Friday, 18 September 2009

We proclaim Him

How do we interpret the Bible? What are the principles and rules of correct interpretation, so that we deduce from a particular passage of the Bible what God intended us to deduce? All that he intended us to deduce, and nothing more than he intended us to deduce?

There's something very wrong with a number of evangelical guides intended to help preachers interpret the Bible that I've come across lately. There's something important missing.

What's missing? Christ and the gospel. Whoops!

Hence, I read lots of sound advice about...
  • Attention to principles of grammar
  • Attention to the meanings and functions of the words in the original language - don't impose an impossible meaning based upon the English translation
  • Attention to the context; context within the book, context within the paragraph, context within the world history of the author's day
  • Comparing our conclusions with sound doctrine distilled from other parts of the Bible
  • Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
But amongst all this good advice, I keep seeing that an absolutely essential point gets missed out. Exegesis must also be done within the overall context of God's plan to reveal his glory and grant the gracious salvation in his Son. We must explain the passage to our hearers within the setting of God's purpose for the church. We must relate it all to the Saviour's sufferings at Calvary, his Resurrection on the third day, and his glorious return at the end of this age. We must show what it means for those who are living today "in the overlap of the ages", trusting what he did when he came the first time and waiting for when he comes the second.

You can fulfil all of the above bullet points and more and miss this out. If you only include the above bullet points and their ilk, you could do a great deal of "preaching" whilst being a Muslim. None of the above kind of points require you to be converted - you can do it pretty well whilst remaining ignorant or unbelieving of God's overall story. It worries me a great deal that this kind of "how to use the Bible in preaching" guide seems to be not uncommon at all amongst conservative evangelicals. Exegesis and preaching not rooted consistently in Christ and his gospel are not exegesis or preaching at all, and Satan's territory won't be reduced a single inch by them. Any useful guide to preaching has to hammer that home again and again. What is the sina qua non of Biblical preaching? To reveal the glory of God in Christ. To tweak something Spurgeon said, all our tools of exegesis and techniques of communication are simply the flesh hooks, pans and shovels.... but Christ is the altar and the sacrifice smoking upon it.


Simon Hutton said...

Good post David

That is where biblical theology informs preaching and thus makes it truly 'Christ centred'.

Thanks for your blog, keep it up.

Ned Kelly said...

Professor Edgar Andrews has an interesting book entitled "Preaching Christ" wherein he states "that the only preaching that really counts is that which centres on the Person, work and glory of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God". Recommended reading.