Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Normalcy of Preaching

A while back, I read a blog that said that preaching was always reserved for unbelieving audiences and  that it isn't presented in scripture as something that is normal among believers.  I thought I'd write out a few thoughts in response to that idea.  These are thoughts I've had floating around in my head for some time and I thought I should just blog them.

Note: This post was done without doing any study on the preaching words used in the NT.  I understand that the majority of them are probably used in the context of evangelism (but see the objection/response at the end) . I also haven't done any reading on the topic.  So I'm sure there's more to be said that I'm just not thinking about.

Here are my main supporting arguments for the normalcy of preaching as an ongoing activity in believing congregations.

(1) The pastors were paid to preach.  1 Tim 5:17 says "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching."  The word "honor" there had connotations of pay.  And even if it doesn't, the primary job of the elders is to "equip the saints" for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12).  Putting two and two together, pastors are paid to preach to Christians.

(2) The church in Rome. Paul was eager to preach the gospel to Christians in Rome.
 - In Romans 1:15, Paul says "So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." Who is he talking to?  He's talking to Christians.  Christians need the gospel preached to them.
 - In Romans 16:25, Paul says "Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching (κήρυγμα) of Jesus Christ."  Again, the "you" is referring to the church in Rome.  And, as Moo points out, is a further definition of "my gospel" (Moo: "the και is explicative").  So the normal ongoing Christian life is supposed to be strengthened by the preaching of the gospel.

(3) The public readings.  We know that Paul's epistles were read in the house churches.  These are well-thought-out passages that would have taken a while to read.  Also, the entire book of Hebrews is thought, by many scholars, to be a sermon.

Objection: But why doesn't Acts say more about it?  I mean, if you had people preaching at the Lord's-day gathering, then why doesn't Acts say more about it?

Response: First of all, the focus of Acts was on the Lordship of Christ in the advance of the gospel, so you wouldn't expect as much attention to be given to steady-state ministry and what it looked like.  But second of all, preaching in synagogue services was normal, so this wouldn't have been news to Luke's audience.  The similarities between churches and synagogues were so similar that Jesus actually labels one of the heretical churches a "synagogue" (Rev. 3: 9).  The idea being "you all look like a church, but your teaching lacks the authentic gospel.  You're not a church, you're just a place where the teaching of Satan can be propagated - a synagogue of satan."  So it is not unusual that Luke doesn't spend more time on the subject as (1) steady-state ministry wasn't his focus, and (2) it was nothing new.

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