Bible Study · Christians · Church · Doctrine · Ephesians · Gospel · Sermon

Should Sermons Teach the Gospel, Doctrine, or Practical Application?

There is a question of what a sermon should entail. Should a sermon be focused on doctrine, the Gospel, or practical application? Your answer may differ depending on the type of church you grew up in or attend now.

Those who grew up in what are considered liturgical churches most likely grew up in Gospel-heavy churches. These churches read a lot of Scripture, and read a lot out of the Gospels. This focus rarely talks about any kind of doctrine outside of the Gospel, and rarely includes practical application.

If you were raised in a fundamental, Baptist, or Bible church, you probably were given a large dose of doctrine. The Gospel, or message of salvation, was preached once in a while. It was assumed that everyone was “in the poo,l” so other lessons were discussed. Church may have seemed more like an academic lecture – you were full of learning, and often ignored the “how to” of living the Christian life.

Those brought up in the mainline or modern camps often were flooded with practical application, but lacked the Gospel and doctrinal stances. They often were told how to act, but little Scripture was given as the basis, whether being Gospel-centered or doctrinally-based, as to why they should act that way.

Recently I worked on a project through the book of Ephesians. I used three highlighters, highlighting what I thought referred to the Gospel in pink, doctrine in yellow, and practical application in orange. You know what I found? All three were there. The apostle Paul kept weaving back and forth between these three marks of Christianity. Why?

First, knowledge without action is not Christianity. We are called throughout Scripture to act “in word or deed” (Colossians 3:1). For us to confess and profess our faith, but not live it out, is not what Jesus taught. This is one of the main points in the book of James.

Second, because without rooting everything in the Gospel, we just have a book of morals, making it no better than any other book of morals. We must know the 

Gospel to live out the Gospel. We must understand that everything that Christ has called us to do is because of what Christ has done for us on the cross. You can Read more about cross-centered theology here

Lastly, doctrine is also important to the discussion. Doctrine is the set of beliefs taught by a religion. Within Christianity it is the set of beliefs taught in Scripture and by Christ. While the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at the root of our belief system, we need to know more than faith through Christ, the God-man. Doctrine teaches us about God, ourselves, the world we live in, how society, churches, and every other relationship is connected to each other. In a sense, it is a teasing out of the Gospel.

So should a sermon have the Gospel, doctrine, or practical theology in it? It should have all three. We need to know the Gospel to be able to know why we are living out our faith. We need doctrine to explain to us what everything is, how everything works and how it is connected. We need practical theology to see how we can live out the Gospel and doctrine we have been given.

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