The preaching of the Gospel maintains an important place in Christian faith and practice (Romans 10:14-17, 1 Corinthians 9:16). In the New Testament, the word translated “to preach” in Greek is kerusso, meaning to herald, as by a public crier, and thus to proclaim or publish (cf. Thayer’s Lexicon). Preaching, therefore, is a public proclamation, and Christians have been directed to go out and preach the Gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom (Mark 16:15, Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
Preaching also has its place within the assembly of Christians. Paul discoursed with the Christians in Troas when they had come together to break bread, and he extended his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7). Paul exhorts Timothy to continue to preach the Word in and out of season and to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). He then warns Timothy that the day will come when “they” will no longer endure sound, or healthy, teaching, but will turn aside to myths and fables, but Timothy must continue to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:3-5). While preaching the Gospel always has its place out in the world, these passages show that constant preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom also should be done within the assembly.
Evangelists are often the ones who preach in the assembly (Ephesians 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:1, 6), but preaching is not limited to evangelists. Any man of the congregation can stand before his fellow Christians to proclaim the message of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26). Fellow Christians in the assembly participate by listening to the lesson, comparing it to what is taught in Scripture, and finding ways to apply the message to their faith and practice (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16).
Preaching in the assembly features a different audience than preaching out in the world, for the assembly is designed for Christians and their edification. Paul mentions “outsiders” as present in the assembly in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25: they can certainly be present, and may learn regarding their condition before God and repent, but the assemblies of Christians in the New Testament were never geared to those who are not members of the body of Christ.
To that end, preaching in the assembly should be designed primarily for the encouragement, exhortation, instruction, reminding, and, when necessary, rebuking of the members of the local congregation (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
The message, the Gospel of Christ, is the same; how it is applied will vary depending on the congregation and its strengths and weaknesses. We get an idea of the types of things that preachers should proclaim from Paul’s exhortations to Timothy and Titus in 1-2 Timothy and Titus: reminding them of the Gospel message, how they were separated from God but reconciled in Christ; warning against false teachings and those who would advance them; developing and maintaining relationships with family members and fellow Christians which glorify and honor God; establishing and encouraging proper church governance and functioning.
Such preaching can lead to a greater understanding of God’s message in Scripture but is not designed merely to enhance understanding: preaching has the goal of encouraging or discouraging various forms of thought, feeling, and action (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Preaching should not glorify the preacher and his oratory but instead God in Christ who has provided the opportunity and substantive message of what is preached (Philippians 4:19-20, 1 Timothy 1:17). Those who hear maintain the obligation of testing all things according to what God has revealed in Scripture but must also allow the preached Word to convict and rebuke them when necessary (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 1 John 4:1).
Preaching in the assembly provides an opportunity for believers to hear exhortation and instruction regarding the Gospel of Christ and should encourage all toward greater loyalty to God in faith and practice. Let us proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all men and receive appropriate encouragement, exhortation, and, when necessary, rebuke, from the preaching of the Gospel in the assembly!
Ethan R. Longhenry