Influence

 the shape of leadership

Preaching Lessons From Paul

Seven qualities to emulate

The apostle Paul was a committed preacher of the gospel — to the Jews, to the Gentiles, and to kings (Acts 9:15). Throughout the New Testament, we see his unwavering devotion to proclaim the good news anywhere God gave him an opportunity.

But a closer look at Paul’s preaching reveals some helpful principles we can apply today. From his ministry, we discover seven important preaching qualities.

1. Biblically Grounded

When Paul went to Berea, he encountered a group of Jews who were noble in character. Acts 17:11 describes the Bereans this way: “They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Paul wasn’t just preaching what he felt like saying. His message was grounded in biblical truth. The Jewish people in Berea investigated the Old Testament Scriptures to see if what Paul was declaring aligned with God’s Word. As a result “many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:12).

This is a good reminder that people will scrutinize what we teach. More importantly, we will have to give an account for our faithfulness to God’s message. James says God will judge teachers more strictly (James 3:1). Being diligent about preparing sermons that are biblically sound is essential for us and our listeners.

2. Gospel Centered

The gospel is “good news.” It is the message of Jesus, the Messiah, coming to earth, dying for the sins of humanity, and restoring people to a right relationship with God.

In Athens, Paul preached “the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). After having a personal encounter with the risen Christ, Paul dedicated his life and ministry to proclaiming the gospel — which he described as “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

As pastors and preachers, our single greatest message is the proclamation of the gospel. When our preaching is no longer gospel-centered, we stop offering the hope of Christ to desperate humanity.

3. Culturally Relevant

Paul’s message was always delivered in a way his listeners could understand. His speech in Athens is a great example.

According to Acts 17:21, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” Knowing this, Paul took a culturally relevant approach to sharing the good news in Athens.

Paul said, “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship — and this is what I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).

A few verses later, Paul leaned into cultural relevance again when he said, “As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:28).

Nothing was more important to Paul than delivering the hope of the gospel anywhere God opened a door.

Rather than just being informational, our sermons should also be inspirational and applicable. Understandable language, stories, technology and other forms of creative communication can help us relate the message to the everyday lives of people. Cultural relevance is the bridge that connects spiritual curiosity to spiritual truth.

4. Compassionately Hopeful

Paul’s preaching gave people hope. In Acts 17:25, Paul described God this way: “He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

In verses 27-28, Paul added, “He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”

Paul wanted people to understand God is not some far-off deity who is uninterested in His creation. God is knowable, as we can have a relationship with Him. Despite past sins and painful circumstances, there is hope in Christ.

People who hear our message need to believe there is hope — and they need to know we believe there is hope. That happens best when our preaching is not only hope-filled, but also compassionately delivered.

5. Powerfully Communicated

Paul had the ability to preach, reason and debate. He reasoned with Jewish people in the synagogues (Acts 17:2-3,17), and Paul debated pagan philosophers (Acts 17:18). He adjusted his communication method when necessary to persuade as many as possible.

What was the result of Paul’s communication? Acts 17:4 says, “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” After Paul ended his discussion in Athens, “some of the people became followers of Paul and believed” (Acts 17:34).

Paul was also bold in his preaching. When Paul went to Iconium, he and Barnabas “spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3). Paul preached boldly, passionately and powerfully, and Jesus used it to change lives.

6. Spirit Empowered

Of course, Paul did not rely solely on his communication style. In fact, he reminded the Christians in Thessalonica, “Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). And to the Corinthians, Paul said, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

We should strive to communicate the gospel persuasively. No one wants to hear boring sermons. At the same time, persuasiveness is not enough without the work of the Holy Spirit.

You might be a great preacher, but communication hacks will only get you so far. Your preaching must also be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

7. Regularly Prioritized

Preaching was Paul’s primary focus. Nothing was more important to him than delivering the hope of the gospel anywhere God opened a door.

 

Acts 18:5 says that after the arrival of Silas and Timothy in Corinth, Paul “devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.”

 

As ministers, sharing God’s truth should be our highest priority as well.

 

Which lesson from Paul’s preaching is your greatest strength, and which is your greatest weakness? Commit to growing in your ability to communicate, and welcome feedback from others.

 

We’ve been entrusted with the most life-transforming message the world has ever known. Our ability to communicate well while remaining reliant on the Holy Spirit is essential if we’re going to reach people with the gospel.

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