Psalm 16:5

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

God's Warth is Coming... Are You Ready?

You had better listen to the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter, but he that does the will of my father in heaven.” If ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live. If you live after the flesh, you’ll die! The cross does not give us a minor shift or two with regard to a few of our ethical and religious values. The cross radically disrupts the very center and citadel of your life from self to Christ. And if the cross has not done that, YOU’RE NOT A CHRISTIAN! My Friend face it, young rogue, you’re not a Christian until the cross has radically disrupted the very center and citadel of your life! And brought you from a life of commitment to serve self…What are the focal points of the reign of your self? If you’ve gone to the cross in union with Christ, it’s been shattered!"
- Al Martin

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spurgeon on Verse by Verse, Expositional Preaching

"I don't believe God the Holy Spirit ever intended men to publish three months before hand lists of sermons that they were going to preach because there always will arise changes in providence, and different states of mind both in the preacher and the hearer, and he will be a very wise man who has got an Old Moore's Almanack correct enough to let him know what would be the best sort of sermon to preach three months ahead. He had better leave it to his God to give him the same hour what he will speak, and look for his sermons as the Israelites looked for the manna, day by day." - C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit, pg. 12

I must admit that I tend more towards this view than most of my co-patriots in the cause in which I work, though I understand and respect their views. I do not believe that it is a sin to preach through a book of the Bible verse by verse - necessarily. (It can be sin if by it the preacher neglects the obvious needs of the congregation - God says feed my sheep. This is a command not an option.) In fact, it can be very helpful in giving a sound overview of the Word of God to a congregation. But I would contend that it is mostly that - a sound overview - unless you creep through the book and do topical messages on each topic discussed. I have yet to see an in depth study of a doctrine which did not come down to a topical message. In order to flush the whole counsel of God out on an issue, the preacher needs to use all that God has said on this subject. Consider also that the day to day needs of a congregation do not always line up with the next passage of Scripture. Paul looked at the Galatians and said, you need to understand the law. You are using it wrongfully. But what if he had been an expositional, verse by verse only preacher who was preaching through the book of Esther at the time? How shall he deal with his churches misunderstanding of the law without doing just what he did? A topical message meeting the people's need.

I have heard it said that topical preaching is dangerous because the preacher can jump on hobby horses then. True, but since when are we to throw out what is nearly the exclusive style of preaching in the New Testament because of the abuse of man? There have been abuses of the office of the elder, but we are not to throw out church leadership. There have been abuses by money hungry preachers, but to chose not to pay the preacher is still stealing. And there are abuses of expository preaching as well when men fail to do what Christ says - feed my sheep. Expository preaching does not guarantee the whole counsel of God is preached, it does not guarantee that the preacher is being led by the Holy Spirit about what to preach (the next six verses - who needs to pray about that?), it does not guarantee that the people will have in depth knowledge and understanding of the great doctrines of God which are interwoven throughout the pages of Scripture. I would more contend that Spurgeon is right - but that it only works if the preachers are being led by the Holy Spirit. If they are not, they will end up on hobby horses. But conversely, if they are not led by the spirit, though they preach expositionally verse by verse, they will not be feeding their congregation as they should.

Another danger with verse by verse preaching - which I have personally witnessed - is forcing the text to deal with something that it doesn't. You say, how could that be? In verse by verse preaching, doesn't it get dictated by whatever is being talked about? It should, but that is not always the case. I have seen cases where a certain topic was needing to be dealt with so a book of the Bible which touched on that topic was chosen to be preached through. But because they wanted to deal with that topic in every message, the book was misinterpreted and forced to say what the preachers wanted to say in every message on the book. It was verse by verse, but because the author did not actually deal with the topic as it was needing to be dealt with at the time, the book was forced to say things it didn't say and badly misinterpreted.

So how should I conclude? The issue is the Spirit of God. Without the Holy Spirit leading and guiding the preaching of the church, neither topical expositional preaching nor expositional, verse by verse preaching through whole books of the Bible will solve the church's problem by default. We tend to focus so much on the method we forget the only One that can make the Word effectual - The Spirit of God. The fact is, Paul preached topically. Peter preached topically. Christ preached topically. To throw out topical preaching is to throw out the New Testament. Let us not become better than Paul in our own eyes, but let us be led by the Spirit that we may "Feed Christ's sheep."

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