Ten Characteristics of True Preaching (6-10)
Preaching Is Scriptural!
It is clear from Peter’s proclamation and preaching that preaching necessarily centrally involves the exposition of Scripture. This is clear from several aspects of Peter’s sermon.
- It is clear from the way in which he opens his message by referring to Joel’s prophecy and expounding its relevance to what was happening on that Pentecost. Acts 2:16-21.
- It is clear from the way in which he comments at length on the meaning of Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-32.
- It is clear from the recitation of the Apostolic witness to the words and deeds of Jesus the Christ in verses 22-24 and verses 33-36. What Peter says was not yet inscripturated, but it was tantamount to Scripture and would become Scripture.
Now, of course, all of this makes perfect sense—if you understand what I said in my first point. Preaching is royal! If preaching is a herald of the Divine King communicating His royal decree to His people, then, of course, the content of that preaching must be pervasively scriptural—It must be the Word of that King!
True preaching must be expository. It may be consecutive expository preaching. It may be topical expository preaching. It must, however, be the exposition of the Word of God—or it is not preaching! Clearly, if this is true, much of what is called preaching today, simply is not, because it is not the faithful exposition of God’s Word.
Preaching Is Practical!
What I mean is that preaching is not intended merely to inform people’s minds. Now it is intended to do that, of course! But preaching is intended by informing people’s mind to lead them to do something. This becomes eminently clear in Peter’s preaching.
- It is clear in his very practical denial of the wicked mockery of those who said the phenomena of the Pentecost were to be attributed to the drunken-ness of the Apostles. This stupid mockery stood in the way of what Peter wanted people to do as a result of his preaching and had to be refuted and put in its place.
- It is clear from the response that Peter’s preaching actually had. The implications of Peter’s message were only too clear. It made many in the multitude cry out, Brothers, what shall we do! Yes, they had understood Peter’s preaching. It was exactly intended to make them ask this very practical question.
- It is also clear from the way Peter’s dialogue with them after his preaching was concluded is described. Look at verse 40. “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’” He calls on them to save themselves from their accursed generation!
- It is finally clear from the practical response to Peter’s preaching. They repented, were baptized, joined the church, and continued with the church in its worship. Acts 2:41-42. “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
The question in your mind as you hear preaching should be practical. It is not merely, What can I learn from the preaching? It is rather, What must I do because of this preaching! But this leads directly to my next point.
Preaching Is Consequential!
What I mean to convey by saying that preaching is consequential is that preaching has to do with very serious matters. Also I mean that your response to preaching will have the most serious consequences!
- This is conveyed by Peter at the outset of his message when he lifts up his voice and when he urges his hearers to give heed to what he is saying.
- This is also made plain when in the dialogue at the end of his preaching he says plainly to his hearers that they must save themselves from the perverse generation in which they lived.
Preaching always has to do with your salvation. Your response to preaching will save you or it will further your damnation. Oh, dear friend, how do you hear preaching? Do you realize how serious the consequences are of your response to the preaching of the Word of God?
Let us determine that we will rightly hear the preaching of God’s Word! This means a number of very practical things.
- We will train our children not to be a distraction in worship. Our children need to know that there is something important going on during the preaching, and that it is more important than their selfish desires.
- We will strive to minimize anything that may distract us. We will use the restroom before the preaching. We will make sure our children have all such needs attended to before the preaching of God’s Word. We will not needlessly walk in and out during the preaching of God’s Word. We will do all we can to cut down on such distractions during the preaching of God’s Word. We will turn off our phones unless there is some emergency to which we may need to attend.
- If we have to leave during the worship for some emergency, we will not linger and waste time. We will do our necessary business and get back to the worship of God.
- We will focus our hearts and minds on what God is saying to us in the preaching! We will lock in our attention on the preaching of God’s Word.
- We will come with properly rested hearts and minds to the worship of God by getting to bed early enough on Saturday evening. The right hearing of the preaching of God’s Word begins with getting to bed at a proper time the night before.
- We will remind ourselves and our families of what preaching really is! It is God speaking to us through His appointed messenger. We will set them an example of how to hear the Word of God!
Preaching Is Christological!
Another attribute of the true preaching of God’s Word is that it has a specific message. That message is Christological. By that big word I simply intend to say that true preaching is Christ-centered! It is indisputable that Peter’s first message after the Spirit was poured out and the gospel age dawned focused on the life, words, deeds, and saving power of Jesus Christ. His preaching in this passage is Christ-centered.
Now, of course, this important fact should not be distorted or misapplied. It does not mean that we can never preach anything but the doctrines of grace. It does not mean that we can never preach anything but justification by faith alone. It does not mean that we can only preach the priestly work of Christ. Christ has three offices—not just one! Christ is our sanctifier as well as our justifier! Christ orders His church by His law and ordinances. There is more in the Bible than the doctrines of grace. We may preach, for example, messages about the primacy of Peter and the propriety of preaching.
But having said that, we must never forget that all the diverse, rich, multi-faceted themes of the Bible lead back to Christ. The primacy of Peter among the plurality of Apostles leads us back to the great singularity of Christ as the center of both the universal and local church! The propriety of preaching requires that we finally say that true preaching is centered and focused on Christ!
What a condemnation this is of Christ-less preaching! What a condemnation this is of preaching that goes no farther than telling you how to be healthy, wealthy, and wise by the standards of this world! What a condemnation this is of preaching that does nothing more than moralize on the basis of a scriptural pretext! Preaching must lead back to Christ. As all roads led to Rome in the Roman Empire, so also in true preaching all true preaching leads back finally to Christ!
Preaching Is Universal!
Let me point out another further trait of true preaching. It is universal. It is not addressed only to God’s elect. It is not addressed only to Christians. It is not addressed only to those who show signs of being converted. True preaching is to be addressed universally to all men. We saw that, when he stepped forward, Peter addressed “the men of Judea and all who dwelt in Jerusalem.” All were to be addressed with the message. All were to be sincerely, freely, and with a well-meant offer called to save themselves from that perverse generation.
Preaching Is Effectual!
We are surrounded by people who think they are experts in religion, and those people tell us that preaching doesn’t work. Small groups work, they think. Contemporary music works, they think. Dialogue works, they will tell you. But preaching? Standing up and simply declaring God’s Word in a long monologue to people? They will tell you firmly, and with great sympathy for your naïveté and how out of touch you are, that preaching does not work!
But preaching did work on the Day of Pentecost! Of course, it was and is only a means, but it is a divinely appointed means of grace. And when Peter was done preaching on the Day of Pentecost, verse 41 tells us there were three thousand more Christians than there were before! Let us trust God’s methods and close our ears to those who say that God’s appointed means of preaching will not work!
Final Thoughts: Let me leave you with just three closing thoughts:
- It is a glorious calling to be called to preach God’s Word. Do not turn a deaf ear if the Spirit is calling you to be a servant and preacher of the Word of God! Do not run from the sacrifice to which such a calling commits you.
- It is a serious calling to undertake to preach God’s Word. There are preparations to be made both in your life and in your mind. There are standards of godliness. There are standards of gift. Both are set by the Word of God! You must not lightly skip over those standards or those preparations in your eagerness to preach. Neither should the church! The church should exercise great care in who is allowed to preach God’s Word as the formal representatives of God and especially in the house of God itself!
- It is a solemn thing to refuse the preaching of God’s Word! We are only the heralds of that great King. But when men sit there unmoved and disobedient to the preaching they are not rejecting that King’s humble heralds merely! They are rejecting the King of Kings!
Peter Preached at Pentecost part 1
Peter Preached at Pentecost part 2
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.