For years, I have been asking God about the difference between preaching and teaching, trying to understand the different styles of oratory in the church. I listened to folks at pulpits, on the Internet, and on TV – and I still didn’t know the difference.
Some people say they like preaching, others teaching, and to be honest, I really can’t figure it out. So, like most things I can’t grasp, I simply relegated the distinction to “the shelf,” my large pile of items awaiting revelation from God.
Recently, however, revelation has come! The Lord has been showing me that it’s really quite simple: PREACHING IS PROCLAIMING, and TEACHING IS EXPLAINING. Knowing which to do when is what’s important, because the difference makes all the difference – when it comes to the gospel! This is because there is an unseen realm to consider…
The god of this world holds the unsaved captive. He has made them blind; truly, they cannot see. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) Didn’t Jesus say that we cannot see the kingdom, unless we are born again? (John 3:3) Since their spiritual eyes are blind, they are unable to receive revelation (1 Corinthians 2:14) until that darkness is dispelled – and it is dispelled through preaching. That is why preaching must precede teaching. No amount of explaining can penetrate that darkness!
We can explain the gospel to the saved, and they will surely benefit, but the gospel must be proclaimed to the unsaved. We must boldly and unequivocally state the truth about who God is and what He has done for us through His Son’s life, death, and resurrection. It should include the truth about us, as well, who we are/were meant to be, and why we need salvation. We must proclaim the need for repentance in light of God’s right to His creation and give an invitation to submit to Him – on His terms. Since our salvation cost Jesus everything, our only option is to turn everything over to Him. He is Lord, and if we make Him our Lord, He will indeed save us!
That is the message we proclaim. It is the good news of redemption through Christ’s blood that results in a personal relationship with the One who loves us enough – even in our fallen state – to die for us. Preaching this message dispels the darkness that covers this planet and everyone who lives on it. It is through the “foolishness of preaching” that the “the power of God for salvation” is released. (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:16)
When the gospel is preached, the truth clearly and boldly proclaimed, there is a kingdom clash in the unseen realm. Salvation does not go forth in a vacuum, because there is another kingdom that must be displaced. So, a clash results, when we declare Christ’s victory over the one who deceived mankind in the garden. Even after Jesus defeated him on the cross, he still holds mankind captive in his kingdom – illegally. The gospel is his eviction notice!
When we announce the good news, we go in the name of Jesus. All authority was given to Him, and He has commissioned us to go and use it! (Matthew 28:18-20) As we go, we partner with the Holy Spirit, as He convicts men of sin, convinces of righteousness – and that the god of this world has been judged. (John 16:8-11) It is through the foolishness of preaching under the authority of Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit that the glorious light of the gospel dispels Satan’s lies. That is why signs and wonders follow the preaching of the Word. (Mark 16:15-20)
During His life on earth, Jesus was a miracle worker. He demonstrated His great love for us by forgiving sins, healing all manner of diseases, and releasing people from the power of demons. Wherever He went, there was a kingdom clash! He did His Father’s works by boldly displaying God’s authority in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrated the supremacy of the Kingdom of God over everything on earth that could harm us: storms, hunger, sickness, demons – and even death. Likewise, when we walk in the authority of God and the power of the Holy Spirit is released, signs and wonders follow. (John 14:12)
However, on the day of Pentecost, when Peter proclaimed Christ, there was not one physical healing recorded. Instead, there were about 3,000 spiritual healings! Souls emerged from darkness, were separated from the world, and ushered into God’s kingdom. The eyes of the heart were opened, conviction fell, men repented, faith was released, and lives were changed – because Peter’s preaching did its work. It paved the way for people to enter into the kind of relationship we were meant to have with God and with each other. From that day forward, nothing was the same – because the 3,000 weren’t the same. True conversions are the greatest sign that follows the proclamation of the gospel!
Today, this is where we err. All too often, we TEACH the gospel, rather than PREACH it. When we explain salvation rather than proclaim it, we are using the wrong tool for job. The gospel is good news to be announced, not a concept to be debated. When we appeal to men’s fallen minds and darkened hearts by trying to explain and convince, merely a mental assent results. When the gospel is proclaimed, announced with power and clarity and content, Christ’s claim to our lives is enforced, our sin is laid bare, and we are free to repent, believe, and be saved. Preaching dispels the darkness and “cuts to the heart” with the revolutionary impact we see on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:37-47)