Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jesus "came preaching"

“Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has ever made the regular and frequent assembling of the masses of men, to hear religious instruction and exhortation, an integral part of divine worship. Judaism had something like it in the prophets, and afterwards in the readers and speakers of the synagogue; but preaching had no essential part in the worship of the temple.

"In the Graeco-Roman world of the first century A.D. the preaching philosopher, employing the finely polished instrument of Greek rhetoric, was not an unfamiliar figure. But neither Jewish religion nor Greek philosophy gave to preaching the significance it has in Christianity where it is a primary function of the church. Following the successes of Christian preaching, and especially in modern times, other religions and sects have adopted preaching in a limited way, but it remains true that as a basic service of the church in its history and significance preaching is a peculiarly Christian institution.

“In the ministry of Jesus preaching occupied a central place. Although greatly tempted to give primacy to other methods of approach to the world, he “came preaching.” In the synagogue at Nazareth he described himself as having been divinely ordained “to preach good tidings to the poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives . . . to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-21). And all the gospels give unforgettable pictures of the itinerant Preacher, in the synagogues, on the mountains, by the seaside, going from village to village, drawing after him almost unbelievably large crowds, and amazing the people by his words of grace and the authority of his teaching. John, writing many years afterwards, remembered vividly his Lord’s preaching in the temple during one of the great feasts. Of one day he reported that “Jesus cried in the temple, teaching and saying . . .“; and of another, the last day of the feast, that he “stood, and cried, saying, “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink” (John 7:28, 37). His preaching was a cry, urgent in its compassion and masterful in its urgency.

“The fact, so often referred to by modern educators, that the oral ministry of Jesus is more often called teaching than preaching is easily misunderstood and made the basis of erroneous distinctions. The general term for preaching in the New Testament is kerusso, to proclaim or herald. Another word, evangelizo, emphasizes the nature of the proclaimed message as good news. A third word, didasko, is used to indicate the purpose of imparting to men divine truth and instructing them in righteousness. This last word is applied to other methods of instruction, but is freely used also of preaching to crowds. For example, Jesus taught (theodidaktos) the Sermon on the Mount. In proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, he went on to show its relation to Scripture and history, to moral purpose and social conduct, and to the destiny of man. In one discourse he proclaimed, evangelized and taught. The proper distinction is not between preaching and teaching, but between the evangelic and didactic emphasis or element of preaching; and even this distinction is not absolute...

“...Thus our Lord preached. And for their mission after him he bequeathed to his apostles the same strategy. Preaching was in his announced purpose for them when he chose them. And at the end of his ministry he gave the Great Commission which, according to Mark, was a simple command to go everywhere preaching the gospel, and according to Matthew the purpose was to be threefold: to make disciples, to lead to confession in baptism, and to instruct in Christian living according to his commands. In the book of the Acts and in the Epistles of the New Testament, as well as in the strength of the church at the end of the apostolic period, the record and power of their preaching are to be found.

“In the power of the same Spirit they and those who came after them faced the pagan world with the message of salvation (kerygma - proclamation) and a theology and ethic (didache - doctrine) that in three centuries made Christianity the foremost religion in the Roman Empire. And in the centuries since those early triumphs of the gospel the quality of preaching and the spirit and life of the church have advanced or declined together. If preaching, never wholly free from the pressure of world movements, has often faltered in periods of spiritual crisis, it has always led in the periods of revival. Of every age it is true that there has been no great religious movement, no restoration of Scripture truth and reanimation of genuine piety without new power in preaching." -- John Broadus, "On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons", pp. 1-3