The Case for Preaching (part 3)January 19, 2007
This week I’d like to pick up a question raised in last week’s post. Should we think of “preaching” as something that is necessary within Christian gatherings? Or is this, in the biblical sense, only something to be restricted to evangelism?
The argument is that in the NT preaching almost always (some say always) occurs in the context of evangelism. On the other hand, Christians in the New Testament are ‘taught’ the word of God. It was even suggested by one commentor last week that preaching to believers might actually ‘stunt’ their growth (for an example of this argument, see this article).
My own view is that we cannot be so hard and fast with these distinctions. At least we shouldn’t preclude the idea that believers should be preached to. I think that Jay Adams’ comment below is reasonably fair:
Strictly speaking, the principal biblical words translated “preaching” do not correspond exactly to that activity to which we affix the label. They are somewhat narrower in scope. These words, kerusso and euangelizo, are used in the New Testament to describe “heralding” and “announcing the gospel.” They refer to evangelistic activities. The former always has to do with public proclamation of the good news, while the latter may be used to describe making the gospel known to either unsaved groups or individuals…On the other hand, the word didasko, translated “to teach,” more nearly corresponds to our modern use of the word preach, and has to do with the proclamation of truth among those who already believe the gospel…Though at times didasko seems also to be limited to evangelistic speaking, and occasionally it is possible that kerusso may refer to preaching to the saints… There are, then, two kinds of preaching (because of a deeply impressed use of the English word I shall use the term “preaching” to cover both evangelistic and pastoral speaking): evangelistic preaching (heralding, good news) and pastoral or edificational preaching (teaching).” Adams, J, Preaching with a Purpose, p 5-6
Building on the latter part of the quote, many have noted that in the NT preaching and evangelism do (more than ocassionaly) come together, and sometimes virtually overlap. Thus…
“…this distinction between preaching (as announcement to the unconverted) and teaching (as explanation, clarification, application, and exhortation to those already informed) even in New Testament times, was not always clear. Sometimes, people spoke interchangeably about the practice of teaching and preaching. Thus, whereas Matthew 4:23 declares that Jesus was “teaching in the synagogues;” Mark and Luke indicate that he was “preaching” (Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44). In Jerusalem, the same apostles who were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” were at the same time “teaching the people” (Acts 4:2). Whereas the term preaching consistently refers to the message announced, the term teaching may have people as its object.
In Antioch, the work of Paul and Barnabas is described as “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord” (Acts 15:35). Since teaching is mentioned before preaching in this verse, it may be that the major emphasis of their work at this place and time was in teaching the brethren while their secondary emphasis was on preaching to the unconverted. In any case, preaching and teaching go together. He who preaches (announces to the unconverted) also generally teaches (explains, clarifies, applies, and exhorts those who are already familiar with what has already been announced).” (Ref)
All this to say that I think drawing unyielding boundaries between the two is unhelpful. Perhaps, let me suggest, all clear preaching must include aspects of teaching, whilst all biblical teaching requires an element of gospel preaching. In this regard, I’d recommend Tim Keller’s article: we never get beyond the gospel. (HT: JT) We certainly need to keep preaching the gospel to Christians!