in the pew, if Christ is missing from preaching, is going to be that basically they’re being challenged. There’s a demand that’s being laid out. Here’s what you have to do; go try harder, go live better at the end of the day.
But then you come right up against what the law was powerless to do God did by giving His Son, Jesus Christ. The whole point of the gospel is that it gives to us what the law demands of us. If you take away Christ, you’re simply left with a demand. That’s why people often come out of church feeling that the whole thing was heavy and made them feel worse. Because what they’re confronted with is a challenge that they’re not being given the resource to meet.
Part Two deals with Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ. Stay tuned for Part II.