Commandments of Preaching
- 2 Timothy 2:21 (KJV) If a man therefore purge himself from these,
he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the
master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
- 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (KJV) 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and
the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his
appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season,
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and
doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound
doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves
teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears
from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in
all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make
full proof of thy ministry.
- 1 Timothy 3:15 (KJV) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know
how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is
the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
(Below is a very good message for those
who seek to preach and for those of us who are already doing so. Not
my sermon except that I have added scripture and personal thoughts
though out the message. I believe this is good for all of us to
Everyone makes mistakes, but for all the mistakes preachers can (and
do) make, here are 10 that we should do our best to avoid at all
When it comes to
preaching and teaching the Bible, we all fall short. Who hasn't
quoted the wrong reference or (worse) read the wrong passage of
Scripture altogether? Who hasn't, in the heat of the moment,
accidentally gotten tie-tongued and credited Paul with the words of
Peter? Everyone makes mistakes, but for all the mistakes preachers
can (and do) make, here are 10 that we should do our best to avoid
at all costs.
1. Thou shalt not put words
in God's mouth.
God is more than capable of saying what He means and meaning what He
says. He doesn't need our help to add to or take away from His Word.
We have no business saying God said something He didn't say. That's
why we must handle the Word of truth accurately (1 Timothy 3:15 (KJV)
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to
behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the
living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
If you've ever been misquoted
(in conversation or a newspaper), you know how frustrating that
experience is. Imagine how the God of the universe must feel when
one of His messengers misquotes Him. We need to be sure to get the
2. Thou shalt prepare and
preach every message as though it were thy last.
As a young evangelist, I was holding one of my first ‘revivals’ in a
small town in Ohio. Only 8 people showed up the first night. I did
not feel like preaching to so few. Then the Lord spoke to my heart
and reminded me that one soul was worth more than the whole world. I
preached with all my heart. I was doing it for the Lord. The next
night the building filled and we had a great revival. We should
never take his or her responsibility lightly.
Why? Because it very well may
be the last sermon you ever preach or the last sermon someone
listening ever hears. Furthermore, we don't know what God's Spirit
has been doing behind the scenes. A rebellious teenager or wayward
spouse may be on the verge of repenting and trusting Christ. As the
great Puritan theologian and preacher Richard Baxter once eloquently
said, "I'll preach as though I ne'er should preach again, and as a
dying man to dying men." We should seek to do the same.
3. Thou shalt not present
the Word of God in a boring and non-compelling manner.
Don't get in the way of the transforming power of God's Word by
letting it become boring. To preach and teach the Bible in a boring
manner is, I believe, a sin. This is not to say every preacher has
to be dynamic, witty, and entertaining. It does mean, however, that
every preacher should see him or herself as God's messenger and
spokesman for that moment. He or she must plead passionately and
desperately with those listening to hear and heed God's Word.
4. Thou always shalt point
to Christ in thy message.
As Dennis Johnson writes, "Whatever our biblical text and theme, if
we want to impart God's life-giving wisdom in its exposition, we can
do nothing other than proclaim Christ." "You need to be sure that
every time you preach—even from the Old Testament—that if a Jew or
Muslim were in the audience [he or she] would feel extremely
uncomfortable.” Remember, we are to be distinctly Christian
John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all
men unto me.
5. Thou shalt edify thy hearers to faith and obedience.
It's like the old hymn: "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to
be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey." Regardless of the passage,
the goal of every sermon should be to remind people that whatever
the issue or doctrine at hand God and His Word are reliable. When
God gave the Ten Commandments, He didn't begin by barking orders at
the Israelites. In fact, the Ten Commandments don't start with
commands. They begin with the reassuring words, "I am the Lord your
God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt…" (Ex. 20:1).
In other words, God reminded
them: "You can trust Me; that's why you should obey Me.” The real
motivation for Christian living is not, "I have to obey God," but it
is, "Given everything I know to be true about Him, why wouldn't I
obey God?" A good sermon will help people to think and live that
6. Thou shalt not be one
kind of person and another kind of preacher.
This is the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde syndrome of preaching. On the one
hand, this means you can't live like the devil Monday through
Saturday and expect to preach with the tongue of an angel on Sunday.
Paul told Timothy: "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these
[sinful] things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful
to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). Every
preacher must seek to be a "clean vessel" which is "useful to the
This also means you shouldn't
try to be someone else in the pulpit. As Phillips Brooks once said,
"Preaching is truth through personality." Don't try to imitate other
preachers; be yourself. Listening to such great preachers is like
watching a grand Fourth of July fireworks display. You sit back,
relax, watch and "Ooo" and "Ahh" with everyone else. You should be
amazed at it and enjoy it, but you shouldn't go home and try to
duplicate it in your backyard. You can't. There's no sense in
trying. The same is true with preaching. When you preach, be
7. Thou shalt not open a
commentary until thou hast read the passage 100 times.
This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's an important
reminder. Which would you rather eat: Grandma's made-from-scratch,
warm, fluffy biscuits or a frozen biscuit that's been nuked in the
microwave? Reheated food is never as good or fresh. The same is true
with sermons. The biggest temptation, I think, for the current
generation of preachers is to jump directly into the commentaries or
click over to the sermon Web sites without thoroughly meditating on
the passage first for him or herself.
As Robert Smith once
commented: There are far too many preachers who preach only from the
neck up. The truth is most powerful when it is from the lips of a
person whose heart and mind have marinated extensively on God's
8. Honor thy context above
all else, so that it may go well with thee in thy message.
The battle cry of the soldiers of the Texas Revolution was "Remember
the Alamo!" The battle cry for today's preachers should be
"Remember, context is king!" I often tell people they don't need to
know Greek and Hebrew to teach the Bible well, but they must know
the context well. The role of context in preaching and teaching
cannot be underestimated or over stressed. Without context, I could
preach a sermon that said, "and [Judas] went away and hanged
himself" and the Lord Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
While there may not be anyone
promoting suicide from the pulpit, if we don't pay close attention
to context, the result may be spiritual suicide. Don't ever lose the
context. 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a
workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of
9. Thou shalt make the
point of the text the point of the message.
The title of John Stott's timeless book says it all: Between Two
Worlds. The preacher of the Word of God finds him or herself with
one foot in the biblical world and one foot in the modern world. It
falls upon the preacher to straddle these two with balance. Don't
ever forget that what God said 2,000 or 3,000 years ago is exactly
the same message people need to hear today.
Some will argue, "Yeah, but
what about all the history, culture, and differences in language
from biblical to modern times? My people don't understand all that
stuff." Well, guess what? You should teach it to them. Don't
dumb-down the Bible; smarten-up the people. The Bible is the most
relevant thing in the universe because God is the most relevant
Being in the universe. God never changes nor His Word.
10. Thou shalt preach and
teach doctrine above all else.
Many churches are weak and lifeless because they have spiritual
anemia. What they lack is doctrinal iron in their bloodstreams. All
week long, people hear messages from other people. "What people
need," as Robert McCracken once said, "is to hear a word beyond
themselves." Doctrine feeds the soul. It reassures the faithless. It
matures the child. It's what keeps churches healthy and alive.
Without it, pastors speak without preaching, and churches sing
Preach doctrinally rich
sermons! The great problem in today's pulpits is not a lack of
preaching, but an abundance of dreadful preaching. This is largely
because many preachers are not as careful and mindful of the task,
as they should be. Not only does the church need us preachers to
keep these Ten Commandments, but also more importantly God and His
Word deserve the effort required.
Tyler Scarlett Pastor-Teacher
God bless you and yours!
On behalf of this generation,
Your friends in the service of Christ,
Tony and Marge Abram
Abundant Life Crusades
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