A Pastor’s Analysis Of Emphases In Preaching: Two False Dichotomies And Three Conclusions -- By: Ryan M. McGraw

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 02:1 (Jan 2010)
Article: A Pastor’s Analysis Of Emphases In Preaching: Two False Dichotomies And Three Conclusions
Author: Ryan M. McGraw

A Pastor’s Analysis Of Emphases In Preaching: Two False Dichotomies And Three Conclusions

Ryan M. McGraw

The strength of the church depends largely upon the preaching of the Word, yet many debates rage over the manner in which preaching should be done. Some debate whether or not preaching should be Christocentric or Trinitarian. Should ministers preach Christ and Him crucified in every discourse? Or should they emphasize the Person of the Godhead set before them in the passage at hand? A related question is whether preaching ought to be exegetical or redemptive-historical. Many ministers believe that they must choose between a simple exposition of a book and the place of each portion of Scripture in redemptive history. However, I am increasingly convinced that most modern debates about preaching are fundamentally off base. I intend to examine the two choices stated above, contrast them with the history of Reformed preaching, and offer three conclusions. This article represents a non-technical analysis because I am not responding to scholarly debates over emphases in preaching, but I am addressing issues as they have come up regularly in conversations with fellow ministers over the past decade or so.

Christocentrism vs. Trinitarianism

First, Christ-centered preaching and Trinitarian preaching should not be competing options, since each is implied in the other. The biblical doctrine of the Trinity, while recognizing that each of the three Persons of the Godhead is equal in power and glory and entitled to divine worship, is distinctly Christocentric. As John Owen has suggested, the “great discovery” of the gospel is the love of the Father,1

and the highest goal and privilege of the gospel is to come to God as Father.2 Yet no man comes to the Father except by the Son (John 14:6). It is through Him that we come to the Father, by one Spirit (Eph. 2:18). All preaching must be theocentric and place varying degrees of emphasis upon each of the three Persons as each passage of Scripture demands. However, if the Father is preached in detachment from the Son, He cannot be preached as the God who is love (1 John 4:8). The Father revealed Himself as love by sending His Son to die for our sins (v. 9).

With regard to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus summarized His work under three aspects: to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). As Owen has pointed out, al...

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