Doing It Right

These words from Ray Stedman in the foreword to Stephen F. Olford's booklet, Preaching the Word of God, should fill us with both hope and alarm. In recognizing the majestic possibilities that can occur when this divine tool is used properly, we can approach our pulpits with awe and anticipation that God will make a difference in the lives of those who fear His Word proclaimed. But we are also left with the disappointing reality that, all too often, too many of us do not grasp this Sword with both hands and wield it with skill.

Dr. Olford firmly believes that great preaching must be expository preaching, which he defines as "the historical, grammatical and contextual examination and presentation of Scripture, in the power of the Holy Spirit, with a homiletical pattern and an evangelical purpose." In his booklet, he constructs a method of biblical exposition based on the model of the post-resurrection Jesus as He opened the Scriptures to his companions on the road to Emmaus:

The Reading of the Text of Scripture
Your people need to hear the actual words of the Bible. We should never underestimate the power of the Word of God to change lives on its own. Further, being able to recite the Scriptures from memory provides an added benefit because it underscores your personal conviction regarding the importance of knowing God's Word.

The Revealing of the Truth of Scripture
The biblical expositor is to restate the truth, showing its relevance to the Lord Jesus. For, ultimately, the mosaic of all revelation is totalized in Jesus Christ. Four hermeneutical principles enable the preacher to unlock the treasures of Scripture:

  • Illumination: Request insights from the Author of the Bible.
  • Contextual Interpretation: Never interpret a verse in isolation from both its immediate and larger context.
  • Clarity: Use verses that are clear to gain understanding of those that are difficult or ambiguous.
  • Grammatical-Historical Method: Understand the meaning of the words as they were employed by the authors and in the historical situation which produced the writing.

As H.G. Mackay has reminded us, "Accuracy is essential in the ministry of the Word. It is a solemn thing to misquote the Almighty!"

The Relating of the Thrust of Scripture
It is a biblical principle that all truth has an application to life, and the application of divine truth always ministers personally and profitably. The biblical expositor must present the thrust of Scripture in such a way that its relevance to character and conduct is both indisputable and irresistible.

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote, "Never play at preaching, nor beat about the bush; get at it, and always mean business." We have a tremendous honor and privilege to speak for our Lord. We also have a great responsibility to do it right.

Taken from Pastor to Pastor newsletter, Apr. 1996.
Article copyright © 1996, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.