Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Preaching (page 1 of 9)

Affirmation for my “… for Pastors” Bible Commentaries

Dr. Charles Savelle, Professor of Biblical Exposition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has just done me a great kindness by including some affirmation of my three New Testament commentaries here. You will want to check out his excellent webpage filled with all kinds of help for expositors of God’s word:

Is Expository Preaching Biblical? (Part 6)

(this is the final post in this series, see parts 1-5 for the fuller context)

Finally, the logical. Let me simply point out that it seems to be a false dichotomy to pit expository preaching and training/equipping people to feed themselves on the Word of God over against one another. The one does not necessarily exclude the other (i.e., if you emphasize expository preaching you aren’t training people to feed themselves on the Word of God). In fact, while expository preaching may not necessarily drive people to their Bibles to feed themselves, it is hard to imagine a people truly equipped to feed themselves on the Word of God who did not desire the corporate experience of doing that very thing together as a people. It is kind of like saying, “I trained my teenager to cook so that he will be independent and live on his own. For that reason we no longer eat family meals together.” The one doesn’t lead to the other. In fact, our family has found it does quite the opposite – we enjoy our times of eating together even more now that our kids have grown and learned to fend for themselves in the kitchen. But then, maybe that’s just because of our last name.

So, ________, thanks again for your email. Sorry this has gone on this long, but I’ve tried to respond to what I heard you asking/saying in as succinct and yet thorough way as I know how.

Richest blessings on you, my brother!

Is Expository Preaching Biblical? (Part 5)

(see parts 1-4 in this series for the fuller context)

Then I’ll point to just one more passage: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2. Again, check my commentary on the Pastoral Epistles for the detailed exegetical data and a fuller development of the implications (pp.417-434). The simple point, however, is that the chapter division here often blinds us to the continuity of Paul’s intent. He demands that Timothy “preach the word” (4:2; aorist imperative – undertake the action immediately and with urgency).

Paul adds to this four statements which develop just what Paul means by “preach” … “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” What we need to notice is that Paul is not speaking randomly about what he wants preaching to be. He is laying out what preaching is because he has just laid out why Scripture itself was given (3:16-17). The Scriptures control the preaching.

Scripture was giving for … (3:16-17)

  • “teaching”
  • “reproof”
  • “correction”
  • “training”

The pastor is to … (4:1-2)

  • “preach”
  • “reprove”
  • “rebuke”
  • “exhort”

It appears obvious that the latter (preaching) grows out of the former (Scripture). Or to put it another way, the logical outflow of the nature of Scripture itself and the reason for God giving it to us is that it ought to be taken up and “preached” to achieve those purposes among God’s gathered people. God’s purposes for the Scriptures (3:16-17) and for preaching (4:1-2) are one and the same. Preaching should allow the Word of God to dominate and arrive at its intended purpose. A sermon must be more than Scritpure-based, it must be shaped and controlled by Scripture. We must allow our bibliology to inform and control our homiletics. Again, you’ll want to see the commentary for more development of these matters.

Before closing I would like to ask a couple of questions that go to the implications of our theology and the logic of the concerns.

First, the theological. Our doctrinal statement says we believe: “The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.”

My question is, if we believe this to be true, when do we as “a people” functionally and regularly come together to submit ourselves to God’s Word as our final authority, to listen to His voice, to respond to His voice?

We are not just persons (who do indeed need to learn to feed ourselves on the Word of God), but we are a people … we have a corporate identity and experience and responsibility. We do need to teach each one (as a person) to feed on God’s Word, but as “a people” we need regularly the collective experience of feeding together on God’s Word through its teaching/preaching … and our affirmation of it through response to the voice of God that comes to us through it.

Where do we corporately affirm our submission to the word of God? If not in the regular, worshipful discipline of preaching, where?

Is Expository Preaching Biblical? (Part 4)

(see parts 1-3 of this series for the larger context)

To that end, we ought to permit ourselves to broaden our view from the NT and include the OT. The synagogue movement and its practices, it is widely recognized, probably began during the exile. So does the Scripture provide us any view of what this looked like?

Indeed it does. – “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra was something of a prototype of what synagogue leaders were to become. And the synagogue practice (in terms of Scripture reading and exposition) was assumed and perpetuated in the Christian churches Paul planted.

Do we have an example of the kind of teaching Ezra undertook? We do, in Nehemiah 8. I will refer you to chapter 10 of my Revival in the Rubble (pp.163-182) for a fuller explanation of that example. It is, as an example, subject to the objection “that’s just what happened, but you can’t prove that is what is supposed to happen.” Or, put another way, how do we know this example is to be normative for God’s people today? For one thing, it might be argued, it was a situational thing—not a regular synagogue meeting, but a somewhat spontaneous revival, a unique moving of God’s Spirit. To which I would simply respond, “Isn’t that what we want when our local churches gather?” Some of the details ought not to be pressed (the building of a platform, etc.), but surely the gist of this stands as something God affirms to us as a desirable practice.

Is Expository Preaching Biblical? (Part 3)

(see parts 1 and 2 of this series for fuller context)

Then, too, consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Perhaps you’ll want to read the section in my Pastoral Epistles for Pastors on this (pp.184-193). But let me make just a few observations here …

  • “the public reading of Scripture” – more lit., “the reading” … it refers to the Jewish custom of reading the Scriptures aloud in the synagogue (cf. the only other usages in the NT: Acts 13:15; 2 Cor. 3:14). Paul views the public, corporate reading of Scripture as an indispensable part of the local church’s experience of worship and discipleship together.
  • “to exhortation” – Thayer indicates that in this context it denotes an official “hortatory discourse” (p.483). This was a corporate experience of the local church, as the context makes clear. It is what we would call preaching.
  • “to teaching” – The corporate “hortatory discourse” was not to be merely moral exhortation, but to include instruction as well. Gospel imperatives are based on gospel indicatives; gospel commands rest on gospel grace and that grace needs to be expounded upon so that commands can be rightly embraced.
  • Paul charges Timothy, “devote yourself” to this. The present tense imperative demands this become the continual and ongoing and habitual preoccupation of Timothy.
  • I’ll let you read the commentary on v.14 (lest this grows longer than it is already becoming!)
  • Actually, I’ll let you do the same on vv.15-16 … except to draw attention to the present tense imperatives here. Paul does not leave this as an option … it must become the continuing, habitual, regular practice as Timothy leads the church in Ephesus …
    • “Practice these things” –
    • “immerse yourself in them” –
    • “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” –
    • “Persist in this” –

So this demonstrates that Paul was assuming the replication in the Christian church of the Jewish practice of regular, corporate reading of God’s Word followed by an unfolding of what that passage means and how it ought to apply to our lives (Psalm 119:130a). Perhaps we do not have many examples of this recorded for us in the NT because Paul was assuming its presence and necessity and thus felt it unnecessary to provide examples. Rather like some people want to argue that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. But He was assuming the previous Scripture’s instruction about it and, in the immediate context, did not feel it necessary to repeat what had already become the fixed belief of God’s people.

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