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July 12, 2007 / beidson

"Preacher, Come Out From Behind That Cross": A Biblical Theology of Preaching

I’ve heard many well meaning offeratory prayers go something like this: “Dear Lord, hide our preacher behind the cross. Hide him completely and only show Jesus.” Though I understand why faithful believers pray like this, I still believe it misses the point of preaching altogether. Do we really want to hide our preacher so that we cannot see him? I think not.

Part of what makes the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ so powerful is the preacher himself, whose life has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the preacher were to ever preach in such a way that I was not even aware that he was there (which would actually be physically impossible, unless he hunkered down behind the pulpit–but even then I would hear him and think to myself, “Hey, where’s the preacher?”), he would be leaving out the demonstration of the gospel in his own life.

When I look to the stage during worship and view my pastor, my thoughts should be, “Wow. Incredible. A Christ-hater has become a Christ-lover. One who hated the church now gives himself up for the life of the church.”

Was not Moses himself changed by the revelation of God, and the consequential proclamation from his own mouth? Were not the people themselves afraid of the shinning of his face after he met with the Lord?

This is why Paul urged the Corinthian believers, whom he considered his children in the faith, to imitate him rather than “arrogant people” whose preaching was full of words but emptied of power (1 Cor. 4:14-21). The power of Christ was evident in Paul’s life, and therefore, evident in his preaching. And so he could say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (11:1).

Biblical preaching is the proclomation of the gospel of Jesus Christ by a man who demonstrates the gospel of Jesus Christ in his flesh. This is why we dare not “hide” him; no, but we ought to thrust him out in front of his people, so that they might see how the words he proclaims have actually changed him.

And so Paul says, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). What else can a man of flesh do but boast in the One who has redeemed him? Here is the point of preaching: boasting gladly in our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may be manifested in us and demonstrated to others.

Paul gladly put aside his physical and spiritual reasons to boast in himself (Philippians 3), so that his boasting would be in Christ. He desired to share in the sufferings of Christ, being conformed to his death, so that he might also be raised like him from the dead (3:10). His earthly body–his physical life–was a gospel-displaying vessel for others to handle and imitate.

When I look at my preacher, I see a man who has been changed by the message he proclaims. He doesn’t hide behind the cross; rather, it protrudes from his heart. Proclomation is more than a message; it’s a Christ-centered message delievered by a Christ-centered messenger. The messenger matters. So don’t hide your preacher. Make sure everyone can see the man who has been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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