Archives For preaching

Thanks to a tip from Tom Bastress (a former student of mine), I can recommend a good article on the Reformation21 blog yesterday:

The beauty of concealed scholarship
by Jeremy Walker

For a taste:

Recent discussions about the place and purpose of seminary need to take into account that much of what passes for gold in the seminary environment turns into tripe in the pulpit, where all the brilliance and erudition that the seminary demands in order to attain its honours needs to be sublimated to the task of preaching the plain truth plainly. That learning cannot and must not be abandoned, but its display needs to be sacrificed on the altar of usefulness. One of the dangers of the seminary is that gifted men may leave it well able to deliver a very competent lecture to their fellow-graduates, but with very little clue as to how to deliver a straightforward sermon to Christ’s hungry flock. The display of learning must be unlearned without unlearning the learning itself.

(Emphasis added)

Conjuring and Preaching

December 6, 2011

I was reminded by an email yesterday of a quote that I had included in a paper that I wrote some time ago–and then had occasion to think of it again twice today, one listening to a preacher and once again reading a student paper.

I always think of the tricks of those ingenious gentlemen who entertain the public by rubbing a sovereign between their hands till it becomes a canary, and drawing out of their coat sleeves half-a-dozen brilliant glass globes filled with water, and with four or five goldfish swimming in each of them. For myself, I like to listen to a good preacher, and I have no objection in the world to be amused by the tricks of a clever conjuror; but I prefer to keep the conjuring and the preaching separate: conjuring on Sunday morning, conjuring in church, conjuring with texts of Scripture, is not quite to my taste.

R. W. Dale, Nine Lectures on Preaching, the 1876 Yale Lectures (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1877), 127; cited in Stott, Between Two Worlds, 132.

Greek and Preaching

October 8, 2011

I just read a good essay by Bill Mounce: “The Pastor and His Study,” ch. 25 of For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. S. Storms & J. Taylor, 477–95 (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010). Here’s one key statement as a sample.

All of the Greek homework in the world will not enable you to trust the Bible; and if you do not trust the Bible, you will not preach it with conviction; and if you do not hold to the total trustworthiness of Scripture, you will mix God’s ideas with yours, and eventually you will get tired of coming up with your own good ideas every Sunday morning…. Is not part of the plight of the American pulpit due to an egregious lack of conviction that Scripture is true? And if you are not convinced that the Bible is true, then why spend time learning it in its original languages? … If you are not convinced of its truth, you will probably lack the fierce determination necessary to learn Greek and use it in your ministry (p. 482).

A preaching schedule

May 22, 2010

I recently answered an inquiry from a former student and decided that perhaps the topic would be of interest here as well. I won’t include the questions, but here’s my reply.

The “preaching schedule/calendar” is a constant challenge! The big names of the past who spent years in a book—e.g., Llyod-Jones or Barnhouse on Romans were not in church plants. Those churches were old, established churches with members who had been believers for many years. Barnhouse actually used Romans as a “foil”—he didn’t preach Romans as just Romans. He used it as a framework to preach systematic theology. So though he spent a lot of time in Romans, his people were getting a pretty wide range of truth, though probably not getting much narrative or storyline.

The flip side, of course, is the “typical” (yes, I’m a bit cynical here!) pulpit diet in the typical fund/evang church in which all that is heard is topical preaching that follows the preacher’s whim. In many cases that’s a constant diet of evangelism or of a fairly narrow stream of topics (pray more, give more, witness more, don’t do bad things).

How to balance that out is the issue. I’m convinced that systematic exposition is the mainstay, book-by-book. I’ve known some who start in Genesis and many years later finally arrive in Rev., but I’m not convinced that’s wise either. Not only does it takes decades to do reasonably well, it’s not usually a well-balanced diet, mostly since the first 3/4 of it will be OT/old covenant. While God’s people need to hear and know their OT, I suspect that a church who heard only OT for many years would be “malformed.”

I don’t think there is any one formula that will work because there are too many variations in both congregations and preachers. The abilities, backgrounds, and needs of both parties plan into the mix. Perhaps the best thing to ask is, in light of one specific situation, how do we best accomplish the goal of Eph 4:12-16.

  • to prepare God’s people for works of service,
  • to build up the body of Christ,
  • to reach unity in the faith  in the knowledge of the Son of God,
  • to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,
  • to be no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming,
  • to speak the truth in love,
  • to grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ, and
  • to enable every supporting ligament to grow and build itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I suspect that the first order of business would be an assessment of where in that big picture a specific group fit. Then asking how we get from here to there. The goal is relatively general, but it is what God says is the purpose of a church ministry, and specifically the responsibility of those individuals in leadership (though the ultimate goal is that all the members join in mutual efforts along these lines).

It is not only the pulpit ministry that accomplishes these goals, but that is perhaps the central focus around which the other pieces (which I’ve not discussed here) cluster.

In light of the pulpit ministry, we have to ask how we structure a long-term preaching schedule to move toward our goal. This can’t be done in what is too often a frantic, “Sat.-night-late” decision! A pastor ought to know fairly specifically where his preaching is going over the next year, and at least in general terms what he intends to cover in terms of the Bible books, over the next 5 years. And he should know *why* he’s doing that. It can’t be, “I’d really like to preach through Romans.”

[Excursus: every young pastor seems to want to preach through Romans! My father told me that when I finished seminary, but he also told me that most pastors my age weren’t ready to preach through Romans. His assessment was that it would take at least 10 years before we were ready. He was probably right. I waited 8.]

[Second excursus: Some books are much more difficult to preach than others—even some that seem “simple.” 1 John is a classic example. Many young pastors want to preach through 1 John—because many of them translated 1 John in first year Greek! But that is one of the most difficult books to preach, at least preach effectively. The message is more abstract and it also contains some very difficult theology. Wait until you’ve grown a bit (both in your pulpit skills, your grasp of theology, and your walk with God) before tackling it. Start preaching from the “easier” books—those with very practical relevance that lies “on the surface”—e.g., James, Philippians, etc. Another tough one to do well is Psalms.]

Back to the original subject, one might consider starting where God started—with Genesis (unless, of course, you are a new pastor and your predecessor just finished Genesis within the past few years!). Just remember that it’s narrative and you shouldn’t spend 2 years in chs 1-12! First time through you might shoot for a year, maybe less if you can preach it more than once a week. (If your 2d slot is typically less well attended, just include a *brief* review at the beginning of the next chunk so that you keep everyone close to being on the same page.)

But then I’d not move directly to Exodus. I’d probably shift to NT. Alternating back and forth between the testaments can be effective to keep things balanced, just don’t leave them isolated from each other. Esp. in the NT you need to constantly show the connections back to the Bible’s earlier story line, even if that means you need to take a 10 min. “side-trip” in a sermon to fill in some gaps—that’s esp. important when dealing with young believers, whether in a church plant or an older church. From the other end, when you’re in the OT, periodically you ought to show how particular OT themes are developed in later revelation, particularly in the NT. Don’t “read the NT back into the OT” hermeneutically to figure out what the OT means, but there is fulfillment involved, whether prophetically or typologically. It won’t be every week that you preach the equivalent of Isa 53! But there will be periodic sections that need a side-trip forward. Or perhaps it can be done by section, e.g., when you finish Genesis you might take a sermon to show how Genesis flows forward to the NT.

I don’t think that I’d probably work straight through the OT after finishing Genesis. At that point I’d want to think about how to best sketch the Bible storyline and be selective as to what books I did and in what sequence. You might even need some survey messages interspersed that show how the pieces fit together in which you “sample” a number of books in a single message. Other books, which can be done chapter by chapter, sometimes ought to be sampled as well. Exod-Deut might well be done that way the first time through so that you can give your people the big picture of the old covenant perspective in a few months—and tie it into the later NT fulfillment of many sections. (If you do it that way, then you owe it to the church to come back through some of those sections in more detail later.) And yes, you can preach Leviticus in a church plant. See one of my blog posts from about two years ago on that subject:

Well, this is a longer answer than you might have expected, and there is a lot more that could be said, but the details in every situation are too varied to pontificate! If you get the “flavor” of what I’ve said here, you can flesh it out in your situation better than I could.

A related discussion in which I was involved recently touches some preaching issues as well, particularly as it relates to the use of the biblical languages in preaching. It was a reprint of a short article that I originally wrote for one of our Seminary publications (Paraklesis, summer 2009 (you can download that issue from the link given) ) on the Sharper Iron blog. It generated some lengthy and spirited discussion. You may find it of interest if you hadn’t seen it before. (Some comments, esp. early on, may not be as useful as some of the later discussion, which I joined as of comment #34. As is typical of active blogs like Sharper Iron, there’s a wide diversity of opinion expressed—from some who thought my remarks to be “condesending [sic] drivel” to those with helpful interaction.)

Tim Raymond passed along to me a pointer to a recent Pyromaniacs post about Hughes Oliphant Old’s most recent volume on the history of Preaching, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, v. 7, Our Own Time (Eerdmans, 2010), ISBN, 0802817718.

That blog post excerpts Old’s chapter on John MacArthur’s preaching. Though I am periodically distraught with MacArthur’s technical ability with the Greek text (and discourage students from depending on his commentaries as sources for exegetical work), he is a good preacher and an effective communicator of Scripture. In that regard, I’ll be interested to browse Old’s most recent volume to see who else he discusses. Here are a few excerpts from his comments on MacArthur.

MacArthur fills these sermons with a wealth of factual material . . . . In the way of human interest stories one finds, on the other hand, very little. The illustrative material focuses on the biblical story. It is the passage of Scripture that is illuminated rather than a principle drawn out of the passage.

Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.

Johnny Can’t Preach

March 13, 2009

Sounds like the book under review in this post on the DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed blog is worth reading:

T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach (P&R, 2009).

There’s a second part to the review coming. The review and (I assume) the book echo concerns I’ve had about preaching for a long time. If you’re a pastor, you ought to read at least the review. If you’re a student preparing to preach, you should read the review. And if you’re neither but listen to sermons, this might tell you why you sometimes aren’t satisfied. The book, BTW, was written by a “sermon listener,” not a pastor (currently), reflecting on what he has heard from the pew. And now I’m off to Amazon to order a copy for myself.

Just noted from the Amazon page about the author:

T. David Gordon has been Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College since 1999. Previously, he was an Associate Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for 14 years and Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church (Nashua, NH) for 9 years.

Tim Raymond pointed me to this blog post with a quote from Wesley after reading my note yesterday about using Greek in the pulpit:

Greek and Hebrew

“Do I understand Greek and Hebrew? Otherwise, how can I undertake, as every Minister does, not only to explain books which are written therein but to defend them against all opponents? Am I not at the mercy of everyone who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original? For which way can I confute his pretense? Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all? Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms, or even the first chapter of Genesis? Do I understand the language of the New Testament? Am I a critical master of it? Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke? If not, how many years did I spend at school? How many at the University? And what was I doing all those years? Ought not shame to cover my face?”

John Wesley, “An Address to the Clergy,” in Works X:491.
Posted by Ray Ortlund at Thursday, March 05, 2009

HT: Ray Ortland

Here’s a post by a Josh Gelatt. I don’t know anything about Josh other than what he writes, but his thoughts here are worth reading. A few snippets:

Should a pastor ever use Greek or Hebrew in the pulpit? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to say “In the Greek this word means…”? …

Three years ago I would have adamately disagreed with Mounce [he is interacting with a blog post by Mounce on this subject]. But now, almost three years into a senior pastorate, I have moved closer to Mounce’s position. An excellent example of what Mounce is saying can be found in the sermons of John Calvin. Though Calvin readily interacts with the biblical languages in his commentaries, he rarely (if ever) does so in his sermons. He finds a way of expressing the same idea without appealing to the language. …

I can put together an exegetically precise sermon with profound doctrinal depth in a matter of hours. But it takes me three times longer to take that material and turn it into something that will appropriately engage the people in the pew. It is this second part that I find so difficult. The exegsis comes naturally….making the sermon practical is where things become difficult.

I tend to be a bit stricter than what Josh concludes, but his philosophy of preaching in right on target. My students will hear me say, “Don’t use the biblical languages in the pulpit; learn how to communicate what they say in language that people with no knowledge of the languages can understand.” No problem with saying something like, “The way [Mark/Paul/etc.] says this means/implies that…” But I’d hesitate 99% of the time to ever say something like “The perfect tense used here means that…” or “the word [βασκω] means that…”

So thanks, Josh. Your people will be blessed with your exposition!

Preaching with Authority

December 14, 2008

Al Mohler’s December commencement address to his Southern Seminary grads is well worth reading. It’s posted on his blog.

Our authority is not our own. We are called to the task of preaching the Bible…. There are no certainties without the authority of the Scripture. We have nothing but commas and question marks to offer if we lose confidence in the inerrant and infallible Word of God. There are no thunderbolts where the Word of God is subverted, mistrusted, or ignored.

The crowds were astonished when they heard Jesus, “for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Congregations are starving for the astonishment of hearing the preacher teach and preach on the authority of the Word of God. If there is a crisis in preaching, it is a crisis of confidence in the Word. If there is a road to recovery, it will be mapped by a return to biblical preaching.

Below is a link to the complete text of A. T. Robertson’s inaugural lecture at Southern Baptist Seminary in 1890. It is titled “Preaching and Scholarship.” I’ve hunted for this for some time and finally obtained a photocopy of the original publication. I’ve scanned the text and corrected it manually to create a pdf file of the full text. (Thanks to my wife for helping with some of the tedious work in this regard!)


The heart and mind of a young scholar is very evident here showing the promise of his mature career which still lay ahead when this was written. It is still a superb statement of the importance of education and scholarship, particularly a seminary education, as the best preparation for ministry. Those of you who are students (especially if near the end of a semester you are wondering why you are in seminary!) would do well to read this carefully and thoughtfully.


Preparing to preach

October 16, 2008

I just ran across two interesting interviews, both relatively short, on preparing to preach. Both are on the Sovereign Grace Blog (C. J. Mahaney).

The first is with Mark Dever who spends 30–35 hours a week on sermon prep and preaches from a full manuscript—for an hour. I appreciate his emphasis on the text, observing and laboring to understand what the text says.

The second is with John Piper. His trademark intensity is very evident, but my favorite part of the interview is this, especially the part that I’ve bolded:

Keep your minds from being contaminated, because the preparation moment is a heart/mind thing in which every three minutes you are crying out to the Lord as you are reading your text in Greek or Hebrew or English. You are reading it and you are saying, “God, please. I have got to have a word. I have got to have a word for my people. Let me see what is really here.” That is a prayer for the mind part. My points must be here in the text. I can’t make this up. My people have to see it. I have to see it. I don’t want to pull rank on these folks by quoting Greek—and they say, “I don’t see that,” and I say, “Well, believe me it is there.” I don’t want to do that. I want them to see what is really there, so I need to see what is really there. So I am pleading with the Lord, “Show me what is there.” [emphasis added]

[HT: Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds]

When trying to emphasize the same point I sometimes tell my students the story of an acquaintance who, while in seminary, taught an adult Sunday School class. He was big on his Greek and often used it in his teaching—and I don’t mean in his preparation, but from his lectern. He was waxing eloquent one Sunday morning and was having trouble persuading his class of his interpretation of the text. They weren’t buying his explanation, but he insisted it could only be his way because the Greek said so. His downfall was that a visitor was present that day whom he did not know. After listening patiently for much of the hour, the visitor finally spoke up. He said something along these lines: “I’ve listened to you trying to explain this passage, but I have to say that you’re wrong and your class is right. They can’t argue with your claims that your interpretation is in the Greek, but I read Greek and what you claim is not valid.” This visitor happened to have a ThD in the biblical languages from a highly respected seminary. I heard the story from the visitor himself several years later when I had him as a professor in another seminary. (He never identified the teacher by name, but I knew enough about them both and about the church involved to identify my former classmate.)

If you can’t demonstrate your interpretation from English in light of the context, you’re likely on shaky ground! The last thing you want is to have an anonymous visitor with an earned doctorate listening to your pontifications who must finally speak up to defend what the Bible says! That’s a really fast way to loose credibility. Yes, the biblical languages are indispensable in your study and preparation. They will enable you to work much faster and more efficiently and to pick up details not readily evident in a translation. But you must remember that you are teaching/preaching to ordinary people who have only a translation. Never use your Greek (or Hebrew) as a “bully stick” (“I’m right because that’s what the Greek says”). Please use it, but use it as a tool, not an authority club. Learn to communicate in ordinary language if you want to have an effective ministry.

Preaching the Gospel

August 4, 2008

D.A. Carson Interview: Is Our Gospel Too Big? on Preaching Today, 3 parts, each brief, but a potent summary of some crucial issues in defining the gospel and preaching it. The first two parts are in print format and the third switches to audio (mp3).

part one, part two, part three

A sample:

It’s important that our hearers see that we preach the gospel from the Bible. An expository sermon demonstrably explains what the Bible says. Demonstrably—that’s the crucial word. So at the end of the day people say, In truth that is what the Bible says. If someone wants to disagree with what I’ve said, they have to disagree with my understanding of the Bible, which they have every right to challenge me on, but the authority finally is the Bible and not me.

And again,

In a biblically illiterate age, one of the things that must be done is to show that what is being said is demonstrably the Word of God.

And finally,

Undoubtedly if you’re next door to a major university that has a religion department undermining the Word of God, then something apologetic has to be done about the nature of Scripture. But I think of Spurgeon’s one-liner: “Defend the Bible? I would rather defend a lion.” That is not to say that there’s no place for a robust defense of the Bible in some contexts, but defending the Bible is not the first responsibility of the preacher; preaching it is.

(All three quotes are from part two.)

HT: Andy Naseli on Between Two Worlds

Who Killed Jesus?

July 26, 2008

Just finished a sermon that I will preach tomorrow morning at First Baptist in Lock haven, PA and thought that I’d share it here.

Who Killed Jesus?

(This is actually a revision of a Good Friday sermon that I’ve preached before.)

As I worshipped with a group of God’s people this morning (not my usual church family since I’m away teaching this week) I thought again about the importance of preaching. Here are some comments I wrote some time ago about preaching. They are but a small part of a larger essay. I’ll append a few related thoughts below.

In its biblical portrait, the central focus in pastoral ministry is the public proclamation of the Word of God. Preaching. There are certainly other aspects of pastoral ministry, both in the NT model and in the traditional (and faddish) models of ministry that have developed in the church. I don’t intend to imply that ministry is only about preaching. But it can be no less than preaching if it is to be a biblical pastoral ministry.

I have some serious concerns about the state of the pulpit these days. My concern could be stated fairly well in the words of 1 Sam 3:1. As the old King James says, “the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision”—which, as I’m sure you know, is better translated, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (NASB). I would adapt that wording and suggest that biblical preaching is rare in our day, a word from God is infrequently heard from our pulpits. That is not just my cantankerous opinion; some of today’s best known preachers echo the same sentiment. John Stott says that “true Christian preaching … is extremely rare in today’s Church” [1] and Kent Hughes bemoans the fact that “dis-exposition … is a serious problem that deserves careful thought. At least in my part of the world [says Hughes], these abuses increasingly dominate the pulpits” [2]

Pastors have the same charge as that with which Paul charged Timothy: “Preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). That is an awesome responsibility. The apostle Peter reminds us that “if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Pet 4:11). John Wycliffe, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” described preaching as “the highest service that men may attain to on earth.” [3] The Word of God is a most precious treasure—equal to our very salvation in worth, for if we had no Bible we would know nothing of God’s Son, the forgiveness that his crosswork provided and the new covenant relationship which that work inaugurated.

As John Stott has said so well,

Preaching is indispensable to Christianity. Without preaching a necessary part of its authenticity has been lost. For Christianity is, in its very essence, a religion of the Word of God. No attempt to understand Christianity can succeed which overlooks or denies the truth that the living God has taken the initiative to reveal himself savingly to fallen humanity; or that his self-revelation has been given by the most straightforward means of communication known to us, namely by a word and words; or that he calls upon those who have heard his Word to speak it to others. [4]

Although the Word of God has been given for all, the pastor is entrusted with the Word of God in a special sense due to his primary responsibility of proclaiming that Word to a congregation. Handling the Word of God correctly is an enormous responsibility. As James exhorted his hearers, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (Jas 3:1). There ought to be a very real sense in which we recognize and acknowledge our inadequacy for such a great task. I sense little of that in many preachers. Some are quite confident—even proud—of their ability in the pulpit. Others treat it rather flippantly. Richard Baxter, the famous 17th century preacher, saw it quite differently. He said,

The public preaching of the word … requires greater skill, and especially greater life and zeal, than any of us bring to it. It is no small matter to stand up in the face of a congregation and deliver a message of salvation or condemnation, as from the living God, in the name of our Redeemer. [5]

Indeed, “the pulpit is a perilous place for any child of Adam to occupy”! [6] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for many years, was of the opinion that

It seems to be the case that the greater the preacher the more hesitant he has generally been to preach…. A man who feels that he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been ‘called’ to be a preacher. The man who is called by God is a man who realises what he is called to do, and he so realises the awfulness of the task that he shrinks from it. [7]

One of the books that you need to read carefully and thoughtfully is D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies. Let me cite part of his introduction and adapt it to my homiletical concerns. The issues of the biblical languages, exegesis, homiletics, and church ministry, are closely related (though one might not suspect that from many sermons!). Addressing the focus of his title, Exegetical Fallacies, Carson acknowledges that,

To focus on fallacies, exegetical or otherwise, sounds a bit like focusing on sin: guilty parties may take grudging notice and briefly pause to examine their faults, but there is nothing intrinsically redemptive in the procedure. Nevertheless, when the sins are common and (what is more) frequently unrecognized by those who commit them, detailed description may have the salutary effect of not only encouraging thoughtful self-examination but also providing an incentive to follow a better way. I hope that by talking about what should be done in exegesis [and, I would add, homiletics], we may all desire more deeply to interpret [and “preach”] the Word of God aright….

… This study is important because exegetical fallacies [and, I would add, “homiletical fallacies”] are painfully frequent among us—among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Make a mistake in the interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays … and there is unlikely to be an entailment of eternal consequences; but we cannot lightly accept a similar laxity in the interpretation [and preaching] of Scripture. We are dealing with God’s thoughts: we are obligated to take the greatest pains to understand them truly and to explain them clearly. It is all the more shocking, therefore, to find in the evangelical pulpit, where the Scriptures are officially revered, frequent and inexcusable sloppiness in handling them. [8]

Ministry in general and preaching in particular are directly influenced by our theology. If we really believe, not just as a matter of academic statement, but as genuine convictions that the Bible is God’s revealed truth, inspired and inerrant in the originals, then our preaching and teaching of that revelatory corpus must, of necessity, be based on our careful study of the text in the original languages. There is no other way to have the immediate confidence necessary to undergird our proclamation of “thus says the Lord” if we cannot read what he said how he said it. If you cannot read the OT in Hebrew and the NT in Greek you will always be at the mercy of those who claim to be able to do so.

That’s what I wrote some time ago. In a similar vein, I would add these thoughts.

When you preach, focus attention on the text, not on what you say about the text. Always make sure that your audience knows when God is speaking and when you are speaking. Read Scripture in big chunks. Read it well. Emphasize that what you are reading is God’s Word and authoritative. I like the pattern of some preachers (I first heard it listening to D. A. Carson), who when they read the Scripture at or near the beginning of their message, say something to this effect: “This is what Scripture says: …” Then they read Scripture. (And some add at the end of the text, “This is the Word of the Lord.”) The exact phrasing isn’t important, but the emphasis is good.

I heard another preacher recently who intended to expound about a dozen verses, but he never read them all together. After a fairly long introduction, he read two verses so quickly that if someone yawned, they would have missed it altogether! He read some other scattered verses in the text during the sermon (and some other verses from elsewhere), but the net impact seemed, at least to me, to detract from the priority and authority of Scripture. And that despite the many good things that he said.

Fellow ministers: Preach the Word! And be sure your people hear it as God’s Word.


[1] Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 15.

[2] Kent Hughes, “The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 3 (1999): 45–46. “Dis-Exposition” is Hughes’ term: “Though the term is new, you have all experienced dis-exposition as a listener. You can easily recall a Sunday service in which the biblical text is announced and you settle back, Bible in hand for a good Sunday meal, only to find out that the text is departed from, never to return. Dis-exposition causes Sunday indigestion” (ibid., 44).

[3] Cited in Stott, Between Two Worlds, 22.

[4] Between Two Worlds, 15.

[5] The Reformed Pastor, abridged (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace, 1971), 17.

[6] Stott, Between Two Worlds, 320.

[7] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 107.

[8] Exegetical Fallacies, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 15–16.

[Edited to add the notes.]

mp3 link of a seminary Easter series chapel message

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