I have a few standard questions I ask of each sermon before I preach. I have a few others I ask when I listen to a sermon—not for the sake of evaluating, but for the sake of recognizing what I need to take away.
My most important question on both lists: In this sermon, why does it matter that Christ has been raised? That is, what would be bad news, impossible advice or nonsense in this message if Christ hasn’t been raised?
The apostle Paul points me in this direction. “If Christ has not been raised,” he writes, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
If I can preach a sermon that could be left fully intact even if Christ wasn’t raised, it’s no sermon. It may be a nice philosophical treatise, a “teaching” on some piece of Christian doctrine, an important social justice stance, or some good self-help, but it’s not a sermon.[1. And to be clear, a sermon may do all of those things. They’re not excluded. But these alone don’t make it a sermon.] A sermon proclaims the gospel, the good news that has as its foundation our great mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
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