Do Christian preachers actually need to preach from the
Bible? Apparently yes and apparently no. Apparently 'yes' in that it seems
some preachers feel obliged to at least use a verse from the Scriptures
to pre-empt their message which may not necessarily bear any relationship
to that verse. And apparently 'no' because some preachers don't even feel
the need to use even a verse of Scripture, or make any reference to it!
Whether you preach topically or expositorily you must undertake the process
Exegesis is the process of getting "out" ('ex')
of the text what is truly there in the first place. The opposite to exegesis
is eisogesis. This is the process of putting "into" the
text something that wasn't intended by the author. So let's explore how
to do eisogesis (although most people don't actually need to be instructed
on how to do this!).
When a preacher has something to say and
uses a Scripture text to say it, chances are he/she is about to commit
the error of eisogesis. This is actually the wrong starting point for sound
preaching. The bedfellow of eisogesis is allegorisation. Allegorising a
Scriptural passage is fraught with hermeneutical problems. It might be
argued that most preachers lack the hermeneutical skills to rightly divide
to Word using allegorisation. In some respects allegorisation of a Bible
text is almost a "blank cheque" for the preacher to make the
Bible say whatever they want. Here is an alarming real life example of
this from Dr John MacArthur-
An extreme example of the perils of allegorizing
was the young couple that came to one of our assistant pastors to get
counseling about their marital problems. He began talking with them,
and after about thirty minutes he asked them, "Why did you ever get
married? You are miles apart!" "Oh" said the husband. "It was the sermon
the pastor preached in our church." "And what was it?" "Well, he preached
on Jerico." "Jerico! What does that have to do with marriage?" "Well,
he said that God's people claimed a city, marched around it seven times,
and the walls fell down. He said if a young man believed God had given
him a certain young girl, he could claim her, march around her seven
times, and the walls of her heart would fall down. So that's what I
did, and we got married." "That can't be true," said our assistant
pastor. "You are kidding aren't you?" "No, it's true," said the husband. "And
there were many other couples who got married because of the same sermon!
I recently attended a pastors conference where the keynote
speaker allegorised the story of Abraham in Genesis 15. Each of the vultures
that swooped Abram's sacrifice were made to allegorically represent a challenge
that Abraham and his successive generations faced. The first vulture that
Abram faced according to this preacher was the "vulture of barrenness".
Due to his inability to deal with this vulture, because of his lack of
faith(!), he had to wait 25 years before he received the fulfilment of
what God had promised. Needless to say I was staggered to hear this, but
even more staggered to realise that most of my colleagues accepted what
was being said! The next vulture that swooped was the "vulture of
famine" which tormented Isaac in Genesis 26. Then came Jacob's "vulture
of disappointment", and so on. While the preacher actually had some
good points throughout his message based on his own life experience, the
Scriptures had been thoroughly morphed to fit into his sermon.
Eisogesis is at best unwise, and at worse really dangerous!
Exegesis seeks to discover the intended meaning of a passage.
It demands that the preacher do his homework to learn the historical, cultural,
and Biblical contexts. For example, in 1Corinthians 11 we read of women
wearing head coverings. Without doing proper exegesis we might assume this
was akin to some kind of "hat". But if we were to do exegesis
on this passage we would learn that historically these head coverings were
more akin to Middle Eastern veils, rather than Western hats. Secondly,
we would learn that women wore these head coverings as a statement of modesty
and propriety which were a public statement of their morals. Thirdly, we
would discover the context of Scripture does not prescribe that all women
should do this.
I would recommend that every preacher should read Fee Stewart's
book How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. They ellaborate on
these things very adequately.
To do exegesis the correct principles of
Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) need to be understood.
The first principle is
context. Always read the entire passage/chapter/book before
preaching from a single verse. I would recommend referencing several
translations of a passage also, and unless you are a linguistic scholar,
avoid trying to expound the original languages. If preaching on any
verse from 1Corinthians, answer the following questions: What were
the main issues Paul was addressing in this epistle? What problems
were confronting the Corinthian church at the time of this epistle?
The second principle
is consistency. Never interpret a
text so that your interpretation contradicts the overall message of
Scripture. Should women keep silent in church based on one obscure
verse of Scripture? Should we obey every instruction in Scripture without
doing proper exegesis? What about this verse-?
(2 Tim 4:13 NIV) When you come, bring the cloak that
I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
By failing to preach from the Bible, preachers are actually
preaching without any real authority. We must preach Scripture, but it
is imperative that we do correct exegesis. Without it we preach eisogetically
which can cause people to abandon sound principles of judgment and even
justify wrong living. Yes, exegesis is important!
HOUSES HAVE FRAMES.
BODIES HAVE SKELETONS.
BUT APPARENTLY SERMONS
DON'T NEED STRUCTURE!
I remember how difficult it was trying
to tell an older preacher that his preaching was terrible, woops, I mean sub-optimal.
When he asked why I thought this was so, I replied that not only couldn't
most of our congregation understand what he was actually trying to say,
I myself actually had no idea what he had just said. When I asked him if
he himself could actually tell me in one sentence what he had just preached,
he couldn't. Then he launched into a tirade about why he didn't want to
preach like every other preacher.
What he didn't want to do was preach a sermon
which had a pre-set structure. What he actually needed to do was preach to
a structure, learn the craft, then improvise from there. I explained to him
some of the principles of communication which were peculiar to preaching.
You see, preaching is not like giving a lecture, a talk, or a presentation.
All of those things happen in churches, but they are not necessarily preaching.
Preaching is a different form of communication because it demands a response.
It is an appeal. It is also a form of earnest pleading for people to change.
It is too important an opportunity to just ramble, waffle, or just make-it-up-as-you-go-along!
It demands that it has a structure so that it can be followed and understand
by its audience.
#1 - SIMPLICITY
When you know what you have to say, then simplify
it into one sentence. Chances are that if you can't then you probably don't
know what you have to say. Simplicity also demands that you aim to limit what
you say. Don't try to say too much about a lot, rather say a little about
a little. Keep it simple.
#2 - THEME
Now this is where the fork in the road between
average preachers and good preachers divides. If a preacher starts off talking
about the love of God and then introduces the story of Noah before talking
about the seven churches of Revelation and their relationship to the Harlot
of Babylon who is in cahoots with the World Bank which has caused global unemployment
and made the world a terribly unloving place, then that preacher is not paying
attention to their theme. The theme of a message should be the thread that
weaves its way through the whole message.
#3 - PROPOSITION
After people have heard what you have to say,
what do you want them to do? Whatever you propose that they should do is called
your proposition. Every sermon conclusion should integrate the proposition
into it. When you get to the conclusion of your message and you say- "Therefore..."
it should be obvious by then what you expect your hearers to do because you
have preached simply, stuck to your theme, and known exactly what you wanted
your listeners to do.
These three principles will give a message
Andrew Corbett, December 2002
- - -
I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.
John 5:25 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia
Download Dr Corbett's eBook The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.
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