Calvin Miller once wrote, “All real preaching is doctrine.” He essentially argues that all sermons communicate doctrine, even though dogmatics may not be the desired objective of the preacher. Following Miller’s reasoning, A sermon may then communicate doctrine poorly, incorrectly, or it may communicate that doctrine is unimportant altogether, but all sermons communicate doctrine.
All sermons may communicate thoughts about doctrine, but all sermons are not doctrinal.
With the above thought in mind, here are five considerations for doctrinal preaching.
- Doctrinal preaching displays a concerted effort in exploring and explaining deep truths about God and His Kingdom. Doctrinal preaching provides more than a cursory glance at theological truth.
- Doctrinal preaching is related more to hermeneutical process than it is a certain sermon type. Some homileticians attempt to define doctrinal preaching as a subtype of topical preaching. But should doctrinal preaching be limited in such a way? Sermon type is not the sine qua non of doctrinal preaching. Doctrinal preaching is better understood in how one weaves exegetical content into the sermon, not necessarily how one packages it.
- Doctrinal preaching should not be void of application or emotion. Doctrinal preaching is often avoided because it is perceived to be dry, boring, and impractical. Although people may fail to recognize doctrine’s influence in daily living, what a person thinks and knows about God has direction over their lives. Doctrine is practical. Theological truth also inspires and captivates. After all, there’s a difference between knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-15) and knowing the quadratic formula.
- The biblical text must govern the doctrinal content of the sermon. Sure, this seems obvious, but preachers should avoid the pitfalls of 1) preaching their theological hobby horse in every sermon and 2) forcing theological conclusions upon the text that may not be there. Here’s where expositional, Bible-book preaching, may have an advantage. All of God’s Word is beneficial, not just the parts we deem interesting or applicable (2 Timothy 3:16). Doctrine should flow from biblical exegesis.
- Doctrinal preaching is transformational preaching. The aspiration of doctrinal preaching is the transformation of God’s people, not simply the dispersing of biblical knowledge. As people encounter the great truths of God, may they be inspired to, in turn, live their lives for the glory of God.