“The Grand Theme of the Christian Ministry”: Fuller’s Christocentric Homiletics

By Evan D. Burns

In a sermon entitled, “Preaching Christ,”[1] Andrew Fuller carefully considered what it means for true ministers of the gospel to truly preach Christ.  His sermon is very relevant in that he argues for the central place that preaching Christ must take in the ministry of a true gospel minister.

From his main text—“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:6)—Fuller considered the preaching model of the apostles and asked these questions: What did they not preach?  What did they preach?  What did they consider themselves to be?[2]  Negatively, he argued that the apostles did not preach themselves because their goals were not “worldly advantage… ease and indolence… applause… [and] proselytes to ourselves.”[3]  Positively, he contended that as the apostles preached, by extension, ministers today ought to preach, “Christ Jesus the Lord....  [Ministers should] exhibit his Divinity and glorious character…, hold up his atonement and mediation as the only ground of a sinner’s hope…, hold up the blessings of his salvation for acceptance, even to the chief of sinners…, [and] preach him as “the Lord” or Lawgiver, of his church, no less than a Saviour.”[4]  And he concluded by claiming that as the apostles did, ministers today should consider themselves to be servants for Christ’s sake.

In Fuller’s introduction he warns that not all ministers are true Christians.  The ministry is not a mere religious occupation.  It is a service to Christ.  The gospel truths which ministers must teach are worthy of meditation by the ministers themselves and not just their flocks.  Ministers themselves must meditate on the Word in order to feed their own souls before they can feed their churches.  The Word will not benefit a minister and his preaching unless his preaching is mixed with his own faith and religious affection.

Fuller’s sermon is relatively short but full of many timeless instructions.  Here are three of the choicest excerpts from Fuller’s sermon:

WHAT THE APOSTLES DID PREACH:—We preach “Christ Jesus the Lord.” This is the grand theme of the Christian ministry. But many have so little of the Christian minister about them, that their sermons have scarcely any thing to do with Christ. They are mere moral harangues. And these, forsooth, would fain be thought exclusively the friends of morality and good works! But they know not what good works are, nor do they go the way to promote them. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”.… Preach Christ, or you had better be any thing than a preacher. The necessity laid on Paul was not barely to preach, but to preach Christ. “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!”.… Some are employed in depreciating Christ. But do you honour him. Some who talk much about him, yet do not preach him, and by their habitual deportment prove themselves enemies to his cross.… If you preach Christ, you need not fear for want of matter. His person and work are rich in fulness. Every Divine attribute is seen in him. All the types prefigure him. The prophecies point to him. Every truth bears relation to him. The law itself must be so explained and enforced as to lead to him.[5]

Hold up his atonement and mediation as the only ground of a sinner’s hope.—It is the work of a Christian minister to beat off self-righteous hope, which is natural to depraved man, and to direct his hearers to the only hope set before them in the gospel. Be not concerned merely to form the manners of your congregation, but bring them to Christ. That will best form their manners. The apostles had no directions short of this: “Repent, and believe the gospel.” They never employed themselves in lopping off the branches of sin; but laid the axe to the root. Your business with the sins of mankind is, to make use of them to convince your hearers of the corruption of their nature, and their need of a radical cure.[6]

Preach him asthe Lord,” or Lawgiver, of his church, no less than as a Saviour.—Christ’s offices must not be divided. Taking his yoke, and learning his spirit, are connected with coming to him. Believers are “not without law unto God, but under the law to Christ.”  The preaching of Christ will answer every end of preaching. This is the doctrine which God owns to conversion, to the leading of awakened sinners to peace, and to the comfort of true Christians. If the doctrine of the cross be no comfort to us, it is a sign we have no right to comfort. This doctrine is calculated to quicken the indolent, to draw forth every Christian grace, and to recover the backslider. This is the universal remedy for all the moral diseases of all mankind.[7]

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 501-504.

[2]Fuller, The Complete Works, 502.

[3]Fuller, The Complete Works, 502.

[4]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503-504.

[5]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503.

[6]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503.

[7]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503-504.


Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.