Sometimes I get slapped in the face. I will be reading some book and the author will say something so profound that my face reels from the shock.
I have been reading Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching which is a compilation of chapters pleading with preachers to be faithful to the word.
In Chapter 6 R.C. Sproul Jr. is discussing, “Preaching to the Mind” when he says this:
With all due recognition of the technicalities and complexities of moving from ancient literature to modern ears, in the end, Paul wrote letters, David wrote Psalms, Isaiah made prophecies, and so forth. None of them gave us biological samples that belong under a microscope. If you find yourself preaching for six months on a single verse of the Bible, enthralling your audience with your mastery of the original languages, your precision of logical inference, your breadth of knowledge of the ancient Near East, you have forgotten the first thing—it’s a letter, a psalm, or a prophecy. We are to preach the text as it is written.
R. C. Jr. Sproul, “Preaching to the Mind,” in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, ed. Don Kistler (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 98.
His closing line: We are to preach the text as it is written.
I love that. I have been trying to hone my own thinking on preaching for several years now. Most of my thinking comes from simply listening to how bad my own sermons are. But part of my thinking arises from chasing the beautiful doctrines in Scripture, only to end the chase in a valley setting where these doctrines shine more beautifully than on the pages of my systematic theology.
What I mean is this: Doctrine first had a pastoral point to get to.
When Paul, David, John, Moses, Hosea wrote. While their writings overflow with doctrine, those doctrines are never one liners. They’re moving.
- They support a habit the author wants the people to start.
- They provide comfort for a suffering heart
- They challenge believers to live godly lives.
In each case, there was a point that did not terminate on the doctrine in abstraction. The point was terminate in the glory of God through the channel of a changed person who was taught that doctrine.
When I preach I try to preach the text as it is written, but I haven’t always done that. I believe the longest time I spent in one single verse was about 4 weeks. I was very proud of myself, believing that I had really feed God’s people.
The reality was, I had just obscured the overall message of God’s word.
I am not saying that I am really doing any better today, I try. But this has been a great reminder:
We are to preach the text as it is written.