Best Preaching Advice out there:

From Frank Macchia of Vanguard University:

Okay preachers out there. My advice for good preaching:

1) No lengthy intro’s. Get right to the point in a way that grabs the audience.

2) Stay on message. Don’t drift.

3) Can the biography. Talk about the text.

4) Do your homework. Take the time; It’s worth it.

5) Stick to one major text and one central point per sermon. No lengthy multi-point lessons. You’ll end up saying everything and nothing. There may be a place for such a lesson plan but the sermon is not it.

6) Though some outside references or hint of balance may be called for, stick to the angle of your particular text and let it speak in all of its shocking one-sidedness. Cross referencing can dull the razor edge of a text.

7) Achieve your balance over time. Don’t just choose texts that appeal to your interest or emphasis.

8 ) Every text gives a witness in some way to the good news. Seek with every message to make this gospel clear.

9) Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the text or voice difficulty with it. But don’t leave them hanging. Suggest a way through it in faithfulness to the gospel.

10) Preaching is an art. Give them theological substance but don’t neglect moving rhetoric.

(PS- and listen to the advice of your spouse!)

Fourth Gospel quote of the Day

John imposes a strict and orderly framework on his narrative especially through the use of symbolism. Realizing the ability of images and symbols to unify vast tracts of experience and truth, John resorts to them so incessantly that he gives us a poetic Gospel.”

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery 



Jesus the Lamb of God

This is a sermon I preached recently that I wanted to share (it didn’t go exactly the way it is written, but more or less)(yeah, it went faster than it feels):

Central proposition: As the Lamb of God, Jesus brought to fulfillment the long awaited prophecies about the Messiah who would bring deliverance and set up God’s kingdom in the world.

Let’s read together John 1:29-34.

This morning I want to focus on mainly verse 29 where John the Baptist declares to his disciples and those passing by: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Sometimes, when we read the Bible, if we come across a verse that stands out to us or seems to be saying something important, it is often a good idea to take some time and reflect deeper on what is being said. It can be good from time to time to camp out on a verse and take some time to think it though and understand its implications. The second half of John 1:29 is one of those verses. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Perhaps you have heard or read this verse before, probably you’ve read it lots of times and even heard the song with the words, ‘Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.’ Even though we may have heard this verse before I want to take some time and reflect on what this statement means and what it means for our lives, why it is important. It is important we understand the greatness of John’s declaration about Jesus.  It is an amazing statement, if not a bold one.

I wonder what kind of an effect it had on those who first heard them? John the Baptist declared to those who would listen that this Jesus from Nazareth, a local and a mere carpenter, was someone of worldwide and infinite significance.

Things were tense in first century Israel and the people were at a near frenzy with anticipation of a coming messiah deliverer who would set them free from a long and tough Roman oppression. They had just come out of the troubled Hasmonean Dynasty and were still picking up the pieces following the Maccabean Revolt not too many years prior. The people of Israel just wanted to be left alone to live their lives and worship their God and be Jewish.

Tensions were mounting. Various rebel leaders and self proclaimed messiah deliverers had come and gone such as Judas the Galilean mentioned in Acts 5:37 who lead a revolt among the people and yet was killed. Israel was tired of Roman oppression and was crying out to God for deliverance. Sound familiar?

Then along comes John the Baptist, an obscure unknown prophet-like man in weird clothes who ate locusts. He showed up declaring in effect, that all the prophecies and revelations of the Old Testament that looked forward to a Savior and a deliverer had finally been fulfilled in another relatively obscure fellow Jesus of Nazareth — whom John prophesied was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

I can imagine this was somewhat shocking to the people of Israel and can explain why the Jewish leadership sent some emissaries out to interrogate John about his claims.  He probably was not helping calm the expectations of the people but only served to build on the anticipation.

God heard their cry and knew their situation. It is true the people of Israel needed deliverance and that God would bring it. However, the deliverance God was bringing to his people was a different kind of deliverance than what they were expecting or hoping for. What did John the Baptist mean by calling Jesus the LAMB of God? Was he talking about his gentle, meek disposition? Was he referring to the fact that he was innocent and pure?  Perhaps.

More likely, however, while Jesus does have his moments as a meek and gentle man, John’s reason for calling him the Lamb of God goes much deeper than a mere description of his personal disposition. In this strong declarative statement about Jesus by John the Baptist we are going to see that John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, was certain portions of the Old Testament in the light of Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

As the Lamb of God Jesus bore our sins on the cross. There are different things that come to mind when one hears the phrase “lamb of God.”

One of the first is the reference to the lamb in Isaiah 53. This is often a debated point between Jews and Christians. The Jews and even those who spend a lot of time studying the Old Testament argue that within Judaism the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was not interpreted messianically.

So, some are quick to not want this passage to necessarily refer to Jesus’ work on the cross but I think it is impossible not to and rather appropriate to do so. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead everything about how the Hebrew Scriptures were understood was radically changed. Before some things were unclear in their meaning and hard to understand, but now they are made clear and known to all – that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in the person Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Much of the Old Testament is now understood through this revelation.

(example/illustration) I once heard a story about some Jewish parents being upset a teacher was teaching about Christianity in one of their children’s classes. I can’t remember the context and do not know if this is real or not but to defend herself the teacher read from the passage she read in class. The parents immediately got upset and maintained their accusation against the teacher. Well, it turned out she was reading from Isaiah 53. The parents were in shock and they were silenced. It is hard to dispute that Isaiah prophecy is speaking of anyone other than Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

Lets look at the passage briefly.  Let’s read Isaiah 53:4-7.

This part of the prophecy really begins at 52:13 and carries over. It comes in a series of prophecies about a person scholars call the Servant of the Lord that begins at Isaiah 42. This person was to come and bring salvation to Israel and the nations by overthrowing oppression and injustice and destroying evil. In the process he would free Israel from their oppressors and restore the glory of God to the nation of Israel so that the nations would not want to destroy them but come rather to the mountain of the Lord in Jerusalem and worship God or YHWH, the God of Israel. One thing was overlooked however, this section of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Servant of the Lord, who is the Messiah.

Somehow it had been overlooked that Israel needed a spiritual deliverance as well as a physical one. This prophecy seems to be so misunderstood that even today, some 2000 years later, many Jews are still angry at Jesus and feel that he abandoned them and Judaism. In fact, many are so upset at him they can hardly say his name. I think the Jews of the day knew Jesus was the Messiah but they were too full of their own pride and heritage to see the depths of their own sin and need for forgiveness and deliverance. So when he died on the cross their hopes of physical deliverance were shattered.

The Bible makes it plain. All people have sinned and in that sin are separated from God. We need salvation and deliverance from our sins and failures to live up to God’s expectations and purposes for our lives. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world he is telling us that Jesus was and is the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation with God. In the person of Jesus Christ we see this prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled and brought to fruition.

Though Jesus came to bring deliverance to the people of Israel and the nations esteemed him not and we despised him – yet willingly and intently he bore our sins for us. He carried the weight of them upon his body and took the to the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. Imagine how hard this must have been – one who knew no sin bore the sins of the world on his body. What a burden to carry. But he carried them nonetheless and he will help us carry ours if we let him.

In preparing this sermon I found one person who wrote:

“Our sin was laid on Him as a heavy burden. The heaviest thing in the universe is sin. Neither angels nor men can stand under the load of sin—it sinks them lower than the lowest hell. When sin was laid upon the Son of God, He bore it, but He sweat as it were great drops of blood, and He was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. To have born up the WEIGHT of the world would have been nothing compared with bearing THE SIN of the world.”

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He not only bore our sins but he also took them away! 1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He took them away and washed us clean and made us new.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the paschal or suffering lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the Egyptians (Exodus 12). Restate it: As the Lamb of God Jesus saved us from our sins that plague our lives.

Like the plagues that nearly destroyed Egypt and Israel altogether – the blood of the lamb saved us from our sins. This is another understanding of John’s statement about Jesus. It brings up images of the exodus from Egypt and the institution of Passover. Because Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go he brought on Egypt many devastating and painful plagues the nearly destroyed Egypt altogether. Even so, Pharaoh would not relent. So God said he would kill every firstborn son in Egypt from Pharaoh on down to the lowest servant. But God knew that Israel would need a covering to protect them from what was about to happen. Lets read briefly Exodus 12:5-13.

The blood of the Passover lamb protected the people of Israel from the plague that took all Egypt’s firstborn sons. In Jesus coming as the lamb of God he fulfills the role of the Passover Lamb in that his blood saves us from the effects of our sins before God and allows us to experience his mercy and forgiveness.

Here I want to note the Exodus nature of Jesus’ deliverance on the cross.

Whereas the first Exodus led Israel out of Egypt, the house of slavery, the house of bondage, the second exodus is a spiritual deliverance from the slavery and bondage to sin leading God’s people in to a new kind of freedom, a life of freedom from the power and effects of sin and its hold on the human heart. By Jesus coming into the world as the Lamb of God he finished what Moses was ultimately unable to do: lead Israel into true and lasting freedom. The completion of this second Exodus (or as some call it, a new Exodus) took place when Jesus gave his life on the cross and then three days later rose from the dead. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, delivered us from a different and more powerful kind of bondage – bondage to sin and its enslaving power over hearts and lives.

It is the shed blood of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead that sets us free from sin and its control over hearts and lives. With this second exodus Jesus brought a different and altogether more important form of deliverance than what Israel had been expecting. He brought spiritual deliverance that as it said in Isaiah 53:5 brings us peace, peace in our hearts and if we apply it properly peace in our relationships with others.  This is the effect of the cross – it brings us peace vertically and horizontally, it brings peace with God and with others.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

As the Lamb of God Jesus took away our sins on the cross and has delivered us from the power and hold of sin and death.

In so doing he also will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic Lamb who in the end, will destroy evil in the world and firmly establish the Kingdom of God.

As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14).

Through the cross and resurrection Jesus overcame the powers of sin and death in the world and set in process his efforts to overthrow evil and injustice.

In Revelation 5 we Jesus portrayed as the Lion of Judah who has conquered, then as a Lamb with seven horns who has won the right to open the scroll, and call forth the redeemed and bring them into the Kingdom. Here we see the Lamb who leads the flock of God, who delivers them from their foes and rules them in the Kingdom of God. These portrayals of Christ as Lion and as Lamb are not paradoxical but parallel, since seven horns signify immense strength – the Lamb is a powerful Ram!

But he is presented as a Lamb because he “stands as one that has been slain.” He stands for he is the Living one who died and is alive forever (Rev 1:18); and he was slain in sacrifice, specifically as God’s Passover Lamb, to bring about the new Exodus for the liberty and life of the kingdom of God.

He is the slain yet victorious Lamb whose blood ‘ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people’ (Rev. 5:6,9). What we are seeing here an apocalyptic representation of the Christ adapted to the Christian doctrine of redemption; the all-powerful Christ wins salvation for the world through his sacrificial death.

It is the exact opposite of what Israel expected of the Messiah. Whereas they expected a kingly ruler to come and overthrow Roman oppression through victorious battle – Jesus waged a different kind of battle through giving his life on the cross. This was the true victory that he accomplished for us. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead Jesus has delivered us from that which plagues us and will also protect us from the coming end-time plagues God will use to finally destroy the wicked and establish his kingdom rule. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God brought us spiritual deliverance through submission to death as the Passover Lamb and his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father in Heaven.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14). He will protect us from the end-time judgment of the world and lead us into his eternal kingdom.

Will we follow? John the Baptist made this declaration about Jesus and then his disciples followed after Jesus.

Will we? Will we come after him and be his disciples following him as the Lamb of God, following him into a different way of living than what many often expect? Many want a victorious life free from any difficulty – but Jesus doesn’t lead us down that road. He calls us to a different way of living. He calls us a life centered on the cross and resurrection. Will we follow?


Quote of the Day: Ajith Fernando

I am reading an electronic copy of Ajith Fernando’s recently published preaching commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Crossway, 2012) (review forth coming).  In the preface he writes something I have never seen before in a commentary and I just loved it and now expect this work to be GOOD!  He writes:

My basic approach to the passages was to first do an inductive study of them using only the Biblical text with a very wide margin and my lead pencil and color pencils. Only after this did I check the commentaries for clarification, correction, and enrichment. I am so grateful to Drs. Robert Traina and Daniel Fuller who introduced me to the thrill of discovering riches from the Word through inductive study.

Awesome!  I know some people who read this may be thinking, “man what is with Brian and his pushing inductive study all the time?  didn’t he already go to seminary?!”   Well, they don’t teach inductive Bible study at seminary, well, not most.  You may learn it at Asbury where the Late Robert Traina was professor, but I haven’t heard of it being explicitly taught anywhere else, and I think it is a shame.

But anyways, I thought it was pretty cool to see Fernando talk about how he approached each passage in Deuteronomy over the 8 years it took him to write the commentary!

For those interested he also noted Christopher Wright’s Deuteronomy (Hendrickson, 1996) as the most helpful for preaching.

I wonder, have you heard much preaching out of the book of Deuteronomy besides the famous Shema passage?

Also, just to be clear, this is not an academic commentary, but rather really, a series of “expository sermons” on all the passages of the book, in this case, Deuteronomy.


a great article on preaching

about the great preacher Fred Croddock was put up on the cnn website.  I enjoyed reading it and learning more about him.    I haven’t read anything of his, but I want to now!  Give it a read!

Here are a couple statements I liked:

Maybe it was the stories he heard growing up, but Craddock gradually stumbled onto his preaching style.

While serving as a young pastor at a church in Columbia, Tennessee, he noticed that people responded more to his informal talks outside church service than to his sermons.

He started experimenting. What if you didn’t structure the sermon like a legal argument but more like an extended conversation? The listener — not the preacher — would be challenged to give the sermon its meaning.

Craddock never took to preachers who tried to bulldoze people into converting. He had seen plenty of preachers try to goad his father back to church. And his mother, by withholding the story of his near-death experience, had taught him that people’s faith decisions must be genuine, not coerced.

So Craddock became a preacher who didn’t preach. He once said that a “yes” is no good unless a “no” is possible.

The the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, one of his students, says of him and his style:

He assumes from the start that we are capable of attending to the text, handling some scholarship, dealing with open-ended stories, and drawing our own conclusions. He does not tell us what he is going to tell us, and then tell us what he told us. He sits down before we are ready. He lets us chew our own food.

I think that is a good approach.  Too many want to be spoon fed and don’t want to think too hard… or maybe they do?   More seminaries need to take his approach.  Expositional preaching is good but the narrative approach of Craddock is effective too.

Let me know what you think.


Book Review: T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation

It is with much thanks to Adrianna Wright of IVP for her graciousness in allowing me to read (in part) and review T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008).

This is a long overdue review (over a year) and for that I sincerely apologize.   I have to say at the out set I have not yet read this book in its entirety so there is just no possible way I can offer a full and complete review – so it will only at best be an inadequate partial review – why have I not read the whole thing? Well, its a big book from a theological standpoint.  It’s not light reading by any means, so though it is only 371 pages including endnotes, appendices, index and so on, there is a lot to read and chew on. It’s going to take me a while to really get through it – so instead of delaying I am writing a partial review.

In this book on Christology, Torrance “addresses both the heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ-centered and trinitarian theology.”  He “presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – true God and true man united in one person.”    Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ from his birth through to his resurrection and ascension, even to his second coming are of saving significance.  (quotes from the inside cover).

One question I want to address is what is the value or purpose of reading such a deeply theological work such as Torrance or even Barth and others for the pastor and preacher? The primary value lies in nature and purpose of church dogmatics.  The editor writes “Christian dogmatics is that discipline which which attempts to express the essential content of Christian faith and doctrine as an aid to the church in her teaching and preaching” (xxii).  In sum, the purpose of reading this particular work on Christology or even a work like Barth’s Dogmatics (even if one does not agree with all the finer points being discussed), is it allows the preacher to proclaim Christ and the Scriptures in a richer and deeper way.

Essentially, it adds theological depth to the sermon or teaching.

You want to be a strong pastor/theologian?  Read Torrance, Barth and the like!  🙂

Both Torrance and Barth (Torrance was for a time, a student of Barth) sought to put forth a dogmatics of Christian Theology for the help of the pastor so he or she could faithfully proclaim the Scriptures in an articulate and unified way that was line with faithful interpretation, historical Christian teaching including the Fathers (“all the saints” xxiii) thus proclaiming Christ and bringing glory to him.

Some of the leading features of Torrance’s theology are as follows:

The heart of Torrance’s theology is the Trinity and deity of Christ…. The truth of the Trinity, ‘more to be adorned than expressed,’ and the deity of Christ belong together (xxx-xxxi).

The deity of Christ is the guarantee of reconciliation.  Because Jesus Christ is God, he not only makes God known, but what he does is the work of God.  The words and acts of Jesus and of the Father are identical.  The deity of Jesus is therefore the guarantee that the reconciliation we see and receive in his the reconciliation of God himself (xxxi).

The full humanity of Christ is of equal importance with his deity.  If Jesus is not God then it is not God that has saved us, but equally, if Jesus is not man then man has not been saved.  The deity and the humanity of Jesus are equally important and neither without the other can bring salvation (xxxii).

The humanity of Jesus is the guarantee of human reconciliation and forgiveness.  In fact, the very act of incarnation is an act of reconciliation because now in the person of Jesus Christ, there is a permanent union of God and man (an act of reconciliation or re-union) (xxxiv).

The hypostatic union of God and man in the one person of Christ needs to be understood dynamically – not statically.  It needs to include the whole life of Jesus from his birth through to his resurrection.  This ‘hypostatic union’ had to be maintained throughout the life of Jesus not just at his birth.  “Throughout it all, the hypostatic union held fast as Jesus clung to the Father in utter and obedient dependence in prayer.  And the hypostatic union emerged victorious and unscathed in the resurrection as the eternal union of God and man in Christ Jesus” (xxxvi).

The hypostatic union is at the heart of the gospel.  “The doctrine of the union of God and man in Christ is the absolute heart of the gospel.  it tells us that the full reality of God in his love has come all the way to suffering and sinful humanity and has united himself with us. It tells us that we have been accepted in the fullness of our humanity and brought as we are into union with him in Christ. It tells us that because Christ is the permanent union of God and man, his person is the indivisible and living center of our salvation for all time”   (xxxvi).

There is much much more to this work than can possibly be reviewed here – so this will have to suffice!  I highly recommend this as a work for pastors to read and consume and integrate into their thinking and theology and preaching/teaching ministry.

crucified preaching

here is a good quote from E.M. Bounds:

Life giving preaching costs the preacher much — death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own soul.  Crucified preaching only can give life.  Crucified preaching can come only from a crucified man.

Not sure of the source though sharing it from a friends FB page. Gives one lots to think about huh?


blogging and preaching

I just wanted to post and let my readers and fellow bloggers (the very few who read my blog) know that I enjoy the conversations and more often than not some element of what we all (or you all) talk about end up in my sermons or teachings in one fashion or another (or at least how I understand what is being discussed) – sometimes directly or sometimes indirectly – there isn’t necessarily any one topic per se, it all just depends – some have helped me better understand the dynamics of God’s grace, that if often means favor, that God actually likes us and isn’t just tolerating us, etc).  Others have helped me better understand the message and purpose of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and even some conversations on the Revelation and even the Genesis narrative.   Even the conversations on the trinity help or get thrown in in one facet or another.  And believe it or not there was even a time I had our congregation read the Apostles Creed to begin the service!  lol!  (I want to do that more often).

So just know I may be a Pentecostal pastor but I do listen and try to learn from you all and either apply it to my own life or share it with our congregation (or those guest to the park who care to show up and join in).

Thanks for being there and speaking into my life and into the life of our congregation.

Book Reviews: Preaching Christ and Heralds of the King

Thanks to Angie Cheatham of Crossway Publishers for graciously allowing me to review these two books, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture (2003) and Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (2009).   The latter was designed to be a follow up companion reflecting the tradition and pattern of teaching in the former.  I was first introduced to Edmund Clowney by my preaching professor in seminary who is a graduate of Westminster.  Not sure if he took any classes under Clowney but he used his book Preaching and Biblical Theology in his classes and also had his book The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament as a recommended book.  I failed to pick up the Biblical Theology and Preaching book but have the Unfolding Mystery one.

The notion of preaching Christ in all of Scripture (also known as Redemptive Historical Preaching) is an intriguing one to me because I know that many people have differing opinions about if Jesus Christ the Messiah should be preached from the Old Testament or not.  Some say yes in every case and others say only if the reference to Christ is explicit since we need to let the Old Testament speak for itself.  The strongest case for redemptive historical preaching lies in primarily one passage of the Bible:

Luke 24:25-27 where it reads,

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

It in this passage the primary basis for redemptive historical preaching lies – that throughout the Scriptures we see, through progressive revelation, redemptive history unfolding the knowledge of Christ, and that not just in the New Testament but throughout the Old Testament as well.  Sure wish we could have been there to hear how Jesus himself expounded the Scriptures to those two men.

It is on this basis too that Clowney writes his book Preaching Christ in All of Scripture.  He begins Chapter One:

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament means we preach, not synagogue sermons, but sermons that take account of the full drama of redemption, and its realization in Christ.  To see the text in relation of Christ is to see it in it’s larger context, the context of God’s purpose in revelation.  We do not ignore the specific message of the text, nor will it do to write and all purpose Christocentric sermon finale and tag it for weekly use.  You must preach Christ as the text presents him.  If you are tempted to think that most Old Testament texts do not present Christ, reflect on both the unity of Scripture and the fullness of Jesus Christ….” (11).

I think Clowney would agree that you may not have to bring out the Savior in every preachable passage in the Bible but if you can, you should, and must, for it is Christ whom the Scriptures proclaim.  In the book Heralds of the King, the contributors, some who were his students, reflect that Clowney was so immersed in the Scriptures he could hardly not see Christ in them and if a student preached and OT passage and did not proclaim Christ he would ask “Where was my Savior?”

After finishing a sermon in class Joseph Novenson recalls Dr. Clowney asking him “Where was my Savior?”:

My memory has likely edited the experience significantly.  But what followed seemed to be an interminable silence on my part and on the part of the rest of the students in the room.  The reality of my having opened the Word of the Savior, designed to disclose the Savior, and having not spoken of the Savior settled on us all.  (27).

Another contributor to the book Heralds of the King, Charles Drew writes in regard to his preparing a sermon on 2 Samuel 9:

But as I sought to do this, I heard the ghost of Ed Clowney whispering in my ear, “If a rabbi could preach your sermon, you will not have taught it as you should.”  To teach my people to love one another without giving to them the Lord of love is to miss the heart of Scripture’s purpose, since Scripture is designed to “make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” 2 Tim. 3:15).  To call for love without celebrating the Lover is to turn the Bible into a book of moral advice.  And to do that is to strip it of its power by urging people to look to themselves rather than the Messiah for the resources they need.  So, as I exegeted 2 Samuel 9, I kept asking, “Lord Jesus, where are you here? How does this text help make my dear self-isolating flock-and me-wise for salvation through faith in you? (104).

I think it is pretty clear from the perspective of redemptive historical preaching that the primary motive of the sermon should be to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen and nothing else.  One strong point I find about this approach to preaching is that the focus is Christ and also the text – it is not a self help approach to preaching or one that focuses on felt needs and so on though I think there are times for that – our primary help should be Christ since he is the answer to all our needs, felt or unfelt – so preach and proclaim the message of the person and work of Christ.

So how do we do this then?  Well, seeing Christ in the Scriptures has to do with a way of interpreting the passages and interpreting the genre or literature.  Christ can be seen through symbolism and typology, memorials and through various speech-acts and words of the Lord.  One example of some symbolism might be with the passage in Ezekiel where we see the vision of the valley of dry bones.

The meaning of the vision is that the Lord has the power to deliver his people from exile and fill them with new spiritual life.  We know that this is exactly what Jesus did too in and through the cross – he brought us spiritual deliverance and new spiritual life – because his is the Word of the Lord.  Perhaps you may not agree with that but it is an example to consider.  We know most of the patriarchs are all “types” Christ in one fashion or another, that their work was merely a shadow of the work to come in and through Christ.  Jesus is the greater Moses, the greater Joshua, the greater David and so on.   By doing this, we preach Christ in all of Scripture.

So the heart of both books then are the sermons that model a redemptive historical approach to preaching the Word.  I do have to admit I had to read the first two chapters of Clowney’s book three or four times to really get the feel for what he is saying.  This probably isn’t a good thing as it could have been a bit more practical in figuring how to actually go about structuring a Christ centered sermon in the Clowney tradition.  His approach was more theoretical and theological.  This isn’t bad but might serve as a good companion to one such as Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon which is significantly more practical in its approach.

The primary critique I might have about Christ centered preaching is one that seems to come more by implication and that is that as Trinitarian Christians, we know Christ isn’t the only member of the Triune Godhead – there is also the Father and the Spirit and we know they all work together as one.  But I think if one preached a sermon on the person of the Father that wasn’t expressly Christ centered, I am not sure that would in any way be dishonoring to Christ.

The same would be in preaching on the Holy Spirit – Christ isn’t going to be dishonored if we preach on the person and work of the Spirit in a way that is not expressly Christ centered.  At least, that is how I see it.  There is a strong case for Trinitarian preaching too – so the only danger I see in redemptive historical preaching is the tendency to elevate it over other forms of preaching as though other forms some how dishonor Christ when they don’t.

That said, I definitely encourage pastors and teachers to consider doing some reading and studying up on learning to do Christ centered preaching – it will only expand you preaching repertoire and bring theological depth to your preaching (and to your congregation, class, small group, etc).

In my opinion, if the text allows for it you should obligate yourself to preach Christ from the passage in the redemptive historical approach – how could you not?

If you would like there is a Edmund P. Clowney Legacy board that has put up some 100 or more of Clowney’s sermons and lectures that relate to redemptive historical preaching.  Try checking out a few of his sermons and see what you think about this approach to preaching. Feel free too to let me know what you think.