Preaching Versus Teaching

My buddies and I recently had a lively discussion about the difference between preaching and teaching. We all recognized a general distinction between the two, but we disagreed as to how formal that distinction is in the Bible.

I did a quick word study for fun (I don’t get out much), and this post is a brief report of what I found.

I found the two terms, διδάσκω (teach) and κηρύσσω (preach/proclaim) being used in tandem in Matthew.

  • ESV Matthew 4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (“διδάσκω” and “κηρύσσω”)
  • ESV Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. (“διδάσκω” and “κηρύσσω”)
  • ESV Matthew 11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (“διδάσκω” and “κηρύσσω”)

These verses suggest the two are closely related and go well together, with perhaps each occurring in a single message. The distinction between preaching and teaching does not appear overly formal in practice.

John adds κράζω (cry out) to the mix, but the effect is the same. In fact, his phrasing here seems to further prove the overlap of proclamation and teaching.

  • ESV John 7:28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. (“κράζω” and “διδάσκω”)

One final observation of note is the vocabulary of the Great Commission. Both Mark and Matthew record the Great Commission, but they each use different words to describe the task. What are the different words? You guessed them…διδάσκω and κηρύσσω.

  • ESV Mark 16:15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (κηρύσσω)
  • ESV Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (διδάσκω)

The data suggests the concepts of teaching and preaching are closely related, if not interchangeable at times. That being said, it’s NOT all a wash. The two terms still retain different shades of meaning, and so we must ask why both words hang around the New Testament with nearly equal predominance. I believe the answer comes through a proper understanding of what the Gospel is.

The Gospel is first news, objective news of salvation through Jesus. News by its very nature is something to be heralded (proclaimed/preached). But the Gospel is not merely news; it also has very real and personal implications. Implications must be explained (taught). For this reason, during the course of a sermon, the speaker may oscillate between preaching and teaching as he moves between heralding the news and explaining the significance of the news. This is what Jesus seemed to do, and this is what I would argue we must do.

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Derek Griz

I am a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor (Immanuel Church). I write from those perspectives. Connect with me on Twitter (@derekgriz).