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Bible Preaching

The first thing Paul did at Thessalonica was to open the Scriptures and teach them. “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’” (Acts 17:2-3). It was not just his custom to go into Jewish synagogues. His pattern was to preach Jesus as the Christ, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Paul focused on the Word of God. Though he did not hesitate on occasion to confess his prior life as a persecutor of Christians, that was not his purpose. He went to these places to preach the gospel, not to talk about himself.

Paul did not try to be a comedian. He did not complain about politics. He did not tell long, inspiring stories that left the people in awe but gave them little if any true spiritual direction. He did not put on a show or a dramatic performance to get their attention. There was no amazing band to warm up the audience and prepare them for the message of the hour. It was a simple setting—a synagogue of Jews.

Paul reasoned with the people from the Scriptures. He appealed to the ability that God gave them to think things through and come to the right conclusions. There is no doubt that his teaching struck their feelings if they were honest, but he challenged their minds first. Many people today have thrown reason out the window when it comes to religion. As long as a preacher makes them feel good, they are happy.

Paul explained the Scriptures. A preacher is obligated to do this. He should explain the context and the words of the passages he is using. This means he must study. There are some audiences today who loathe this part of a sermon. They think it is boring and a waste of time. They say, “Just tell me what it means for me and how it’s going to help me.” This attitude is pitiful and shallow. How can we know what it means unless we delve into it enough to understand it for ourselves? It is true that a preacher can spend so much time explaining the text that he gives little time to how it applies. But he must explain the passage to make sure he and the audience can properly apply it.

Paul demonstrated what he preached. He did not say it was just his opinion. He did not expect them to have blind faith in what he said. He pointed out the Scriptures and proved what he taught. Paul certainly had no use for the idea that no one can be sure about anything. Jesus had said “You shall know the truth” (John 8:32) and Paul preached that any honest soul could do just that. He certainly did not buy the common idea that every person interprets the Bible differently and none of us can be sure what it means.

Some time after Paul had established the church in Thessalonica, he wrote to them about what he preached and how he preached when he was with them. “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (I Thess. 2:1-7).

May these words be a reminder to preachers and listeners alike.

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for April 23, 2023.

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