Why are sermons such a big deal? The Bible tells us to sing as the gathered church. The Bible also tells us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptisms. But why are sermons essential?
Sermons are essential because they teach God’s truth so as to exalt Christ, encourage and build up, and exhort the gathered church.
First, the teaching aspect of the sermon is important. Its importance is seen all over Scripture (e.g. Neh. 8:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:2). God has spoken and so helping people understand and apply the revelation from Him is life-changing. God’s people, however, are able to understand His truth. This is because all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16), Jesus has made all those in Him priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), and Scripture is clear on the things which are “necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 1). Qualified teachers are still vital, however, because sound (or healthy) doctrine is vital. That is, in part, why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24) and defend the truth (2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9). We also see in Scripture that right teaching leads to maturity and the body of Christ being equipped for every good work. Believers may be able to subsist on milk but teachers are able to provide needed meat (2 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-13).
Second, communicating God’s truth in sermons is vital because the Bible is the authoritative word of God and it is uniquely profitable (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is our sole authority for faith and practice. Scripture is a light (Ps. 119:105,130), a sword (Eph. 6:17), a hammer (Jer. 23:29), and a surgeon (Heb. 4:12). Scripture is more essential than bread (Matt. 4:4), better than gold (Ps. 19:10; 119:72), and we need it to live (Ps. 119:144). Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7), true (Ps. 19:9), pure (Ps. 19:8), and eternal (1 Pet. 1:25). Scripture contains the words of life (Jn. 6:68) and the words that are breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture gives joy (Ps. 119:111; Jer. 15:16), makes wise (Ps. 19:7), equips (2 Tim. 3:17), guards (Ps. 119:9), guides (Ps. 73:24; 119:105), saves (1 Pet. 1:23), sanctifies (Ps. 119:9,11; Jn. 17:17), and satisfies because by it we know God (1 Pet. 2:3 cf. Ps. 16:11; Jn. 17:3).
Third, sermons are supposed to exalt Christ. It is absolutely essential that preaching proclaims the good news of Jesus is(Acts 5:42; 8:12; 9:20; 10:42; 17:3; 28:31; Rom. 1:15-16; 1 Cor. 1:17, 23; 2:1-8; 1 Cor. 9:16; 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 4:5; Col. 1:28-29; 1 Jn. 1:1-10). All the promises of God find their answer in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20) and all of Scripture is about Jesus (Lk. 24:27) so preaching Christ is essential.
Fourth, sermons should encourage and build up (1 Cor. 14:12, 26; 1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 10:24-25) the hearers. They should also exhort (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:1-2, 11; Titus 2:15; Heb. 3:13). It is important to realize that it is when Scripture is taught and Jesus exalted that people are encouraged and built up. So, this fourth important aspect of preaching is a result of the first three aspects of preaching. It is also pivotal to realize that sometimes people need exhortation and sometimes they need dehortation but all of it is to be done with pastoral love and sensitivity (Acts 20:13ff).
Thus we see sermons have a central place in the gathered services of the church. Sermons communicate God’s transforming truth, they exalt Jesus Christ, they teach the Bible so that people understand and apply what God has said, and they encourage conformity to Christ.