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What's The Purpose of Preaching?

Posted by Jeremy McKeen on

What should be the purpose in approaching the pulpit to preach on Sunday morning? I believe Scripture sets forth three primary purposes:


I. To Exalt the Acts of God:

First, the purpose of preaching is an exaltation of “… real objective events … a declaration, not a debate … the proclamation of the mighty acts of God.”[1] The pulpit is not a place to exalt in what man has done, but rather to exalt in what God has done. The purpose is to preach the creative and redemptive acts of God which culminate in the gospel of his saving grace. After all, the gospel is not a good theory or a good idea; the gospel is good news – the greatest act in the history of the world in what God the Son accomplished once and for all in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the purpose is to “proclaim him” ( Col. 1:28 ) and preach as first importance (1 Cor. 15:3-4), his perfect life, his substitutionary death, and his triumphant resurrection from the dead. Exalting the acts of God, then, will always point to or point back to the finished work of Christ revealed in all of Scripture (John 5:39). A preacher fulfills his Master’s command (Mark 16:15) by exalting the truth of what God has done to redeem and rescue his chosen people from sin and death, which is the power of God for their salvation (Rom. 1:16).

II. To Exposit the Truth of God:

Second, the purpose of preaching is an exposition of God’s truth by faithfully explaining (2 Tim. 2:15) his living and active word (Heb. 4:12-13) for the sanctification of his people. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (John 17:17). Only when the truth of God’s word is clearly set forth will people truly hear God’s truth as food for their lives. Jesus told Peter three times, “If you love me, feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). And we know that his sheep must be fed “not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3). Thus, the purpose of preaching is to bless God’s people with God’s truth which will unfold “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). As Jay Adams points out, “He [God] has not promised to bless our word; that promise extends only to his own.”[2] The preacher sets out, in season and out of season, to exposit the whole council of God for the people of God.

III. To Exhort the People of God:

Finally, the purpose of preaching is an exhortation for the people of God to observe God’s truth for their new lives lived in Christ. When the pulpit is filled with an exalting exposition of God’s work and word, the Holy Spirit begins to “effect changes among the members of God’s church that build them up individually and that builds up the body as a whole.”[3]Preaching should exhort God’s people to walk in newness of life – to love God and their neighbor in Christ, to find their joy and hope in Christ, to carry their cross by faith for Christ and to live lives that are set apart in Christ. It should encourage them not to forget what they saw in the mirror (James 1:24-25), but to remember and reform their lives to God’s word as the Holy Spirit works to conform their lives to God’s Son.


[1] James S. Stewart, Heralds of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1979), 63.
[2] Jay Adams, Preaching with Purpose (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1982), 19.
[3] Adams, 13.

Tags: preaching, gospel

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