First Century Preaching
Suppose it were possible to bring a first century Christian to the assemblies of the church today. Many physical things obviously would be different, but of greater concern would be those spiritual differences. Think for a moment about how different he might find the preaching today from the kind of preaching he heard in the infant church.
The preaching in the first century can best be described as inspired prophecy. Because they had only the Old Testament, God gave the sermons to prophets who revealed God’s New Testament for men. Read the words of those prophets and think of the differences between those words and those words spoken today.
First century preaching was so plain it convicted those visitors who came to the assembly. Paul described that situation with these words: “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all” (1 Cor. 14:24). Far too many pulpits today resound with “polished messages” which never bring conviction. Far too many sermons are outwardly perfect but would be welcomed in denominational pulpits. There is little that is distinctive, and visitors go away feeling satisfied without ever having been challenged in their beliefs. Our world is not like the NT world.
Paul’s letters to young Timothy give great insight into the clarity of the messages from inspired preachers (prophets) in the early church. In his second letter to Timothy, he defines what it means to preach the word. Read these words carefully. “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). The King James translates the word “teaching” as “doctrine,” yet many preachers avoid doctrinal preaching. One cannot preach the word without speaking directly to the religious errors in our land. Paul then gives the reason to convince, rebuke and exhort with doctrine. “For the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine.” That time has certainly come!
Finally, look at Paul’s words in his first letter to Timothy. In chapter four, he described how inspired preachers taught the truth. He said, “The Spirit expressly says. . .” He described false teaching as doctrines of devils and then specifically described these doctrines. Preaching today often avoids speaking directly about false teaching.
Having described the Spirit’s preaching, Paul told Timothy, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ” (4:6). What does this say about modern preaching? The verse clearly implies that if we do not instruct the brethren, we are not good ministers of Jesus. Our world has changed. Let us speak as the oracles of God!