Preaching first of all must be biblical and doctrinal. Today we hear a lot going on in the name of preaching, and often people will “shop” churches until they hear the preaching that suits them. Paul warned Timothy of this very thing,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5)
The New Testament preacher and the Old Testament prophet have in common that they are both a spokesman for God. While the OT prophet spoke the oracles of God to the people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, today’s preacher likewise speaks God’s inspired Word to the people. The preacher is not a man who preaches his own opinions, but preaches the Word of God. His authority is not in his knowledge, insight, or philosophy, but in the Word of God alone. Therefore, a faithful preacher must preach the Word of God and only the Word. Like the prophet Ezekiel who spoke the words God gave him speak, and when he was finished God closed his mouth, so goes the faithful preacher (cf. Ezekiel 3:26-27).
Even when preaching is biblical it must be Christ-centered. Much preaching today is focused on man and not Christ. There is much to do today about “needs-centered” preaching (and it’s much ado about nothing as Shakespeare might say!). This approach to preaching is often well received, but is not biblical. This aim of preaching merely addresses the needs of people. It is focused on helping people be better people and often presents a “seminar” mentality. The focus is on man not God. Preaching that is man-centered is shallow and lacks doctrinal depth.
Christ-centered preaching is transcendent. It doesn’t bring God down to our level, but transcends people up to Him. Christ-centered preaching is the preaching of the New Testament. Since Christ, the Mediator between God and man, is the theme of all the Scriptures, He must be kept in the context of the Scriptures being preached. The teaching and emphasis of the Bible is not man nor about man, but about God and His redemption of His people. This is the focus that preaching must have. When man and his needs are elevated above God and His purposes, we have missed the focus of the Bible. Man’s needs are relatively small compared to the greatness of God. Therefore, if preaching is merely man-centered (or “needs-based”) we miss truly how our needs are met in Christ. Preaching is the primary means God uses to save sinners. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God . . . and how will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:17, 14). Preaching also is the primary means of grace to save saints. Yes, the preaching of the gospel saves both sinners and saints. This may sound strange to some who think of salvation only in terms of their justification. But salvation not only includes justification, but also sanctification which ultimately culminates in glorification. So how then are God’s people saved (or sanctified) through the preaching of the Word? 2 Corinthians 3:18 gives us a precise and clear picture, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In essence, this verse means that we are sanctified (transformed into the image of Christ) as we behold Him in all His glory. Therefore, the role of preaching is to preach Christ in all His glory so that the people can, by faith, see Him in His glory. When the people behold Christ, they are transformed into His likeness. Preaching to “felt-needs” of people is not God’s ordained means to change them into His likeness, but preaching that reveals Christ in all His glory. Therefore, this must be the central emphasis of the ministry.