I’m so blessed to be able to dedicate hours studying the Word and studying how to study the Word! I am so thankful for this time and the way the Lord has been growing and shaping me as a student of His Word.
I’ve been reading 5 books this month, 2 specifically focused on homiletics (the art of preaching and writing sermons). Sounds kind of boring but I’ve learned so much and actually enjoyed it a lot!
Here’s a condensed version of what I’ve been learning.
When it comes to preparing a “sermon” we have to make sure we are employing good exegesis – “the art and science of Biblical interpretation”, theological reflection – “how that text relates to the Gospel/Jesus Christ”, and contextualization – “how the text relates to us today”. The dangers happen when we jump to one to the other without following the proper course.
IGNORING THE INITIAL AUDIENCE/CONTEXT
(A.K.A. Contextualizing Scripture)
“God promises Israel land and greatness? Well then, God promises you and me land and greatness!”
“God rewards a cheerful giver? That must mean if you aren’t being ‘rewarded’ you aren’t giving enough money! Just give more money and you will get more money!!”
“Paul said, ‘I can do all things through Christ’. That means you can score that winning touchdown, make a million bucks, and pass that test you didn’t study for! You just have to use Christ’s strength baby!”
Unfortunately, this type of teaching is rampant today. By blatantly ignoring context these pastors, “hollow out the words of God and fill it with whipping cream”*. At first glance it looks good and at first swallow it tastes good, but it ends up with zero sustenance and doing more damage than good. It does nothing to feed the soul.
IGNORING THE CURRENT AUDIENCE/CONTEXT
(A.K.A. Intellectualizing Scripture)
“We have to realize that because the 10 Commandments were written to a specific audience and in a specific time we can assume God only meant for them to be a guide for Israel.”
“When Paul says, ‘Walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which you have been called.’ He was only talking to his immediate audience. We don’t have to heed any of that advice.”
I like to call these guys the “pillow pastors” because they have a tendency put the majority of their audience to sleep. This approach can be equally dangerous because they lead towards a mindset that assumes everything is relative and, therefore, can be explained away because we are not the initial audience. This type of preaching just hollows out the words of Christ and leaves them empty. It’s dull, it’s boring, and it leaves you wondering….”So….now what?”
GETTING IT RIGHT
(A.K.A. Good Hermeneutics)
Luckily for us, there’s another option. We start by looking at the text, bringing nothing to the table, and letting it speak for itself. We consult the context and the audience of the day: what did they think and what were they going through when this was written/read? Then we ask the question, “Where is Christ’s redemptive work in this?” Paul and Jesus both used the entire scriptures to point to Jesus (Luke 24:25-27; Acts 17:2-3, 17; 18:4; 18:19; 19:8) so we can be sure that He’s the central theme. It doesn’t take much to find Him in there.
Finally, once that’s all done, we bring it back to today, to “Us and Now”! We take into consideration things like our audience’s age, gender, culture, struggles, etc. Our words, analogies, and location will be different for each group but the message will be the same because Christ is the author, hero, and teacher in the Gospels, not us. When we try to make ourselves the highlight, instead of showing God through His Word, we end up with no light at all.
Simply know that the Word, not the preacher, is, “sharper than a two edged sword, piercing to the division of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Just some thoughts from a sanctified sinner,
**Diagram credits go to David R. Helm
- Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today by David R. Helm
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller
- Preaching: How to Preach Biblically by John MacArthur
- You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis & Lisa Chan
- Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live by David Platt & Francis Chan