How Do We Preach Christ When Preaching the Whole Counsel of God?

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

“PREACH THE WORD” is a clear command from 2 Timothy 4:2 that all gospel preachers committed to preaching the Bible faithfully are familiar with. But how do we do that? Most of the evangelical preachers from my tribe would be quick to answer we must start with expositional preaching. I would give a quick and wholehearted “Yes!” to that, but I would like to peel the layers back a little deeper than just saying expostional preaching. To faithfully “Preach the Word” there should obviously be a commitment to “not shrink from declaring …the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27). Within this unwavering commitment though is also the command that we as Bible preachers must preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and only boast in the cross of Jesus (Galatians 6:14). All conservative evangelicals that are committed preachers would give these commands a hearty “amen!” While preaching Christ and the cross will certainly include at times explicit evangelistic preaching, there are other times when we are faithfully trying to declare the “whole counsel of God” from places like the books of Proverbs or Lamentations it can be a bit difficult to see Christ in every passage.

This is where the current discussion on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching is so helpful. While most evangelical preachers with a robust commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture are generally committed to expository preaching that is text-driven; it still can be a struggle to faithfully balance how we point our hearers to the cross and thoroughly explain what the specific text we are preaching says (all in one cohesive sermon). As you  consider how to preach Christ from every text I would encourage you to listen to panel discussion on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching held recently at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston (featuring Ed Stetzer, Eric Hankins, Trevin Wax, and Jonathan Akin). Then begin following Ed Stetzer’s on-going blog series on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching that started last week with a two-part series from Daniel Block (my Old Testament professor (and one of my favorites) that previously taught as The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

Charles Spurgeon, once said, “a sermon is neither fit for the land nor yet for the garbage heap unless there is a savor of Christ in it.” While different sermons may have different purposes they all should glorify and point to our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us consider how to do that better and more faithfully.

Some may be reading this and begin to look at the recommended links and ask questions like what is “hermeneutics,” or what is a “typology?” Or you may have stumbled on this post and say I am just an “ordinary” Christian, not a preacher so this does not really apply to me. While certainly some of the technical aspects of sermon preparation may not apply to you it is important that every Christ follower have a desire to faithfully study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and that you be aware of the study/interpretation approach of those preaching/teaching to you are taking. So I want to be careful and not assume anything and cover a few basics of Bible interpretation/hermeneutics and its recent history in the evangelical world. First off, the term”hermeneutics” means how we interrupt Biblical texts. The purpose of hermeneutics is to make clear the meaning of a scripture passage. This is what you want your preacher or Bible teacher doing when they study. Practicing good hermeneutics in the preacher’s study is so important because as preachers we want to be able to say with absolute integrity and confidence in our sermons when preaching a text that “this is what God says.” If we can’t say that then as one preacher said “we have absolutely nothing to say.” As evangelicals we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture so it has everything we need to explain in our preaching and teaching (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). This must flow out of a deep-rooted committed that the Bible is absolutely Inspired by God, it is Inerrant, and that it is Infallible (the 3 big “I”s as Dr. Block used to say). These 3 “I” terms and their descriptions we can be grateful became more understood across the evangelical world because of the work of the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) that produced the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy(1978), the Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982), and the Statement on Biblical Application (1986). The ICBI’s efforts were a reaction toward the trend in more liberal approaches to Scripture and we can be grateful that their process coincided with the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.

You may say well thanks for those terms and the little trip down the history of Biblical interpretation lane, but what does that have to do with me? At the foundation of any good Bible student must be good hermeneutics. The goal must be to get to what the author of the Biblical passage intended to say or we will be outside the intent of the Holy Spirit and therefore outside the realm of divine authority. Understanding this goal is vital rather you are a preacher, a student of the Bible, or a listener of sermons. While we can be sincere, we still can miss the main point of the passage. This unfortunately happens often even on big preaching platforms, here is a good example. With often good intentions, some preachers/teachers fall prey to “spiritualizing” a text of scripture. This happens when literal and historical events in a Bible passage are spiritualized away by applying secondary meanings to them that the author never intended and can be dangerous when a preacher/teacher uses this method to make a passage say what they want. An example is taking the David versus Goliath passage in 1 Samuel 17 and making the point of the sermon “How to Find 5 Stones in your Life to Defeat your Giants.” While that sermon may have some merit and be an encouragement to many it certainly did not draw its point from the main focus that the author intended in the passage. It is obvious from verses 45-47 of 1 Samuel 17 that this giant will be defeated because God’s name has been defied and it will happen by God’s strength so “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” Well the dangers of bad hermeneutics and “spiritualizing” passages deserve a whole post to itself, so in the mean time to dive deeper into a better understanding of good Bible interpretation take a few minutes and read the excerpt on “The Interpretation of Scripture” from J.I. Packer’s ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God.

I hope for preachers this will help equip you in thinking about Christ-Centered hermeneutics and for other readers I pray this little introduction to the topic of hermeneutics in general was helpful.

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