What is Kerygma? Kerygma is the translation of the Greek word κήρυγμα kérugma, meaning proclamation or preaching. The Kergyma is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in spoken words, or even proclaimed in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is the proclamation of Jesus redemptive work. It is the proclamation God’s story of the history of redemption from the beginning of creation. Proclamation was usually followed by teaching and instruction in the elements of the faith, or the reading of a Creed. What Jesus did and taught in His ministry was included within the basic proclamation.
Here is a summary of the ancient kerygma:
- The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
- This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
- By virtue of the resurrection, and His ascension into heaven, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as King of Kings – the Messianic head of the new Israel.
- The Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Jesus’ present power and glory.
- The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Jesus.
- An appeal is made for repentance for the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and salvation.
Jesus the Messiah, of course, was the center of this ancient kerygma. The cross, the resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of Majesty are crucial to the kerygmatic preaching of Messiah Jesus.
Kerygmatic preaching is not a technique that can simply be learned by articulate spokespersons, it is a relationship that must be received, experienced, and thereby announced.
There are eight kerygmatic sermons given by the Apostles in Luke’s letter to Theophilus, the Acts of the Apostles. They are found in the following passages:
1) Acts 2:14-36
2) Acts 3:12-26
3) Acts 4:8-12
4) Acts 5:29-32
5) Acts 10: 34-43
6) Acts 13:16-41
7) Acts 14:15-17
8) Acts 17: 22-31
Ok, so lets break this definition down:
1. Kerygma is the preaching of the Gospel.
2. Kerygma is preaching in the manner of the early church.
3. Kerygma has to do with the content or message of what is being preached.
What is the Gospel? It is the Good News of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. The Gospel includes the facts of Jesus’ incarnation as the Word. It includes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. It includes the fact that Jesus was begotten of the Father and not a creature that the Father made. Jesus is in the Father as the Father is in Him. It includes the fact that salvation from sin, sickness, death, and the devil is only through Jesus the Messiah. It includes the fact that we are made right with God, declared righteous because of the righteousness of Jesus the Messiah. The Gospel is Good News!
What was the manner of preaching in the early church? The book of Acts clearly demonstrates that the early church preached the Gospel focusing on Jesus Christ; on repentance, faith, baptism and the forgiveness of sins, especially that salvation is through Jesus alone. The early church preached Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The reason is that the Apostles were witnesses to the life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The early church preached what they heard from Jesus, the Apostles, and what they witnessed – it is the Gospel.
What is the content or message of what was being preached by the early church? When looking into the book of Acts we see:
- All of the messages mention the doctrine of God.
- All of the messages mention Jesus the Messiah.
- Seven messages mention Jesus’ death.
- Seven messages mention His resurrection.
- Four messages declare that Jesus is now exalted in heaven at the right hand of the Father.
- Four messages mention the giving of the Holy Spirit.
- Seven message mention the forgiveness of sins.
- Five messages mention repentance.
- Three messages mention the need for faith.
- Five messages mention Scripture.
- None of the messages use the word Kingdom, because the Kingdom of God was brought to the earth in Jesus the Messiah.
Therefore, the content or the message preached by the early church included everything mentioned above. The church today must preach the Gospel like the early church. The early church preached the Gospel within the context of her audience, whether Jew or Gentile, or whether it was in Palestine or Athens, Rome or Crete. The kerygma was the same. They preached and taught the Gospel. The early church preached and taught the Gospel as it was given to them by the Apostles. The kerygma is the Apostolic Gospel message. The Church should be preaching the Gospel the same way the Apostles preached it: in the wisdom and power of God.
St. Paul gives an example of the kerygma:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)
Based upon the Four Gospels and Acts, there are seven elements to the ancient kerygma of the Church:
1. Sin will destroy you.
2. Jesus Christ died to save you.
3. God loves you and seeks after you.
4. Repent and believe the Gospel.
5. Be Baptized – receive the Holy Spirit.
6. Abide in Christ and His Body the Church.
7. Go, and make disciples.
Lastly, there are four elements (Acts 2:42) to living the Christian life revolving around the kerygma:
1. The Apostles’ Teaching – The Church steadfastly went on in the study of ancient Scripture and the sacred teachings of the Faith given them by the Apostles.
2. The Fellowship – They were daily interacting within Christ’s Body the Church, frequently gathering for worship, and other gatherings as the Body of Christ.
3. The Breaking of the Bread – This is another way of saying that they faithfully received Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist and, by extension, all the Sacraments.
4. The Prayers – Using forms of prayers, in both the personal and community contexts.
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