Archive for July, 2006

What is “exposition”?

What happens when a word reaches beyond any meaningful consensus and everyone makes a claim to its use? This is exactly the problem with the word “expository” as in “everyone claims to be an expository preacher.” It is no stretch to say that many preachers consider themselves expository preachers yet there is little agreement about what the word means. A survey of standard books on preaching will reveal that various authors all emphasize different perspectives (e.g., Robinson, D. A. Carson, Kaiser, Lloyd-Jones, Vines, Olford, Greidanus, Broadus, et al). This was a question we considered at some length in our first D.Min session today and one all preachers should carefully consider.

An examination of terminology raises difficult questions: Can there be biblical preaching that is not expository? Can there be exposition that is not preaching? Is exposition limited to a verse, a paragraph, or something else? Can topical preaching be expositional? The questions could be multiplied at this point. As a reference point I offer Richard Mayhue’s foundational definition from Rediscovering Expository Preaching.

Expository preaching is preaching that focuses predominantly on the text(s) under consideration along with its (their) context(s). Exposition normally concentrates on a single text of Scripture, but it is sometimes possible for a thematic/theological message or a historical/biographical discourse to be expository in nature. An exposition may treat any length of passage.

Following is a helpful summary of the essential elements of expository preaching:
1.The message finds its sole source in Scripture.
2.The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis.
3.The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context.
4.The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture.
5.The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today.

Students of Preaching

Since the contributors to this blog are all preachers it is only fitting that we remain students of preaching and preachers. On that note, a couple of us are in Los Angeles for the next two weeks as we are in the D. Min of expository preaching program at The Master’s Seminary. I will be blogging some of the highlights from the lectures and interaction with my fellow cohorts.

USELESS TRIVIA WARNING (Turn back now): One of my favorite bits of actual LA “preaching trivia” is the fact that there is an actual street called “Exposition Boulevard.” Even better, it is the main street that goes through MacArthur Park in downtown LA.

Heroes of the Faith (pt 3)

As I mentioned in my last post this discussion is all about (biblical) balance. It is possible to idolize gifted teachers in a way that would shame the Giver of all good gifts. We must be very careful not to worship our heroes. At the same time, it is entirely appropriate to “honor” faithful servants of the Lord. I will argue in this essay that it also fitting to “imitate” faithful Christian leaders.

We looked at 1 Corinthians 3:5-17 in my previous post. Don Carson summarized this section as follows:
“1. Christian leaders are only servants of Christ and are not to be accorded allegiance reserved for God alone.
2. God cares about his church, and he hold its leaders accountable for how they build it.”

The apostle Paul was not interested in dividing the Church. He gave his very life trying to unite the Church under the banner of Jesus Christ her Head. He did not want a bunch of Paul-groupies causing disunity in the Church. This is one of the reasons why he wrote 1 Corinthians 3:5-17. Yet in this same epistle the apostle Paul called the Corinthians to “imitate” him as he followed Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Paul understood that he was a leader. Pastors are examples and role-models whether they want to be or not. Their can be no Charles Barkley pastors in the ministry (“I’m not a role-model, parents should be role-models”). Paul actually encouraged his readers to imitate his life on numerous occasions (1 Cor 4:16; 1 Thess. 1:6). One pastor puts it this way, “Spiritual leaders must set an example of Christlikeness for all to follow.”

Hebrews 13:17 is pretty straightforward. In this passage of Scripture the author of Hebrews writes, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” The Greek work for “imitate” is mimeomai from mimos. Here we are told “to mimic” the lives of our own church leaders (those who are worthy of imitation of course).

Of course in chapter 11 the author of Hebrews gave a number of illustrations of men and women who lived tremendous lives of faith. These godly heroes from the past should provide inspiration for all Christians (in the present). Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When I think of the Christian heroes I have (Spurgeon, Calvin, Whitefield, MacArthur, Begg, etc) I view them in these categories. Their faithfulness to God encourages me to live with the same type of consistency. Their commitment to the Word in the midst of great opposition is something I hope to imitate and mimic. Their love and passion for Christ is something that I desire as well.

Christian heroes (past and present) can help point us to Christ and motivate us all to live more faithful lives.

Weekend Fun: You provide the caption

Christian Role Models and Factionalism? (pt 2)

Is it really Idolatrous to have Christian Heroes? (pt 2)

Our God is the creator of the universe. He’s made every single person in the universe different and unique. In other words, none of us are exactly like another human being. This diversity surely is an expression of the creative genius of God. God is glorified in Man’s creative differences.

God has given all of us different talents, gifts, and abilities. When these “spiritual gifts” are used in the local church God is glorified and the body is edified. God has given believers a diversity of gifts for the unity of the body (1 Peter 4:10-11, 1 Cor 12-14). Of course, God has also given each of us different personalities, genetic make-ups, etc. so when two godly pastors preach on the same passage of Scripture it should not sound exactly the same (even when they apply the same hermeneutical principles with great exegetical skill).

It’s important to start here because some people try and imitate Christian leaders (from the past or present) and find themselves frustrated because they can’t duplicate them (at least not very well). Because of this reality some people say it is silly to try and imitate any Christian heroes (past or present). Others say trying “to imitate” or “model” another person shows an underlined attitude of discontentment (i.e. I wish I were made just like so and so). In my judgment this is a both/and deal NOT an either/or situation. Like in so many areas of life this is all about biblical balance.

The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians against the dangers of factions (read 1 Cor 3). The early Corinthian church was apparently divided over a number of different issues. One of these dividing issues was Christian leadership. Some were saying, ‘I am of Apollos,’ while others declared, ‘Apollos is so ignorant of the Apostles writings, I am of Cephas;” while still others proclaimed, ‘You fools I was trained by our founding father, the great apostle Paul.”

D.A. Carson summarizes 1 Corinthians 3:5-17 very well. He writes, “Two truths can be simply set out:
1. Christian leaders are only servants of Christ and are not to be accorded allegiance reserved for God alone.
2. God cares about his church, and he hold its leaders accountable for how they build it

We can learn a lot from these two points. Every man, woman, and child is nothing apart from the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). When God saves us we have the great privilege of being servants of the Master, fools for Christ, children of God. Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Sinclair Ferguson (to name just a few notable churchmen) are only “servants of Christ and are not accorded allegiance reserved for God alone.” We must be very careful not to worship our heroes (yes Calvinists are included in this discussion). One pastor puts it this way, ‘the best of men are still men at best.” Ultimately glory, praise, and honor is only due God (1 Tim 6:16).

Yet the Bible ALSO tells us to “honor” a variety of people and (God ordained) positions. Generally, we are told to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). We are commanded to honor our father and mother (Matt 19:9); Honor widows who are truly widows (1 Tim 5:3); Honor elders who labor hard in the Word (1 Tim 5:17); Honor our human masters (1 Tim 6:1); Honor the king and all men (1 Pet 2:17); and honor our wives (1 Peter 3:7). It would be entirely appropriate then to “honor” and “esteem” faithful Christian ministers (see 1 Thess 5:12-13).

Carson goes on to say in his book The Cross and Christian Ministry, “It is not that gratitude to Paul or Apollos or some other worker is inappropriate. Rather what Paul finds inexcusable is the kind of fawning and defensive attachment to one particular leader that results in one-upmanship, quarreling, and jealousy. Implicitly, such allegiance is making too much of one person. It verges on assigning that person godlike status…No Christian leader is to be venerated or listed to or adulated with the kind of allegiance and devotion properly reserved for God alone.”

Much more could be said about this passage but I will save those thoughts for my next post.

Is it Idolatrous to have Christian Heroes?

If you were to enter my pastoral office at work you would quickly notice two things. 1. The massive bookshelves that surround my office; and 2. The pictures of Christian preachers (past and present) that look over my shoulder (on my office walls). As a young minister I often look to the past to find Christian inspiration. I love reading about the legacies of the former “giants of the faith”. Godly men like George Whitefield, John Calvin, John Knox, and Charles Spurgeon (all of whom grace my walls) are heroes of mine (for a variety of reasons). These men were solely dedicated to the Word of God; men who gave their very lives for the gospel. Leaders who did not compromise even when it cost them dearly. Powerful Bible preachers and in many regards wonderful Christian role models. These men loved their Savior and lived for his approval. In my estimation they were Hebrews 11 type people.

There are also many modern day preachers who I greatly respect and admire. For this reason I have an autographed picture of my former pastor (John MacArthur), a small cut out picture of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and a postcard picture of Alistair Begg posted on my wall. I attended Grace Community Church for close to 13 years so obviously John MacArthur’s ministry is near and dear to my heart. He was my pastor for many years as well as the President of the two institutions I graduated from (TMC and TMS). Lloyd-Jones was a tremendous leader and a fantastic preacher, while Pastor Begg is a charismatic speaker who (in my opinion) really knows how to drive home the biblical application of a Text. I have great admiration and respect for all the pastor-preachers who grace my pastoral walls. In some ways they keep me accountable and humble. They encourage me to persevere and remain steadfast in my ministerial calling. They remind me that nothing matters more than God’s gospel.

With that said, there is clearly a major “famine in the land” when it comes to great expository preaching that is both exegetical (i.e. deep), God-centered, Christ-exulting, and clear. Well-known preachers like John Piper, Mark Dever, R.C Sproul, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Don Carson, and Alistair Begg are exceptions to this trend. {Of course there are many “lesser-known ministers” who faithfully serve God, (&)who are equally committed to this method/model of ministry/preaching (the contributors of this blog I hope are fair examples of this).}

The questions I want to ask and answer are ones that I hear quite frequently these days: Is it wrong to have a modern day (or ancient day) Christian heroes? Is it sinful to talk about having a favorite preacher (past or present)? Does all this “hero worship” inevitably lead to idolatry, human kingdom building, and/or divisive Christian factions? Are Piper-ites and MacArthur-ites and Begg-ites guilty of unbiblical factionalism (see 1 Corinthians 3)? Is it wrong that I have pictures of sinners saved by grace on my walls?

These are some of the questions I hope to tackle during my upcoming posts. Please be patient as it will take some time to develop and answer all these questions fairly.

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