Do seasoned saints need gospel-centered preaching? Haven’t they progressed way past the basic truths of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Isn’t proclaiming Christ crucified week after week to them like telling a gourmet chef how to fry an egg, or reminding an ER doctor how to check vital signs? Aren’t we supposed to “leave behind the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1)?
Anwar is one of our elders and a father of three in his 50s. He teaches adult education classes, he leads Bible studies in both English and Arabic, and he meets with a platoon of men weekly at 6:30 a.m. before church for accountability and discipleship. The brother is a shepherding machine. He fearlessly wades into sticky pastoral situations and commands the respect and trust of the congregation.
Deborah has walked with her savior for 58 years. She listens to my sermons with her Bible open, pen in hand. She takes the treasures from the Word into her week to mentor others. Deborah prays like she has a direct line to God. She’s faced many difficulties over the years, but these struggles only drive the stake of her faith deeper into Jesus. Her white hair is a glorious crown of wisdom and maturity.
Do seasoned saints like Anwar and Deborah need gospel-centered preaching? Haven’t they progressed way past the basic truths of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Isn’t proclaiming Christ crucified week after week to them like telling a gourmet chef how to fry an egg, or reminding an ER doctor how to check vital signs? Aren’t we supposed to “leave behind the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1)?1
In my experience, mature believers not only need gospel-centered preaching, but in fact savor it. Here’s four things this type of preaching does for those grown-up in their faith.
1. It connects the Bible.
Mature Christians love the Scriptures. You can sometimes spot the veteran believers at church by the worn Bibles they carry, filled with highlighted pages. But these life-long Scripture students still need help putting their Bibles together. They know the stories, but often they haven’t been shown how all those stories connect to form a single narrative that culminates in Jesus Christ.
They’ve heard sermons, for example, about how to imitate Joseph’s integrity by fleeing sexual temptation. But they often haven’t been shown how Joseph prefigures the betrayal, innocent suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and global salvation of Jesus. They can tell you all about Adam in the garden and draw good morals from the story. But they likely can’t articulate Adam’s royal-priestly calling or map out God’s successive, but unsuccessful, Adamic “reboots” through Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David. They can’t explain how all this climaxes in Jesus, the last Adam, the true Son of God.
Gospel-centered preaching threads together the Bible’s precious texts into a sparkling necklace, and Jesus is the crown jewel in the center. It creates biblical-theological “aha” moments that thrill mature Christians like Anwar and Deborah. Seeing Jesus in all of Scripture is like going through the attic and finding letters or old photos from your beloved grandmother whom you’ve known for years. They help you know her and treasure her all the more by learning more of her story.
2. It inspires spiritual growth.
Anwar and Deborah would be quick to tell you that they haven’t arrived yet spiritually. They have a long way to go. “Mature” and “maturing” aren’t mutually exclusive categories. Even the apostle Paul said of himself:
Not that I have already obtained all this or am already perfect (teleioo), but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature (teleios) think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Phil 3:12–15).