What is the purpose of a Sermon? Part 1

Why do we preach? What is the purpose of our preaching a sermon?

By Pastor David Cox

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (posts 5/1/20)

Although this would seem silly to ask, the answer might be surprising. Why do we preach on Sunday morning to a group of people? If we don’t understand what we are doing and why we are doing it, then we can never really do it right nor excellently. Without getting too involved in the whole of the Bible, let’s try to clarify why we preach a sermon.


Biblical Purposes of Preaching,

David Padfield lists some biblical purposes of preaching… (Comments are mine) 1. To explain Scripture – Acts 8:34, Philip explained Isaiah 53. This is the heart of all preaching, to take God’s very words, and explain them so that the hearer can understand them. Neh 8:7-8 To read distinctly the book, they gave the sense, helped them to understand the reading. There are two keys here, a.) the very words of God must form a priority starting point for every sermon, and they must form the central core of it. A sermon is a failure if it has not presented THE VERY WORDS OF GOD, or if it has de-emphasized these words. Note: To swarm a crowd with what’s like a thousand bees, giving many verse references with neither context nor explanation is just as wrong as not mentioning any verse. Likewise to read a verse and then go off talking without explaining the verse is wrong. b.) The preacher’s job is to explain or exposit these very words of God. The preacher has totally failed if he doesn’t make the people understand the message of God, and likewise if he doesn’t apply the spiritual principles of the divine message in a real way. 2.

Hold up the Scriptures as Light. The Bible never defends itself as far as its authority. Its authority comes from it being the divine message of God, and God’s right to declare, dictate, and dominate our life is never reasoned out. It just is because He is our Creator and God. The Bible says that by knowing the truth, it shall make you free John 8:32. The medium or instrument which preachers use to fix people’s sin and problems and install spiritual health is preaching the word of God. Got a problem preach to it! The logical force of God’s Word is what changes our lives. Emotions make those promises real to us, but emotion by itself cannot change us. Understanding is a central element of this work. 3. Disturb people in Error. The example of Scripture (like Peter on the day of Pentecost Acts 2) is directly and boldly attack the error of people. Biblical preachers in the NT never worried about offending people that heard them because that is the only way they will change to obey God, by first understanding that they are in direct opposition to God, and that they need to change their wrong position. Positive preaching is not biblical preaching because man’s sin is negative, and we must start there, by telling man that his sin is sin, negative. Only when a person recognizes his “wrongness” before God will he be able to change spiritually to “rightness”. 4. Christ is the only hope of the World. 1Cor 2:2 There was a singularity of Christ as the only remedy for the problems of mankind in the NT preaching. See David PadfieldThe Purpose of Preaching.

Sermons fix the problems of people.

The fact of life is that people are sinners, and because of their sins, they are alienated from God. Sermons are part of the structure (church being the outward framework of this structure) God has developed and given us to fix what is wrong in our lives.

Sermons should be directed towards “fixing what is wrong in us and with us.”

The point here is that some preachers have taken the central purpose of the sermon to be simple teaching. All teaching has a purpose also, and its purpose is to be used in life to make you more useful and effective. A doctor studies medicine to become effective and useful as a doctor. If you look into medicine, you will find that for the basic core teachings in a medical school, there are probably 100s of times more research data that is more or less useful, some seemingly totally not useful. Even if we consider preaching purely as teaching (which it is not), then we see teaching have core key concepts and usefulness (using what is taught) as a priority. In general, the pastor should stay away preaching or teaching as the communication of cold, dead knowledge to their listeners. Every sermon and every class should have a very clear and open purpose. This purpose is to “fix” or correct something lacking, wrong, or not done in the listener’s life. Stressing the sermon’s application should be as important as preaching from God’s word and not the Koran, or the book of Mormon or from the daily newspaper.

Therefore, there are two guides that every pastor should always abide by: 1. When teaching or preaching any material, the material is not developed than some weak application sought after the sermon, but the central theme of the message of the sermon should be the first thing in time to come into the sermon, and it should guide everything included and excluded in the sermon, and then the application should be clearly deduced or flow from that theme. This should be developed FIRST, and then material developed around that theme. You don’t gather material on the life of some Bible character, and after you have that, then you look for some lame application of it into our lives. First, you should study the material for yourself and then come to a spiritual conclusion. “I and my people should change thus and thus.” All sermons should have a clear moral thrust to be more like Jesus, and less like a carnal man. From there you should develop your sermon. There must always be a point of change at the end of a sermon whereby you change the listener’s heart and life. An informational communication is not a sermon nor really even a class. Preach fire, not ice! What warms a person’s soul, igniting him to moral change and obedience to Christ, that is what should be the practical outcome of every sermon.

More articles on the Internet on the Purpose of the Sermon

The Real Purpose of Sermons by Rick Warren

  • God wants people to think like Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
  • God wants people to feel like Jesus (Colossians 3:15-17)
  • God wants people to act like Jesus

What is the Purpose of Preaching? by Leah Baugh

Christian preaching has as its purpose nothing less than the complete conformity of every child of God to the perfect image of Christ the Son. (Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim [P&R Publishing 2007], 66-67)

Preaching’s goal is the spiritual maturity of believers that can only come from the wisdom of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We get this from Paul’s own reflections on his apostolic ministry when he says,

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col. 1:28-29)

Sermons are divine communication from God to people

This is not really our fight. We did not start it, and we do not direct it. We are only foot soldiers in the battle, so we should be aware of that. Some pastors have a hard time coming up with a good theme for a sermon, and every preacher has had “dry spells” which is the same. We are like doctors on some far away military base that is out of communication with the rest of the world. Our purpose is to be doctors, but in reality, that means discern what sickness is among your charge, analyze and diagnose it, then remedy it. Our purpose is not to keep conflict out of the church but to fix what is wrong with the individuals and general church. That means that we must preach against the sins of our people. It also means that we cannot ignore any of the needs or sins of our people. We are here as the representative of God, and our “job” is to discern and fix. Whatever it takes to “fix” something, we have to do it. If that means dealing with touchy and sensitive issues with problematic and explosive people, we have to do that whether we like it or not. We also fix this whether we are professionals at doing it or not. As such, finding a sermon topic is not a problem. You don’t do that actually. You find what is the message of God for these people on this occasion, and you develop that. What is the message of God? You look into your people’s lives and give them a spiritual check up, and then you begin to deal with the spiritual problems they have. You look at what a “healthy Christian” should be (read his Bible, love his neighbor, pray, attend church, participate in church, etc), and then you see where you charge fails in these matters or does it, but does it wrong, and then you work on them. You don’t entertain your people with interesting things to tickle their ears. You give them the spiritual medicine that they need. Non-conflict preaching over time destroys a church as sure as sure can be. To edify people spiritually you must first destroy their false and erroneous conceptions. Fear to confront and do that is cowardice, and cowardice is to deny that God can do the impossible, to deny God controls everything in an omnipotent way.

Sermons bring us closer to God (Communion).

The end result of a constant diet of food is growth and health. The end result of a constant diet of spiritual food is to walk with God because we are morally like Him. If your preaching informs and moves, but it doesn’t produce the moral change in the life of the hearer, then you have become a “placeholder preacher”. These are preachers that simply take the place of a real preacher and a real church. Holding your hand is not the same as operating and cutting out cancer, and sewing you up. You must decisively do the job God has given you to do, or you are in rebellion. There are no other choices. See summary and review and comments on other people’s views tomorrow August 21 in the next part of this post.

More Posts on Improving Preaching Issues

Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.