“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:16
I can’t believe that in all those posts, I missed quoting this perspective from Paul. The context is his right to receive financial support from those who heard the gospel from him, and his refusal to exercise it in order to preserve his integrity as a preacher and apostle.
I find this a poignant extension of his expressed resolve:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:2.
A good rule of thumb.
So my answer to the question “What is the purpose of preaching?” would be phrased like this, I think:
To draw people closer to God through Jesus Christ.
There might well be a dozen better ways to phrase it, but for me this is the essence. Teaching is important, but if it doesn’t lead people closer to God through Christ, it doesn’t really qualify as good news (news, maybe) or gospel (because if it doesn’t involve Christ, it isn’t gospel), or preaching (because if it doesn’t involve gospel, it isn’t preaching).
I understand that this is a tedious and one-sided definition, and we can wheedle each other about it all we want to – but when all is said and nothing’s done, it’s what I strongly and deeply believe is the commonly understood definition of “preaching” among the believing proclaimers of century one.
What they preached and proclaimed was Christ, and Him crucified and risen – plus what I tend to think of as “the ongoing Story of Christ”: the effect of His gospel on the lives of His followers. That, too, is gospel (Acts 11; 15:12; 21:10-20).
I think they would have viewed the spending of too much proclamation and preaching time on anything else was not a worthwhile use of it. Some might well have thought time spent that way would have been too close to sharing men’s teachings, philosophy, controversy, genealogies, useless talk, and what is falsely called “knowledge.”
Heretics of that time were those who taught something other than the gospel, as nearly as I can tell.
So if I’m ever asked to preach again, I believe my rule of thumb about what not to preach will be: anything that is not – in one way or any other – the gospel.
Correct me if I’m wrong.
What do you think?