In thousands of churches every Sunday someone enters the pulpit, reads from the Bible, and preaches a sermon.
The impression is conveyed or the claim is made that the sermon is based upon the biblical text, as when the preacher intones, “My text today is …” Even when such a preamble is omitted, the sequence, text/sermon, combined with the traditional use of the Bible in preaching, creates the distinct impression that a relationship between the two is likely to exist.
Whether or not there actually is such a relationship, people in the pews seem to feel there should be. It is a widely-shared assumption that the task of the Christian pulpit is to proclaim the message of the Scriptures.
Why? Why not the Dialogues of Plato or the plays of Shakespeare or the Great Books? The question will seem absurd to most church members who assume that the Bible is the uniquely-inspired Word of God.
But the question is becoming less absurd as the authority traditionally ascribed to the Bible becomes more and more eroded. Between the rising floodwaters of secularism on one side and a swelling tide of religious pluralism on the other, the Bible’s once formidable position as the unquestioned source of faith and morals is less awesome than in the past. These challenges, coupled with the near biblical illiteracy of multitudes of church members, make it imperative for preachers and other committed members of the church not to take the Bible for granted.
Since it is the Bible, and only the Bible, which bears witness to events which brought the church into being and in which the church finds its meaning and mission, a weakening relationship between Scripture and church is certain to impact the church adversely. Do we doubt, in fact, that much of the lethargy which afflicts so much of the church today, the confusion of identity and purpose and agenda, is traceable to a diminished experience with the Word which God speaks from the pages of Scripture?
In the present situation it is not surprising to hear Christian preachers being summoned to proclaim the biblical Word faithfully and responsibly. In seminaries, preaching workshops, and a burgeoning literature, we are being challenged to a preaching which takes the Bible seriously, seeking its inspiration and content within the text rather than elsewhere.
This challenge owes much of its impetus to the constructive results of two centuries of biblical scholarship which have greatly enriched our understanding of the Bible. Our knowledge of the biblical languages, ancient Near Eastern history and culture, the processes by which the biblical materials were composed and transmitted, and other areas of importance to students of the Bible has undergone revolutionary advance. Much within the Bible that was previously obscure has been significantly illuminated by this advancing scholarship.
Preaching, of course, is only one avenue of access to the Bible, but it appears to be an essential avenue for the ongoing life of the church. The skeptical need only consider the church’s experience with the “Word rigidly preached.” Born in synagogues and marketplaces through the preaching of the Torah and the Prophets as fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and nurtured in private homes and catacombs through the preaching of Gospel and Epistle alongside the earlier writings, the church has enjoyed its greatest periods of growth and vitality when the biblical story has been faithfully proclaimed.
The power of the preached Word to convict and convert, to inspire and instruct, to create and sustain the community of Christ has been profusely demonstrated. Mindful of the past and concerned about the present and future life of the church, biblically-committed Christians are challenging their preachers to shun the lure of popular byways and to hold tenaciously to the straight and narrow way of biblical preaching. Thirty years ago Donald Miller anticipated the kind of preaching which is being asked of us today when he wrote:
Expository preaching is an act wherein the living truth of some portion of Scripture, understood in the light of solid exegetical and historical study and made a living reality to the preacher by the Holy Spirit, comes alive to the hearer as he is confronted by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit in judgment and redemption.1
Although Miller’s definition has not been accorded canonical status, it serves to indicate the kind of preaching which many agree the church needs today. Such a view of the preacher’s task as this definition implies obviously rests on a kingsize bed of theological presuppositions regarding the nature of the Bible and its function within the faith community.
An examination of the church’s historical confessions will reveal an estimate of the Bible which resonates with these implied presuppositions. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643) opens with a series of statements pertaining to the Scriptures including the following:
The authority of the Holy Scriptures, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.2
The Presbyterian Confession of 1967 presents these unambiguous statements regarding the Bible:
The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written. The Scriptures are not a witness among others, but the witness without parallel…. God’s word is spoken to his church today where the Scriptures are faithfully preached and attentively read.3
Such statements reflect the convictions of Protestant churches from the time of the Reformation until now. Bernhard Anderson reminds us that it is a distinctive conviction of Protestantism “that the Bible may be, through the activity of the Holy Spirit, the medium through which God speaks to men today, calling them to respond in faith and obedience.”4
These convictions underlie the church’s historic use of the Bible in the pulpit, and they are the ultimate source of the present challenge to biblical preaching. Noting the popularity of personal religious biographies in some circles today, James Sanders comments: “God has a story, too, and it is His story which is our real purpose for being. It is God’s story in Torah and in Christ which is gospel for the Christian.”5 Hence the challenge to Christian preachers today to proclaim that story from the written Word.
Procedures and Principles
As every preacher knows, however, proclaiming the biblical story faithfully and responsibly is not an easy task. That story comes to us in writings whose history of composition and transmission covers more than a thousand years. Those writings consist of diverse types of literature, each set down in one of three ancient dialects, many having come through a long pre-literary process followed by an extensive literary history.
The nature of the biblical documents demands a study of their texts by means of responsible procedures and an interpretation of those texts according to respected principles. Through the process of investigation known as exegesis, the attempt is made to determine the actual sense of the text, i.e., what its author intended its words to mean. Biblical exegesis involves respect for, and faithful adherence to, the following procedures and principles of interpretation:
(1) Determination of the wording of the text and its translation
With characteristic British understatement, Stephen Neill observes: “In the first place it is not a bad idea to ascertain as far as possible what the ancient document actually says.”
Making this determination calls for a consideration of textual variants, a task greatly facilitated for readers of Greek, for example, by Metzger’s A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament. Those unfamiliar with the biblical languages can identify textual variants through footnotes in modern English editions of the Bible as well as through the use of critical commentaries.
Knowledge of the ancient languages is of great value in determining how the text should be translated, but lacking this skill one should read several translations and consult the exegetical notes in commentaries. Reading the text in more than one translation can also enable one to acquire some feeling for its content, structure, vocabulary, movement, and plot.
(2) Consideration of the various contexts
Every text belongs to several contexts: a paragraph, a chapter, a book, a tradition, and the Bible itself. “It is the initial task of the interpreter,” writes Miller, “to search for the purpose and plan of the whole book before coming to grips with its parts.”7
Knowledge of the character and structure of Deuteronomy or the Fourth Gospel is immensely important to the understanding of their various parts. The more immediate context is equally important since it may provide essential clues as to why this material comes where it does and how it relates to what precedes and what follows.
The most remote context, the Bible itself, may be as important as the nearer contexts for an appreciation of how the text relates to the whole of biblical revelation.
(3) Analysis of the literary character of the text
Literary analysis begins with the identification of the genre (literary type) which the text represents, such as historical narrative, prophetic oracle, and wisdom saying. Each genre arose within a characteristic setting, developed a typical structure, and served specific intentions.
Recognition of genre is requisite to the exegetical task. Prophetic oracles and apocalyptic visions, for example, represent two different literary types, and the failure to distinguish them invites spurious interpretation. Literary analysis also includes an investigation of source(s), authorship, date, place of origin, circumstances, and any other related information which could assist one in understanding the text as literature.
(4) Investigation of the historical situation of the text
In doing a literary analysis one is already asking some historical questions, but understanding a text usually calls for further historical probing, asking such questions as: Who are the people of whom the text speaks? What do we know of the history of the period from which the text comes or of which the text speaks?
Such inquiry draws not only upon the Bible but upon the mass of data now available because of historical and archaeological research.
An illustration of how historical investigation can assist in understanding a text can be seen in Psalm 137. Literary analysis can deepen our appreciation of this psalm as a “Community Lament,” while historical study places it in the Exilic/Post-exilic period which enables us to appreciate the circumstances under which it was composed and sung.
Historical studies have shed light on every period of biblical history, and thus on every part of the biblical story. As much as possible the exegete should be striving to grasp the historical context of the text since, if the text is torn loose from it, the author’s intended meaning is more difficult to determine.
(5) Examination of the theological significance of the text
While the Bible consists of literature which was written in specific historical circumstances, it is theological literature in the sense that it reflects a theological concern. It is essential to consider that concern if one intends to know what the author was intending to say.
Despite the problematic character of Biblical Theology as a discipline, theologians have made significant strides in identifying the various clusters of theological tradition represented within the Bible. Literary and historical analyses are necessary since they locate the text within a historical framework and theological tradition which bear upon one’s interpretation of the theology which informs the text.
Even the identification of the genre of the text has theological significance since, as Gene Tucker points out, “Genres of speech and literature are shaped not only by a people’s institutions and customs, but also by their theology. A study of those genres sheds light on that theology.”8
(6) Interpretation of the meaning of the text
The exegetical task comes to fulfillment when one has come to an understanding of what the author intended to say. Various interpreters call this the “literal” sense, the “actual” sense, or the “plain” sense of the text. Raymond Brown, drawing on Catholic terminology, speaks of it as the literal sense, which he defines as “The sense which the human author directly intended and which his words convey.”9
Luther insisted on this principle: “Only the single, proper, original sense, the sense in which it is written, makes good theologians. The Holy Spirit is the simplest writer and speaker in heaven and earth. Therefore his words can have no more than a singular and simple sense, which we shall call the written or literally spoken sense.”10
In the course of literary analysis and theological investigation the meanings of the words of the text will have been pursued and due attention will have been given to their syntactical relationships and other considerations which can determine their meanings. It is essential, of course, to know whether the language is to be understood literally or figuratively, and to consider the meanings of the words at the time the text was written.
All of the foregoing approaches to the text interact in the pursuit of an understanding of what the author was intending to say through the words of the text. The process assumes that the author wrote intentionally and meaningfully and that responsible interpretation and preaching must proceed from a reverent search for that meaning.
A careful exegesis of a biblical text is important because, as Sanders reminds us, “We can all read into a text what we need to find there. Biblical criticism at its best therefore is the best means of avoiding abuses of the Bible.”11
But we have not completed our task, if our intention is to preach from the text, until we have “listened” to the author’s meaning and have some sense of what the text is saying to the people of God past and present. This may require further reflection on the text or we may have already heard it in the process of exegesis.
At a practicum on preaching near the end of his life, Gerhard von Rad spoke of the “paradoxical mystery of all good exposition: the more we keep ourselves in the background, the more we seek to approach the text with clean hands for our task … the more directly will the text address us. What finer moment than when such a text begins to speak, often quite different from what was expected! … Do you not know the joy of exegesis? … The great discovery which all of you must make in preaching is that the texts themselves actually speak.”12
Von Rad’s experience, paralleled repeatedly in the experience of other biblical interpreters, is that the exegetical process which involves asking questions of the text becomes an exciting, joyful dialogue in which the text addresses its word, its questions, and challenges to the exegete. This is what Miller meant when he said that the “living truth” of Scripture is “made a living reality to the preacher by the Holy Spirit …”
The “living truth” implies a singleness of thought. In fact the text may be saying several things, but effective preaching calls for concentration on a single, unifying theme.
Craddock observes that “for him who would take the biblical text seriously, the difficulty (of limiting the sermon to a single theme) seems to be compounded” because many texts yield more than one possible treatment. “However,” he continues, “thorough exegesis of the passage in its context may reveal that all those ideas are really subordinate to and supportive of a larger overarching issue.”13
Because it is a sermon which is being prepared and not a Bible lesson as such, the choice of the central theme may also be influenced by one’s familiarity with the congregation to whom it will be preached. Keck calls the preacher’s task that of “priestly listening” to the text on behalf of the congregation.
While a spectrum of human needs is present in every congregation, each presents a unique configuration of needs and concerns at any given moment of its life. If it should happen that the word which the preacher hears the text saying does not commend itself as a word for this people at this time, the text may need to await the delivery of its word at another time.
As much as possible the text itself should be drawn upon for the substance and structure of the sermon. Material within the text may provide an outline, but the traditional three points are not essential to effective preaching and may even stifle it. The form of the sermon should flow rather from one’s persistent dialogue with the text, as well as from the intention of the sermon.
Killinger observes that it sometimes helps to clarify the purpose of the sermon by asking, “What am I trying to do to these people? What do I wish them to see?”14
He presents by way of example Mk. 6:45-52, the account of Jesus calming the troubled sea. Its theme is the power of Christ and the slowness of the disciples to understand. The purpose of the sermon on this text might be that of reminding people “whose lives are troubled that Christ still comes to us with the power to restore order and tranquility.” Thus the theme and thrust of the text are directed toward the people who are receiving this word.
Because the biblical texts are ancient, there is an inherent tension between the biblical past and the congregation in the present. The temptation is to sacrifice the one for the other, to be so immersed in the text that its word for today is not clearly heard, or to be so concerned with the present that its witness to God’s activity in the past is given short shrift.
When the tension is particularly acute, why not let it be voiced so that the congregation is invited to participate in the interpretation of the biblical word for today?
That tension between past and present is most obvious in preaching from the Old Testament. The effort to resolve it is often predicated on the assumption of “developmentalism,” the idea that the Old Testament reflects a primitive stage in mankind’s religious pilgrimage which has been superseded by the New Testament. This notion seriously impairs our interpretation of Old Testament texts as witness to the total story of God’s redemption and thus as mediator of revelation and meaning.
Achtemeier does not tire of reminding us that “… the present-day church is the historical continuity in faith of the covenant people of God. The ancient words of the Bible are mediators of the word of God to us because they were addressed to God’s chosen people, and we have now become that people through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.”15
The story of the Old Testament therefore is our story without which the New Testament story has no meaning, and we are without self-understanding. Because the church needs to hear that story, we need to make generous use of it in our preaching, learning through patient and informed effort how to preach it so that the church hears the Word of God it speaks.
The works of Achtemeier, Bright, Sanders, and others offer responsible models for preaching from the Old Testament which do not treat it as “an ancient book that reports … some events in history of the Near East,” to quote Craddock, but as God’s story mediating his saving Word.
“The closing decades of the twentieth century cry for preaching that is genuinely biblical.”16 Yet much of the preaching that is heard today continues to make superficial and often misleading use of the Bible.
Many sermons obviously originate, not in a study of the Bible, but in the preacher’s own mind. They are conceived when an idea, an insight, a concern or conviction seizes him so urgently that he feels inspired or compelled to share it from the pulpit.
If he also feels the need to associate his idea with a biblical text, he scans his memory bank or reaches for a concordance for assistance. His need is to find a text which somehow relates to the idea he intends to preach. When he finds such a text, he may draw something from it to assist him in constructing his sermon, or he may be satisfied to display the text simply as window-dressing.
Here, to cite an example, lies the manuscript of a sermon called, “Facing the Mystery of God,” prefaced by the reading of Isaiah 6:1-8. The sermon opens with the thought that everyone of us faces the “fourth dimension of life … which breaks through the dark clouds with hope and inspiration…. We call this fourth dimension God.”
After a lengthy introduction which includes two recent episodes from the preacher’s life, the sermon makes four points, starting with, “Every person has his or her own experience with God” and ending with, “Every person who opens his or her heart to Jesus Christ finds God in a new and richer way.”
Since the text relates Isaiah’s experience of grief and his encounter with God, one assumes that the preacher intends for the hearers to make the connection between the prophet’s experience and their own, but the sermon avoids the slightest mention of Isaiah. The text is read and laid aside. The four points are all illustrated by anecdotes from the preacher’s own experience or the experience of others, but Isaiah is not among them.
The sermon was preached by a distinguished minister to a sophisticated congregation, yet it exemplifies the most minimal use of the biblical text imaginable. The text is nothing more than window-dressing, or at best a subtly suggestive introduction to a topical sermon.
One is baffled by such uses of the Bible. What prompts a preacher to turn a deaf ear to the voice of such a magnificant text, disdaining the immense resource it offers? Why impoverish one’s preaching with anecdotal trivia when such treasures lie within reach? Yet this use of the text as a facade for one’s own ideas seems as commonplace as it is regrettable.
At least in the preceding example the preacher had the grace not to mutilate the text by twisting it to serve some homiletical purpose, or by wringing from it something it does not say. Alas for the text whose words present the preacher with a “sermon-starter,” a springboard or a thematic thread for a sermon whose content consists entirely, or substantially, of the preacher’s own clever ideas. By the repetition of a few biblical words, catchwords, he appears to be preaching “from the Bible.”
As a matter of fact, the habit of reaching for such catchwords tempts us to bypass the strenuous path of biblical exegesis and to disregard utterly what the writer of the text intended his words to mean. Consequently, many sermons of this variety not only fail to present the word of the text but actually misrepresent it grievously.
Miller presents a slightly amusing example of such a sermon on “The Challenge of the Christian Home,” based on Isaiah 39:4: “What have they seen in your house?”17 The question of the text, with its key word “house,” serves as the springboard and theme. The sermon asks the hearer to consider whether parents and children are fulfilling their responsibilities as members of a Christian household.
It is a worthy subject, but it is not the subject of the text. A brief examination of the text will show that when the prophet asked his question, he was referring to Hezekiah’s palace, especially his treasury and armory. It was a rhetorical question concerning the king’s financial and military resources which he had displayed to envoys from Babylon, and which the prophet warned would be carried off to that place.
The text has no word which pertains to the responsibilities of parents and children in a Christian household. Here is a sermon which not only disregards the plain sense of the text but thoroughly distorts it.
This critique of topical sermons robed in the garb of biblical texts is not intended to denigrate topical preaching as such. Who would deny that topical preaching has its place in the church? Even so staunch an advocate of biblical preaching as John Bright confesses that he would not go so far as to suggest that every sermon must be based on a specific text.18
Sometimes the preacher feels compelled to address an issue for which no text seems appropriate, or he is inspired to preach a sermon based on a film, a novel, or an experience which has touched his life. It is not inconceivable that such a sermon can be a bearer of truth and grace, a faithful presentation of the gospel even though no biblical text is employed.
Yet in view of the “famine of the Word” which afflicts our present generation, should not topical sermons be the exception rather than the rule? Can there be any rationale for the frequent preaching of sermons which find their inspiration and content somewhere outside the Bible? And if we feel we must make some use of the Bible, if only as a cosmetic window-dressing or a thematic springboard, should we not strive to avoid misrepresenting the text?
That such preaching can be done responsibly has been amply demonstrated by the sermons of such pulpit stalwarts as James Stewart, David H. C. Read, and Ernest Campbell. These preachers have often used a text to introduce or to give thematic unity to a sermon which was otherwise topical in content. Yet by showing respect for the text and letting it speak its word instead of twisting it to say something altogether foreign to the meaning of the text, they have allowed the text to be heard and have drawn from it implications for the life of faith.
Stewart’s sermon on “The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth,” whose thematic text is Rev. 19:6, is not an exposition of the text, but a drawing out of implications from the text. The words of the text reverberate throughout the sermon, and each subdivision of the sermon presents a convincing implication of its mighty affirmation: the liberation of life from worry, fear and self-contempt, the ultimate defeat of evil, and the comfort of sorrow. None of this sits in a strained relationship with the text; all of it flows naturally out of the text.
One senses here that Stewart has heard in this text the Word of the living God; that Word has come alive to him and he brings it forward with responsible imagination to the church today. Such preaching shows the possibility of using a text as a suggestive, thematic word for a topical sermon which is faithful to the sense of the text.
More to be questioned are sermons which call upon the text as a prooftext to legitimize the preacher’s doctrine or to augment his argument. To a degree every preacher who uses the Bible in the pulpit calls upon it from time to time to answer questions, to address issues, or to undergird his church’s teaching or program. But it is a hazardous practice at best which calls for stringent self-discipline.
When we treat the Bible as a catalogue of dogmatic propositional statements, we are ignoring its nature as confessional literature and we are highly susceptible to distorting the sense of the biblical text.
The common thread which runs through the preceding varieties of preaching, and through much of the preaching which enjoys popularity today, is the secondary role which the Bible plays in the creation of the sermon. Even sermons for which the text serves as a springboard or thematic element, and which may actually be inspired by the text, frequently derive their content from the preacher’s archives of anecdotes and arsenal of imagination instead of the biblical word.
Whenever the text plays a minimal role in the substance of the sermon, its voice tends to be muffled, if not silenced. Since the task of biblical preaching is to hear and proclaim the Word which is present in the biblical story, then, as Miller suggested, “the thought of the sermon should come naturally out of a passage of Scripture.”19
More difficult to fault are sermons which arise from the preacher’s own prayerful reading of the text and his proclamation of whatever word the text has spoken to him, without having engaged in an exegetical study. Preachers have been approaching the Bible this way throughout the church’s history with both salutary and sorrowful results.
One finds it difficult to argue that the Bible only speaks authentically to us when we pursue the exegetical process. Every preacher has had the experience of being confronted by the voice of God simply by reading the Scriptures.
Yet to disdain a serious study of the Bible on a regular basis in favor of a prayerful reading only, is to make oneself vulnerable to hearing a word which meets one’s own need at the moment quite apart from what the biblical writer intended his words to mean. The practice then becomes one which parallels the inkblot test in which one sees whatever his own imagination or psychological makeup or emotional status dictates.
Preaching the Word of God in Scripture is a profoundly responsible task, a task which makes demands upon the preacher as an interpreter of the biblical faith. When the church gathers for worship and the preacher enters the pulpit to preach, his task is not simply to declare what this biblical text means to him as an individual who has not made the effort to discover its intended meaning. His task is to present as faithfully as he can what the author of the text was saying and what that text has been understood to mean by those who have labored over it, applying themselves to an understanding of it and applying its understanding to themselves.
To substitute a devotional reading of the Bible for an informed encounter with it is a high-risk operation if one’s intention is truly to proclaim the Word of God.
In view of the preceding arguments it may come as a surprise to be told that some of the ablest advocates of biblical preaching warn us against searching for the “timeless truth” of a text, which, having been found needs only to be translated into language appropriate to today’s hearers. Unless the reader is already familiar with this concern, he may well be confused to hear it at this point, but it is a concern which needs to be heard. Consider the following complaint by Achtemeier:
Probably the principal error found in modern preaching from the prophetic books is that of turning their messages into timeless, eternal truths. Prophetic texts are lifted from the context in ancient Israel and applied as ‘spiritual truths’ directly to the modern congregation. This distorts the very nature of the biblical witness.20
Although this statement happens to refer to preaching from prophetic books, the criticism it makes applies to preaching from other biblical books as well, as the following critique of thematic preaching indicates:
The proposition of such ‘thematic preaching’ in relation to the Bible is that there is a major idea or message which can be distilled out of the text, and the function for such preaching, then, has been to recover that major theme …. Very frequently they (preachers) will study a text until a sermon ‘idea’ is prompted by it. The rest of the biblical passage then falls to the side and the ‘idea’ is developed into a sermon which sometimes uses the text as a pretext or which often has little to do with the text in context.21
What is lacking in this search for the timeless, abiding truth of a text is the realization that God continues to speak through the biblical story itself. “It is through the story of human life touched by God that he reveals himself,” says Thompson. “The text has meaning only insofar as it is seen as part of that story.”22
The Bible is not an anthology of spiritual aphorisms and moral maxims. It is a story, God’s story and ours, and biblical preaching is the telling of that story as we hear it told, and sometimes retold, in the very texts of the Bible.
Needless to say, this does not mean that the preacher simply repeats verbatim the words of the text or simply presents them in paraphrase form for variety’s sake. It means that, having devoted himself to an honest, earnest dialogue with the text, and having heard the word it would speak to the church today, the preacher brings that word to the congregation. It is the “speaking” of the text which is the subject of the sermon, not some pearl of wisdom which the preacher has extracted from the text.
Who has not heard a sermon, or possibly preached one, from the words of Amos 4:12, “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel?” The text offers such an instant word that one is tempted to forego the task of opening up an “informed dialogue” with it, listening to what it said to eighth-century Israel before trying to present its word to the church today.
The meaning of such a text seems self-evident and timeless: divine judgment is inevitable. But there is far more within this text than that truth, and only by treating the text seriously as a word spoken and written to a particular people at a particular time for a particular purpose will its full relevance and authority and challenge to God’s people today be heard.
It has not been our intention to treat the subject of biblical preaching exhaustively, but to call attention to the concern for it which is felt by many in the church today, to sketch out responsible procedures for the treatment of biblical texts, to indicate some of the stages in moving toward biblical proclamation, and to review some common varieties of sermons whose use of Scripture tends to be minimal or misleading. Let the words of Paul Scherer sum up the matter:
The God of the Bible acts, and the story of His dealing with us, which is the drama of His redemption, becomes His Word.
… From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, from the place where Adam hid to the place where Jesus prayed, all the way along that drama goes forward and the Voice comes.23
1. Donald G. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon, 1957), p. 26.
2. Jack G. Rogers and Donald K. McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), pp. 468-470.
3. Ibid., pp. 470-471.
4. Bernhard W. Anderson, “The Bible,” Handbook of Christian Theology (New York: Meridian Books, Living Age Books 18), pp. 35-40.
5. James A. Sanders, God Has a Song. Too (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), p. 5.
6. Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1961 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 61.
7. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching, p. 42.
8. Gene M. Tucker, Form Criticism of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), P-21.
9. Raymond Brown, “Hermeneutics,” The Jerome Bible Commentary 2 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 607.
10. John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament (Nashville: Abingdon, 1967), p. 43.
11. Sanders, God Has a Story, Too, p. 13.
12. Gerhard von Rad, Biblical Interpretations in Preaching, Trans, by John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1973), pp. 11-18.
13. Fred B. Craddock, As One Without Authority (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), p. 103.
14. John Killinger, Fundamentals of Preaching (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 49-50.
15. Elizabeth Achtemeier, The Old Testament and the Proclamation of the Gospel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973), p. 171.
16. William D. Thompson, Preaching Biblically (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981), p. 9.
17. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching, pp. 56-58.
18. Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament, p. 167.
19. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching, p. 25.
20. Elizabeth Achtemeier, “The Theological Message of Hosea: Its Preaching Values,” Review and Expositor 72 (Fall 1975), 473.
21. Elizabeth Achtemeier, “The Artful Dialogue,” Interpretation 35 (January 1981), 18-31.
22. Thompson, Preaching Biblically, p. 61.
23. Paul Scherer, The Word God Sent (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 24.
This article originally appeared in Faith and Mission, a publication of the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
From Text to Sermon: the Proper Use of the Bible in Preaching
In thousands of churches every Sunday someone enters the pulpit, reads from the Bible, and preaches a sermon.