Nature of revelation and personal transformation

A preacher once wrote:

“When I first began to preach as a teenager ? I preached about whatever fell by chance into my mind. I preached according to whatever some incident or event or saying would suggest. That is about as poor a way to prepare a sermon as could be found in all the world ?Why should I struggle to think up topics for my sermons ? when I could let inspiring and informative texts speak for themselves? ? Suddenly I found myself really proclaiming the Word, book by book, text by text, cover to cover from Genesis to Revelation. I felt new power. Instead of pacing the floor, stressed and anxious, trying to find some new topic to preach, I was pacing the floor with excitement, caught up in the might and majesty of God’s Word ?”

Who was the preacher? W. A. Criswell.

The longer I preach and teach homiletics, the more I am convinced that the best method of preaching is expositional preaching. Why should a pastor make exposition the bread and butter of his preaching ministry? I suggest two major reasons.

First is the nature of revelation. The first great theological foundation for preaching is that God has spoken. God has spoken to us in his Son (Heb. 1:1-2), the living Word, and he has spoken to us in the Scriptures, his written word. Without God’s words there can be no preaching of the word.

The Scripture itself presents God as its ultimate author not only in such texts as 2 Timothy 3:16, but in the fact that “God” and “Scripture” are often viewed by the biblical writers as interchangeable terms via metonymy when quoting the Old Testament. God is often viewed as the author of a scriptural citation when he is, in fact, not the speaker (Matt 19:4-5). Likewise, “Scripture says” is a phrase that is sometimes used when God is the direct speaker (Rom 9:17). God is seen by the biblical writers to be the author of all Scripture. What Scripture says is in fact the word of God.

In at least three places, Paul refers to the Scriptures as God’s speech (Gal. 3:8, 22; Rom. 9:17). Furthermore, both the form and the content comprise the very word of God. In other words, his word comes in words! The writer to Hebrews, when quoting the Old Testament, mentions the human authors only twice while in all other occurrences it is God or Christ or the Holy Spirit who is speaking (note the author’s use of the present tense in citation formulae as well).

God’s revelation to us is personal, propositional, and inclusive of several other language categories as well (metaphor, etc.). God’s words are inseparable from his self-revelation. If, to use J. I. Packer’s famous phrase, Scripture is “God preaching,” then the best method of preaching must be that of expository preaching. It would be in this sense that we could affirm the statement found in the Second Helvetic Confession (1566): “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

This high view of biblical authority creates a solid foundation for expositional preaching. Such exposition will respect and reflect the various literary genres in which God was pleased to reveal his word. Expository preaching is primarily a matter of sermon philosophy rather than sermon form. Expositors are not restricted to a homiletical strait jacket that is purely deductive, such as the proverbial three points and a poem. On the contrary, the form of the sermon should reflect the form of the text.

Today, in the so called “New Homiletic,” sermons march forth from pulpits under many banners: narrative, topical, symbolic, and the like. In a postmodern age, where people no longer simply distrust authority, but actually seek to dismantle it, only the biblical text has the authority of God behind it. Only as we “preach the word” will we have his authority behind what we say. Preaching draws its power not from the proclamation of our own Christian experiences, the experiences of others, our own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful words.

Biblical exposition week after week from the pulpit is the logical outcome of a high view of biblical authority and the most effective means of fulfilling Paul’s mandate to “Preach the word!”

A second reason for the preeminence of expository preaching is the nature of personal transformation. What is it that changes human hearts and human behavior? Nothing less than the powerful word of the living God as Hebrews 4:12 asserts. This is where the “New Homiletic” has failed. It proposes that the goal of preaching is not the communication of information (as they wrongly conclude that this is all expositional preaching is), but the evocation of an experience in the listener that would effect a hearing of the gospel.

Of course, sermons should seek to connect hearers with God himself, but claims by homileticians like Eugene Lowry, who argue that the preaching of the Bible should be in a narrative mode and not expositional in nature, do not increase the likelihood of the listener experiencing God, but rather make it less so! Lowry refers to the disciples on the road to Emmaus with Jesus. He suggests that Jesus revealed who he was in the breaking of bread and then when they recognized him, he vanished. Lowry concludes from this that in matters theological it is unb

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