Mar 21

Session 6 Recap: Helm, “Preaching: God’s Speech”

2015 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 15

Editor’s Note: Ethan Hester is the Interim Senior Pastor at Grace Bible Church, Las Cruces, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of David Helm’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 21, “Preaching: God’s Speech,” from Acts 17:16-34.


Pastor David Helm began his message by reminding us that his addresses at this conference are not sermons but rather two seamless talks (the first in Session 4) on the important subject of preaching the Word. So far he has asked three questions: 1) What is preaching?, 2) What does preaching do?, and 3) What strategies can we learn from the Athenian setting of Acts 17 that all preachers can employ?

As we continue our look at Acts 17 we consider two more questions about Paul’s preaching to the Athenians:

Where Does Paul’s Athenian Discourse Fall In Regards to Preaching?  Is it preaching?  

We ask this question because there are some who would claim that Paul’s sermon in Athens is a non-Christian sermon. To discern if this is true we first need to recognize the language. The dominant word in the New Testament for preaching is kerysso. But in the second half of Acts a different word emerges euaggelizo which means to bring good news.

These two words for preaching are like the two rings used by a magician, in that they can be put together or pulled apart with no issue.  The Athenian discourse of Paul falls into the sense of preaching that is of the second word. It is bringing good news. We must recognize that while Paul’s preaching at the Areopagus doesn’t seem to be the same kind of preaching that we may expect on a Sunday morning, is very much preaching because he is proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

What Can We Learn From This Sermon To Put Into Practice?

There is a debate in missiology as to whether or not or how much we should contextualize in missionary work, yet we see that Paul has no issue contextualizing by helping the Athenians see the truth of the gospel through appealing to their belief in “the unknown god”. While, like Paul, we should find ourselves to be “provoked” by the idols of our culture, we shouldn’t entirely isolate ourselves from understanding the unknown gods around us, that we might use them to point others to Jesus.

Another take away from Paul’s sermon is his command of the grand sweep of Biblical history. We can observe the impact that this understanding and communication of God’s plan and work in history has in evangelism. From this we must ask ourselves how well we can grasp and communicate the plan of redemptive history, and how we might work towards a better command of God’s story.

Finally, Paul’s address at the Areopagus proves its validity from the response of those who heard. They responded in one of three ways: some mocked, some had renewed interest, and some joined him and believed.  We should not be surprised when our proclamation of the gospel brings the same range of responses.