Ten Characteristics of True Preaching (1-4)
In the preaching of Peter we have at the outset of the Christian dispensation both a proof of the importance and an example of the character of Christian preaching. Preaching—clearly—is central to Christianity. After the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the central and most prominent thing that happened is that Peter stood up—stepped forward—and preached. But what was the character of this preaching which was so vital and central to the birth of the Christian church? What is the character of this preaching that is so necessary to the ongoing development of the Christian church even to this day? I will look at ten characteristics of true preaching as exemplified in Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Here is the first …
Preaching Is Royal!
What I mean is that preaching comes with the authority and imprimatur of the King of Kings. The Bible’s major words for preaching are all derived from the Greek verb ???????. He who preaches is a herald for the king. He speaks with the authority of the king for the king. This is made perfectly clear in the first occurrence of this verb in the Greek Old Testament known as the LXX (Gen. 41:41-43):
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. 43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed (preached) before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt.”
This is the idea of preaching. It is to proclaim before God’s chariot, Bow the knee! Preaching is not a dialogue. Preaching is not leading a discussion. Preaching is a unilateral or one-sided proclamation of the King’s decrees to His people. He speaks with the authority of the Divine King and proclaims the message of the Divine King.
This idea of preaching is also clear in the New Testament uses of ??????? and its relatives. Perhaps the best example of its force is 2 Timothy 4:1-2. This text epitomizes the idea of preaching as it says very plainly: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” You see the idea of the solemnity and authority of preaching, as done in the presence of the God who has sent the preacher, and as done with the authority of the God who has sent him.
It is preaching understood in this way, this act of preaching and this duty to preach, which is at the heart of the Christian Ministry. This idea is what is behind the preaching of Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Preaching is royal! The one who preaches represents the King and speaks for the King, and this conception of preaching must control all that is done in preaching.
Preaching Is Verbal.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” This is, perhaps, the best known and most commonly quoted statement of St. Francis of Assisi. It is also very misleading. Preaching necessarily uses words. It is verbal. That is clear from the statement of verse 14 that Peter “raised his voice and declared.” This is clear from the words of Peter “let this be known to you and give heed to my words.” This is clear from the entire succeeding context and its description of what Peter said. Preaching necessarily involves words—verbal communication! Of course, good preaching should be supported by holy living, but holy living is not by itself or in itself preaching. Preaching is verbal! At its heart it is the communication of a royal decree in words. It is a verbal communication of the very Words of God.
Preaching Is Monological!
Monological sounds like a big word. It is derived, however, from a word you know. You know what a monologue is. It is when one person only or alone speaks. Mono = one. Logue = speak! You know that it is often used of what a comedian does in his entertaining. He delivers his monologue full of jokes and funny stories. That is not at all, of course, what a preacher should do. His goal is not to entertain or to make people laugh. It is to deliver faithfully the message of the king. But there is one similarity. Both the preacher and the comedian are the only ones speaking. They speak, and the audience listens. There is a monologue. This is the idea of preaching, and this is what Peter did on the Day of Pentecost. A dialogue is when two people talk back and forth, but preaching is clearly not a dialogue. It is a herald speaking for a king! Preaching is not a discussion. It is a proclamation. And this is what Peter did. He did not begin by saying that he had something to discuss with them. He acted on the premise that he had something to proclaim to them. Preaching is not a dialogue. It is a monologue. It is a proclamation!
Preaching Is Central!
Now having said that preaching is not a dialogue or discussion or a question and answer session, I must hasten to say something else. It is clear that in the whole process of the communication of the gospel that there is a place for dialogue. At the end of Peter’s preaching—after he has finished his message—, he is confronted with a great and serious question by those to whom he has just delivered the royal message from the king. Peter then engages in dialogue with those persons who asked the question. Look at verses 37-41.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
I am not, therefore, saying that dialogue is wrong. Quite the contrary! Preaching aims at creating the dialogue involved in and required by a distressed sinner saying, “Brethren, what shall we do?” There is a place—an important place—to answer questions. There is a place to give specific advice to people. There is a place to sit down with someone and to hear their story and to point them to the way of righteousness. But here is what must not be missed. All of this dialogue is secondary to and dependent upon the communication that is central. That is the communication of preaching!
Dr. Sam Waldron
Peter Preached at Pentecost (part 1)
Part 3 coming 12/13/2016
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.