Christocentric Preaching -- By: Vern S. Poythress

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 22:3 (Fall 2018)
Article: Christocentric Preaching
Author: Vern S. Poythress

Christocentric Preaching1

Vern S. Poythress

Vern S. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught for nearly four decades. He earned his PhD from Harvard University and ThD from the University of Stellenbosch. Dr. Poythress has written numerous articles and books such as God-Centered Biblical Interpretation (P&R, 1999); In the Beginning Was the Word: Language—A God-Centered Approach (Crossway, 2009); Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible (Crossway, 2012); Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization (Crossway, 2012); Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God (Crossway, 2016); and Theophany: A Biblical Theology of God’s Appearing (Crossway, 2018).


The principle of sola scriptura, when applied to church officers and to preaching, implies that preachers are given authority by Christ to proclaim and teach the content of Scripture, but not to add to or subtract from that content. This limitation constrains the content of preaching and teaching, but leaves much freedom with respect to form and selection of texts and topics at any particular time and place. As part of the total process of teaching, we can affirm the value of grammatical and historical study, study of human spiritual and moral examples, study of the process of redemption leading to Christ, study of types and analogies with Christ, study of the nature of God, and more.

When we apply these principles to Genesis 15:1–6, it follows that we can have many kinds of study of the passage. We take into account its literary place in Genesis 15 and in the whole of Genesis; we take into account the historical setting of patriarchal times. We take into account themes that link the work of God in Genesis 15:1–6 to the climactic work of Christ—themes like promise and fulfillment, blessing, offspring, inheritance, fear,

and protection. All these are linked together by their coherent, mutually reinforcing presence in Genesis 15:1–6. The centrality of Christ in the life of the NT church implies his centrality in the preaching and teaching of the church. But there may be a spectrum of ways through which this centrality is wisely expressed and maintained.

I appreciate being invited to contribute to a discussion of expository preaching,...

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