Preaching Christ Centered Sermons: A Text-Driven Approach

 |  February 3, 2017

Throughout the years, numerous discussions concerning whether the focus of preaching, should be Christocentric or theocentric have occurred. The point of this post is to briefly discuss Christ-Centered preaching as a text-driven approach.

When I began preaching my pastor instructed me to keep Christ at the center of every point of the sermon because, as my pastor said quoting the apostle Paul, “we preach Christ crucified…”(1 Cor 1:23). Yet that felt forced with some Old Testament pericopes. The point of “Text-Driven Preaching” is to ensure the sermon’s structure is faithful to the structure of the preaching unit.

Thus, the preacher must answer three important questions when preaching the Old Testament. First, how does the structure of the preaching unit relate to the overall structure of the book? Second, how does the preaching unit relate to earlier allusions or previous books of the Bible? Third, how does the preaching unit relate to the later uses in the New Testament?

Therefore, when preaching from the Psalter, where there are a number of psalms that are “messianic,” one must remember that others can, and do, have a Christ-Centered focus as well. For example the Shepherd’s Psalm of David. Psalm 23, notice there is no plea in this psalm is because it is an expression of David’s unbroken confidence in the Lord, to provide, protect, and comfort his weary people as their king.

While the image of a shepherd is used throughout Old Testament Scripture (Gen 29:2; Isa. 17:2; Ezek. 34:11-15) the image here is that Yahweh provides His sheep with food, rest, and restoration, He also provides His sheep with His Word, which is the principle means of giving spiritual nourishment, rest, and restoration. This is where the text-driven preacher remembers biblical theology as a tool to help bridge the testaments. Edmund Clowney stated in his Preaching and Biblical Theology; “Biblical Theology serves to center preaching on its essential message: Jesus Christ.”[1]Edmund Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P& R Publishing, 1979) 74.

Because of this tool, the text-driven preacher should look to Jesus and see He makes an allusion to this psalter in John 10:11. Biblical Theology here renders a great service to the text-driven preacher, because through it, we recognize that this allusion serves as a chrisocentric link between the Testaments. The Christ-Centered approach sees in the psalm, the calmness of David’s soul, which he experienced in his life in the care of the shepherd. The application is almost too easy to believe.

In order to enjoy the benefits of David’s Shepherd, we must be of his fold! In other words, we must be his sheep. Jesus emphasized this stating; “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).

While this application allows the preacher to emphasize that Psalm 23 not only describes the God as Shepherd but it also points to good shepherding. We must, therefore, see this psalm not only as a superb text on the Shepherd but also as a model for all under-shepherds. That which makes Jesus the Good Shepherd also serves to make us proper shepherds of His people. We seek to study God’s shepherding and to strive to shepherd God’s people as He shepherds us.

It is imperative we grapple with the textual structure of the preaching unit, as well as the theological themes presented. Notice the symmetry of the Psalm functions rhetorically in which David speaks of, and to, the Lord. The symmetrical structure of the psalm:

a YHWH is my shepherd (vv1-3)

b You are my shepherd (v.4)

b’ You are my host (v.5)

a’ YHWH is my host (v.6)

The theological implications for preaching are just as all of God’s Word are relevant and universal; our obligation is to preach it, with relevance to His Word and usefulness to life. While Psalm 23 is often read, or even preached at funerals, it is a Psalm about living. It reminds both preacher and listener that life in the care of the shepherd causes one to live life in the unfretted enjoyment of the presence of God. This psalm invites us like David to place our unbroken confidence in the Lord and declare our trust in Him to care for his people. Because of the good Shepherd, we must center our preaching on Christ, as the Bible is centered on Him.


About: Rodrick Sweet is the Senior Pastor of New Horizons Bible Fellowship Church in Clear Lake Texas. He is a graduate of the College of Biblical Studies-Houston where he earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in Biblical Studies and Christian Leadership. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary’s-Houston Campus in the spring of 2016 with a Master’s of Theology Degree (ThM) with emphases in Pastoral Theology and Practice and Homiletics.  He is now a current PhD student at SWBTS, majoring in both Biblical Theology and Homiletics.

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