Why You Should Preach the Gospel to Teenagers From Every Passage of Scripture

Youth pastor, you have a lot of options for how to end a sermon or talk to your students. You can end with a call to action, spurring teenagers to obedience. Or you can end with an emotional story, hoping to affect hearts. You could end with something funny to help the deep doctrines and hard truths go down easy. No matter which type of ending you choose, you should always end with the good news of what Jesus has done.

I’ll paraphrase something Mark Dever said in Preach that has stuck with me for years. No one remembers everything in a movie. No one remembers every scene or bit of dialogue. But people do remember the most important thing about a movie: the plot. 

Likewise, no one will remember every part of your sermons. Students won’t remember all the different points you made. They won’t remember all the doctrines you taught. But they will remember what was most important to you; they will remember the overall plot of your messages. 

That’s why I’ve determined that every sermon or talk I give (from both the Old Testament and New) must announce the gospel: the good news of what Jesus has done for sinful, hard-hearted, and vulnerable people like us. If my students remember one thing about my time as their pastor, I hope it’s Jesus. But this isn’t just pastorally pragmatic or wise; it’s biblical. Here are four reasons why I believe the Bible calls us to preach Jesus from every passage of Scripture. 

The Bible Tells A Unified Story About Jesus

In Jesus’ first teaching in the book of Matthew, he tells those listening that he has come to “fulfill” everything the Old Testament commanded and expected, down to the smallest punctuation mark (Matt. 5:7). Jesus understood that the Hebrew Bible contained a plot awaiting a climactic resolution in himself. 

Jesus is the new Adam who restores what the first Adam had broken (Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus is sterile Abraham’s long-awaited promised son (Gal. 3:16). Jesus is a new Moses who leads people through water to liberation from death and Satan’s power (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Jesus is the descendent of the long-lost line of Davidic kings, who has come to ascend to his rightful throne (Matt. 21:9). Jesus is the last in a long line of prophets who came to denounce Israel’s political and religious corruption and call for the temple to be torn down (Matt. 21:12-13; 24:1-2).

The whole Bible is a story awaiting the mission and work of Jesus. 

Jesus Always Preached the Gospel

With His Words 

Jesus’ first act of ministry was to announce that the gospel, as prophesied by Isaiah, was coming true right before Israel’s eyes (Luke 4:21). Jesus repeatedly told his disciples that the purpose of his life was to die and rise from the dead to atone for the sins of the people (Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). Jesus was always preaching the gospel. 

With His Actions 

In addition to preaching with his words, Jesus also preached the gospel with his actions. Each event of his life was a teaching moment in which he fulfilled ancient promises to God’s people. His healings were accomplished not simply by his divine power but by the wounds he bore on the cross (Isa. 53:5). His exorcisms were proof the Prince of Darkness was being bound and humiliated (Mark 3:27; Col. 2:15). And the times he raised others from the dead pointed to the fact that he was the Resurrection and the Life for the dying.

The Apostle John calls all of Jesus’ miracles “signs” (John 2:11). For John, Jesus’ actions were not just displays of divine power but symbolic pictures of the gospel Jesus had come to bring. During his life, Jesus always preached the gospel.

After His Death 

Even after Jesus died, he preached the gospel! The longest and most detailed post-resurrection appearance is when Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke tell us that, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). 

Biblical scholar Jason Derouchie says it simply: “Between the resurrection and ascension, Jesus devotes all his teaching during this time to the question of Old Testament hermeneutics.”1 That long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus isn’t just a gracious appearance by God to two disheartened disciples. Rather, it’s a divine rubric for all preaching after Jesus’ resurrection. We should preach the gospel in every sermon from every page of the Bible because that’s what Jesus has taught us to do.

The Old Testament Authors Were Writing to 21st Century Teenagers

The Old Testament was written first for people thousands of years ago who never knew Jesus’ name. But that is not the only audience the original authors intended to address. 

Moses knew his historic audience was stiff-necked, hard-hearted, and unable to obey what God commanded (Deut. 29:4). So Moses also wrote to a people he believed would be one day be transformed by God’s grace and Spirit (Deut. 30:4-10). 

Isaiah’s historic audience had no ears to hear his words (Isa. 6:9-10). So he also wrote for generations in the future whose eyes and ears would be opened by God (Isa. 29:18-19; Matt. 11:5, 15). 

Similarly, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to a future audience who would be transformed by God to finally understand and accept the words he wrote (Jer. 30:2-3). 

This is precisely what the apostle Peter says, as well. God revealed to these Old Testament prophets truths their historic audience could not bear. They were writing for our benefit, too (1 Pet.1:11-12). 

We should preach Jesus from every Old Testament passage because the original authors were writing to the teenagers in your ministry. The authors of the Old Testament believed that teenagers who believed in the Messiah 2000 years later would better know and understand what they were writing about than their historical and cultural contemporaries. You should preach Jesus in every sermon because one way to honor the authorial intent of the Old Testament authors is to preach about the Messiah who was hidden from their contemporaties. 

Only the Gospel Transforms Your Students

This last point might be the most obvious. But very few things in the Bible are described as “God’s power.” One is the gospel, the good news that God’s promises have come true in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 1:16). God’s Word is also described as “powerful.” It’s the proclaiming, reading, and meditating on Scripture that will cut us to our bone marrow and transform our student’s deepest longings, sins, and hopes (Heb. 4:12). 

When we see Jesus in every passage of Scripture, we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18). We should preach and teach the gospel every time we speak to our students because the gospel is the means of God’s power to transform the sinful, hard-hearted, and vulnerable students who sit under our care. 

There are any number of “plots” for which your students could remember you. For the four reasons above, I hope you’ll chose the gospel. 

Interested in training for gospel-centered Youth Ministry? Consider applying for one of our Youth Ministry Mentorship Cohorts today! Applicants who sign up before May 15, 2024 are eligible for a 10% discount.

  1. Goldingay, John. 2022. Five Views of Christ in the Old Testament: Genre, Authorial Intent, and the Nature of Scripture. Edited by Brian J. Tabb. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic. ↩︎

Seth Stewart is a husband and a dad, and after a decade in student ministry is now working as the Editor-in-Chief at Spoken Gospel. Spoken Gospel creates online resources that point to Jesus from every passage of Scripture. Seth spends his day writing, speaking, and being his family's chef.

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