Dr. Guthrie defines expository preaching as an oral proclamation of a properly interpreted passage of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, by a God-called messenger, to an assembled body of believers, for the glory of God and to accomplish His purposes. Now, let's delve into an explanatory discussion of each element in this definition.
First, let's examine %60an oral proclamation%60. In this, I am reminded of the words of Paul as he writes to the Romans, %60How can they believe if they have not heard?%60. Dr. Guthrie makes note of the fact that our culture is one that is overly concerned (perhaps obsessed!) with the VISUAL. One of my roles as Associate Pastor is to lead worship at our church. I put the words of each song we sing up on the screens for all to read. I clocked it once, and it occupied close to two hours of my time simply picking out visual backgrounds for each song! I then shifted to simply black backgrounds, noting all the other things I could be doing with those two hours. God calls men to ORALLY proclaim the truths of His Word. After all, it is His WORD that brings about salvation and change in the lives of people. The very word %60preacher%60 means %60to proclaim%60. We, as preachers of the Gospel, are called by God to orally proclaim His Word to the masses. If we do everything else BUT this, then we have failed in our responsibilities. However, if we do ONLY this, then we will have succeeded in carrying out God's call on our lives.
Next, let's look at a %60properly interpreted passage of Scripture%60. As preachers, our calling is to preach upon various passages of Scripture. This calling presupposes that we will actually interpret them properly! There are several elements of this. The first is that we must examine closely surrounding context. How does our passage of Scripture fit into the immediate context, the context of our book, and the context of the Bible as a whole? If we read our passage in isolation and derive a meaning from it, and then try and fit that into the surrounding context and it doesn't work, we must change our interpretation. The text can never mean to us what it did not to the original readers. Also, one must consider language and type of literature. If the type of literature is poetic and metaphorical (like much of the Psalms), then one should not interpret the text to be prophetic, apocalyptic, etc. A properly interpreted passage of Scripture is absolutely necessary for the preacher to be effective in his calling.
Next, let's look at being %60inspired by the Holy Spirit%60. I recall the story in Dr. Guthrie's book of the young man who proclaimed that, even though he only had twenty minutes, when the Spirit got to moving, nobody knew when he might stop! This young man, who later repented, was inspired by his reputation, his ego, and other things. We are called to be inspired by the Holy Spirit as we preach the Gospel. Many, many biblical examples shed light on this fact for us. Moses is my favorite. When called by God in Exodus at the burning bush, Moses expressed his own hesitations is speaking and the Lord, in His grace, said that Aaron could speak for him. And yet God had called Moses simply to open his mouth rather than to proclaim wondrous truths out of his own abilities. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, says that He preaches Christ only and Him crucified. Everything else, says Paul, is DUNG! John 14 tells us that the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is the role of THE SPIRIT, not of JUSTIN DUBOSE! All I am called to do is respond to the call of the Lord. When someone is trusting in their own abilities, the ceiling of their ministry is set very low. However, when someone trusts the Spirit to inspire them and their message, the Lord can (and will) do wonderful, powerful, life-changing work.
Next, we turn to the idea of a %60God-called messenger%60. Charles Spurgeon defined the calling of God in these terms (which I'll paraphrase). When you find that you have tried all other things and exhausted all other avenues, you discover that all you can do is preach the Gospel. When this is all you can do, you know that you are called to the ministry. The call of God on someone's life is one that is overwhelming and will not leave. In my own life, I knew that I had heard from the Lord on April 12, 1998 to %60preach the Gospel and play the keyboard like Bro. Kenny%60 (my youth pastor at the time). In early 2007, I knew that I heard from the Lord that, specifically, He was calling me to the Army Chaplaincy. In the case of the first, I did not run from the call - for I was eager to hit the streets and preach! In the case of the second, I ran like a scared little girl! I had NO desire to get my undergrad degree - much less a THREE YEAR MASTERS! So, I did a slew of other things. I drove an eighteen-wheeler, I sold construction equipment, I did everything BUT pursue this calling. And yet, God would never let me forget His calling - for it was something far beyond me. And so, even though I had made life much more difficult for myself, I finished school. It took working two jobs, staying up late to watch children, and going to school more than full-time, but the Lord saw me through! The Lord told Jeremiah that He had been called from birth, and this is the case with us all. If someone is a %60God-called messenger%60, the Lord will lead them to a pulpit! If they are not, they will find that out as well. God is sovereign!
Next, let's examine the "assembled body of believers". Acts 2:42 records for us what the church is called to do. They are called to ASSEMBLE and fellowship, study the Word, pray, and break bread together (I think!). The church is an assembled body of believers. Most of the Bible is written to Christians, providing them with encouragement and instruction for holy living. Jesus provides us with the greatest example of this. When would He preach? When people were GATHERED - when they were assembled together. He would preach to EVERYONE willing to listen. He has preached to one solitary individual (like the woman at the well) or thousands of people (like the feeding of the five thousand). We are called to preach the Word to ALL people.
Finally, we are called to do all this "for the glory of God and to accomplish His purposes". When preaching, it is VERY easy to accomplish our own purposes. It is very easy to glorify ourselves. (Our ministry, I think, won't last long, but it can be done.) The Lord taught me a great lesson in my current position. I was scared to death when I first accepted the position. I was going from a church of about 35-40 to one of about 500! I was terrified, and I think people knew this. Yet, through it all, I simply asked the Lord to keep me humble and give me HIS vision for the people. I discovered that, through it all, people were very accepting when they could see humility and genuineness. People who were initially vehemently opposed to me, came around months later and we were the best of friends. All this because God's glory was what was being sought! When this is the case, God honors. God HAS honored and I am incredibly humbled that He allows me - and you too, sir - to accomplish His purposes. No higher calling, man!
The two rules of preaching, as Dr. Guthrie outlines, are to a)Be Uncompromisingly Biblical and b)Be Unquestionably Interesting.
Let's look at Being Uncompromisingly Biblical. We are called to minister the message of Jesus Christ - the words of Scripture. John 1 tells us that the Word was with God and the Word was God - this is Jesus Christ. We read in Paul's letter to Timothy that the word of God is "God-breathed", and Peter writes that "men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to record the words of Scripture". We must never stray from God's Word. John, in Revelation 22, tells us that is anyone adds or takes away from the words of this book, then plagues will be added to Him and he will be removed from his inheritance in the tree of life. In preaching, we have the potential to shoot ourselves in the foot by being alot of things other than the Bible! However, we are called, and we must, be uncompromisingly Biblical.
We must always be interesting. The fact remains that if people are not interested, they simply will not listen. Sometimes this means changing our approach. The first church I was in was a polo shirt and jeans brand of church. When I went to my second church, I discovered that this would not do. This was a suit and tie brand of church. This, to me, is part of being interesting. You must first be interested in those whom you preach to. They will not listen to what you have to say if your values are out of tune with theirs. In your message, however, you must hold their attention. Dr, Guthrie points out that minds will begin to wander to all sorts of things if you are not interesting. People don't get as excited about the "jot and tittles" of Scripture as you do! This is an easy way to lose their attention. Use plenty of illustrations - ones that are actually pertinent to them. This requires living in the same world as they do! As Dr. Guthrie said, you must limit your "Civil War stories" or people will begin to think that you lived through it! Be biblical, but also don't be boring!
The three aspects of communication are the Message, the Messenger, and the Masses. All three aspects of communication must be factored in when putting together a message. First of all, what IS the message? How does this message connect to the masses who will be listening to it? How can the messenger effectively and accurately get the message across to the masses? Dr. Guthrie mentions walking though the sanctuary remembering all the people listening as you put your message together. As a messenger, be genuine! The masses will appreciate genuineness and they spot "fakeness" a mile away! If any of these three aspects of communication are absent, the sermon will suffer. The message will not be done justice, the masses will not hear from the Lord, and the messenger can get in the way of both!
The homiletical bridge includes the following elements:
1) The M.O.T. - this is the main objective of the text. What does the text seek to accomplish in the lives of those who read it? Most often it will be for Christian Living or Evangelism. This should be the over-arching goal of your message.
2) The C.I.T. - this is the central idea of the text. The CIT puts the reader in the context of the original readers or hearers. What did this massage mean to them?
3) The Context - How does this passage fit into the Immediate, the Prior, and the Book Context? This is extremely important, for it helps the preacher understand what the meaning of the text CANNOT be. Something can never be taken out of its context and still retain meaning.
4) The Thesis - This is the present tense of the CIT. What does this passage mean NOW? What does this passage mean to those who are listening to what you are preaching?
5) Plural Unifier - This is a single word (that is plural!) that connects all of your outline points. For example, in a recent message I had a series of %60Understandings%60. What does God want us to understand about Him through this passage? This word will unify all of your outline points.
6) The Probing Question - This is a question you ask directly of the text. Who, what, when, why, where, how? This is a question that will lead everyone to a deeper understanding of what the text is ACTUALLY saying, and its answer can come ONLY from the text itself.
7) Proposition - What do you propose that the hearers do as a result of hearing this message? This, to me, is the clincher! This is the %60so what%60 part of the sermon. So you've said all of this, so what? What am I supposed to do with it? If this is left out, the sermon will be null and void.
8) The Transition Sentence - this is the phrase that you use to transition from one outline point to the next. This will help smoothy transition from point a to b and so forth. This helps the audience not to get lost is moving from one point to the next and helps keep everything unified.
9) Title - a title that you decide to give the message. I usually like to make it something unusual and easy to remember. This can actually help spark the contents of the message for those listening after they leave the church.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years