Him We Proclaim: Gospel-Centered Preaching
“Him we proclaim….” Colossians 1:28
In Colossians 1:28, the Apostle Paul, speaking about preaching, declares that it is “Him we proclaim.” The content of our preaching is ultimately Christ.
Obviously, this does not mean Paul never preached on Christian living, morality, or other areas of theology. A quick perusal of his letters would tell you otherwise. What he means by this is when all the texts of the Bible are preached, when all theology is taught, it is all subject to Christ and Him crucified.
The testimony of the New Testament is overwhelming on this point - Preaching is always preaching about Christ.
1) Consider the Apostles’ preaching in Acts after being told by Jesus, “you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We are told what the earliest church did with this command in Acts 5:42: “And every day in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
2) The Deacon Phillip “…went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (8:5). And with the Ethiopian (who had the book of Isaiah), “…and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (35).
3) Saul, before he is called Paul, “…proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying ‘He is the Son of God.’” (9:20).
4) In Antioch, the Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene spoke to the Hellenists and we are told that they were “Preaching the Lord Jesus” (11:20). Paul made a practice of going to the Synagogue each time he entered a city (17:3).
5) On Mars Hill, speaking to a pagan audience, Paul did not begin with the assumption of knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures but rather preached starting with their pagan culture leading them through the story of the scripture and ultimately to Christ. Paul’s central message was so well known that some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to drive out some evil spirits by saying, “I adjure by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims” (19:13).
6) The book of Acts wraps up with this statement about Paul's preaching as he conducted services while under house arrest in Rome. “He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31).
Paul laments, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (9:16). And later in the letter, he gives this definition:
…the gospel I preach to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures (15:1-4).
Paul tells us the gospel is not only what we believe at initial salvation, but the gospel is how we stand now. What the Living Stones community needs week in and week out is the proclamation of the gospel from whatever text or topic is being tackled.
It is Him we proclaim.
One of the goals of the sermon is to imprint the gospel of Christ on the soul of the congregation. That would include everyone from the seeker to the seasoned believer. It is often in the preaching act that God’s people experience and hear from Christ. John Stott says, “Preaching has but one aim, that Christ may come to those who have assembled to listen.”
It is often noted that people in the congregation don’t remember what was preached two weeks ago and therefore point out the failure of preaching. But in this criticism there is an underlying presupposition that the primary role of preaching is the dispensing and retaining of information. This is not the primary purpose of preaching! Through preaching the congregation hears from Christ and receives nourishment for the soul. I don’t remember what my wife made me for dinner two Thursdays ago, but it still gave me nourishment that affects me today. Likewise, the sermon includes important information but does not conclude in information.
The goal of a sermon is the same as the goal of the scriptures - to point to Christ. If the Bible is truly being preached for what the Holy Spirit is trying to say, it will always point to the One the Holy Spirit desires to glorify: “He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). Every sermon text preached is not only set in the context of that particular passage, but is set in the context of its book, in the context of its testament, and in the context of the Bible as a whole. The Bible has one great and grand theme – Jesus Christ. The Bible we preach is not a answer book to life as many have said (although it includes great instruction), but rather it is a book about Jesus.
Isn’t this what Jesus told his disciples on the road to Emmaus? In regards to the Old Testament, John tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Whatever it is we find ourselves preaching, our goal is to preach Christ in the midst of that text or topic.
It is Him we proclaim.
When we preach morality without him, it’s legalism. But when we preach morality with Him, there is power to live like Him. I have heard it said if you can preach a sermon that a Mormon, a Jewish Rabbi, or a Muslim could agree with you have not preached in accordance with the Spirit or the Scriptures because they both point to Jesus. Every text is set in the context of the saving work of God in Christ our main job is to proclaim this gospel to believers and unbelievers.