Truth Is The Word

Preaching

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Biblical Preaching: The church Jesus would attend series

Top image what church preachFor many centuries, preaching has been an important element in church life. Visitors often rate a local church in terms of its music, friendliness, and preaching. But, in what way does preaching relate to the sensed presence of God in a service?

In this series, ‘the church Jesus would attend’, I am developing nine key criteria, and the third of these is what I have called ‘serious attention to biblical preaching’. I don’t intend discussing the differences between teaching and preaching or the superiority of expository over topical preaching. Rather, I want to explore the connection between preaching and the presence of God.

I have long defined preaching as ‘the proclamation of the Word of God with power’, but the most succinct definition of biblical preaching that I have found is, ‘preaching that is true to the Word of God’. The Word of God is central to both formulations, so I need to explain what I understand by this term.

The Word of God manifests in our lives in two ways. Primarily, Jesus is the Word of God. ‘In the beginning was the Word… (and) the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:1,14). However, the Bible is the inspired record of God’s interactions with humanity, which focuses on and finds full expression in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, while Jesus is the incarnate Word, the Bible is the inscribed Word. Therefore, when the Word of God is proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus would surely be pleased to bless it with His presence.

Prophecy

To take a slightly different line of thinking, prophecy is a means for God to communicate with His people and true preaching is also a way that God communicates with His people. Therefore, preaching is a form of prophecy. Biblical preaching presents the Incarnate Word in the context of the inscribed Word. If this is faithfully undertaken in the power of the Holy Spirit then it should be as much a “thus sayeth the Lord” as the gift of a word of prophecy. If this is truly the case, then should we not expect preaching to be a way in which Jesus manifests His presence in a Sunday service?

I have added the words ‘serious attention’ to ‘biblical preaching’ as one of the nine criteria because for preaching to be acceptable to The Lord and a means of sensing His presence, then both preacher and congregants need to give serious attention to it.  I do not mean that the sermon should be the high point of a church service, with everything else as either a preparation or an aftermath, but rather that the time given to preaching should be one element in a concentrated period of worship, prayer, ministry, fellowship, and biblical proclamation that, in its totality, focuses on Jesus and is an encounter with Him. When the preacher stands up with Bible in hand, we should regard the next 30 minutes as part of worship and not simply the time a suitably qualified person either shares ideas or teaches doctrine.

When we hear the Word of God preached, we need to be expecting to encounter Jesus and to hear Him speaking directly to us.

The most profound compliment that a preacher can ever receive is when someone says, “it was as though Jesus himself was talking to me.” This can only happen when the preacher has faithfully presented Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, from the inscribed Word of God.

This means that the preacher too needs to give serious attention to biblical preaching. If he or she is to faithfully present Jesus in the context of the Bible then that preacher needs to prepare conscientiously, skilfully, and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit for illumination, wisdom, and ultimately for delivery. Every so often, a preacher has little option but to prepare a sermon at the last moment or to respond to the immediate direction of The Lord to change what he has prepared. Here is the personal account of a life-changing moment experienced by Dr A.J.Gordon, a well-known Baptist preacher of the late nineteenth century, when he found himself having to prepare a sermon on a Saturday night. It is quite lengthy and in an outdated style, but it is definitely worth reading:

‘It was Saturday night, when wearied from the work of preparing Sunday’s sermon, that I fell asleep and the dream came. I was in the pulpit before a full congregation, just ready to begin my sermon, when a stranger entered and passed slowly up the left aisle of the church looking first to the one side and then to the other as though silently asking with his eyes that someone would give him a seat. He had proceeded nearly half-way up the aisle when a gentleman stepped out and offered him a place in his pew, which was quietly accepted. Excepting the face and features of the stranger everything in the scene is distinctly remembered — the number of the pew, the Christian man who offered its hospitality, the exact seat which was occupied. Only the countenance of the visitor could never be recalled. That his face wore a peculiarly serious look, as of one who had known some great sorrow, is clearly impressed on my mind. His bearing too was exceeding humble, his dress poor and plain, and from the beginning to the end of the service he gave the most respectful attention to the preacher. Immediately as I began my sermon my attention became riveted on this hearer. If I would avert my eyes from him for a moment they would instinctively return to him, so that he held my attention rather than I held his till the discourse was ended. To myself I said constantly, “Who can that stranger be?” and then I mentally resolved to find out by going to him and making his acquaintance as soon as the service should be over. But after the benediction had been given the departing congregation filed into the aisles and before I could reach him, the visitor had left the house. The gentleman with whom he had sat remained behind however; and approaching him with great eagerness I asked: “Can you tell me who that stranger was who sat in your pew this morning?”  In the most matter-of-course way he replied: “Why, do you not know that man? It was Jesus of Nazareth.” With a sense of the keenest disappointment I said: “My dear sir, why did you let him go without introducing me to him? I was so desirous to speak with him.” And with the same nonchalant air the gentleman replied: “Oh, do not be troubled. He has been here today, and no doubt he will come again.” And now came an indescribable rush of emotion’… ‘the Lord himself “whose I am and whom I serve” had been listening to me today. What was I saying? Was I preaching on some popular theme in order to catch the ear of the public? Well, thank God it was of himself I was speaking. However imperfectly done, it was Christ and him crucified whom I was holding up this morning. But in what spirit did I preach? Was it “Christ crucified preached in a crucified style”? or did the preacher magnify himself while exalting Christ? So anxious and painful did these questionings become that I was about to ask the brother with whom he had sat if the Lord had said anything to him concerning the sermon, but a sense of propriety and self-respect at once checked the suggestion.’

So, I believe that if both the preacher and the congregants give serious attention to biblical preaching, we will sense the presence of the Lord in our church services, for Jesus would have been pleased to visit us.

TruthTalks Sermons

Inverting Rejection

All of us have experienced rejection in one form or another, but for some people rejection can be devastating. Unless we deal with it in a healthy manner, feelings of rejection can blight our lives and can even result in depression or a total breakdown of our sense of worth.

1 Peter 2:4-10 contains three antidotes to the negative effects of rejection:

1. Develop a biblical understanding of our identity in Christ Jesus
2. Forgive those who have rejected us
3. Receive God’s mercy so that our wounds can be healed

Listen to this encouraging sermon and then share it with others.

Jesus Preaching

How Jesus preached

How did Jesus PreachWe should all be interested in homiletics because what is preached to us is of great importance, and how it is preached affects how we comprehend what we hear.

Incidentally, if you would like to hear this post as spoken word, please scroll down to listen.

In a previous article,  I gave a very brief evaluation of the three main styles of preaching currently popular – narrative, expository, and topical. However, I didn’t deal with how Jesus preached. He is our model in all things and so in our appreciation of preaching we need to be guided by His methods and practices.

We all know that Jesus often used parables and in essence, a parable is a story and so we could think that Jesus was simply a narrative preacher. But He didn’t just tell stories, He also asked questions to lead into his subjects, on occasions He expounded Old Testament scriptures, and at other times He just addressed a topic in a straightforward manner. Jesus was a narrative preacher, an expository preacher, and a topical preacher. But here is the thing, each time He preached He chose the method best able to meet his objectives. For instance, in his well-known Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) He addressed topics and also expounded on Old Testament scriptures. (Other examples of topical and expository preaching are in Matthew chapters 11, 12, 23, and 24). What is more, when Jesus preached/taught in a style other than parables, He did so with authority and clarity. Matthew 7:29 notes that He taught ‘as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law’. The Pharisees derived their authority from what previous theologians had taught and Jesus criticised them for this when He quoted from Isaiah 29:13, ‘their teachings are but rules taught by men’. (Matthew 15:9). But when Jesus spoke He used words like “I tell you” and his interpretations and declarations were definitive.

Why then did Jesus speak in parables so frequently?
Man sowingThis question was obviously on his disciple’s minds for they asked him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10-17). His answer was surprising and even shocking; “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you but not to them” And then Jesus paraphrased Isaiah 6:9-10, ‘though seeing they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand’. A parable is a story that can be understood at more than one level. At a superficial level it can, for instance, be a story about a farmer sowing seed in his field, but at a deeper level, it teaches important kingdom truth. Those antagonistic to him and his teachings would understand the story but not the underlying truth, but his disciples would have insight into the truth. The parable of the types of soil is a good example of this. After Jesus had told this parable to the crowds the disciples came to him and asked him why he spoke in parables. I have quoted his answer above, but then He added, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:” (Matthew 13:16-19). Jesus then went on to explain to his disciples the spiritual truth that the parable contained.
The purpose of the parables was not just to hide truth from the opponents of the Gospel, but also to present truth to disciples and genuine enquirers.
For the disciples, they form the rich soil for the seeds of revealed truth, and to the uneducated and uninformed they present a way to gradually and progressively comprehend. Often Jesus would conclude a parable with a clear statement of the main point (i.e Luke 12:40) but on other occasions, He would tell similar parables that when taken together would make it easier for an enquiring soul to comprehend the sub-surface truth. This revelational aspect of the parables is captured in Mark 4:33-34; ‘With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything’.

Today’s church preachers and teachers don’t often deal with hostile crowds of unbelievers, but we do have to allow for enquirers and believers who have little education or exposure to typical westernised teaching methods. Narrative preaching (story-telling) is most beneficial to such people, while on the other hand, when communicating with mature believers or well-educated folk it is probably better to use an expository style and reserve narrative for vivid illustrations within the sermon structure. This dual approach seems to be as close to Jesus’ example as we can get.

 

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Listening

Storytelling Preaching

Preaching delivery can generally be categorised into one of 3 styles: Narrative, Expository, and Topical. Narrative preaching is basically a fancy name for biblical storytelling. Expository preaching consists of taking a portion of scripture and expounding (presenting and explaining) it’s meaning. Topical preaching consists of selecting a specific subject and then applying the major biblical texts that relate to it.

Narrative preaching takes a passage of scripture and presents it as a story seen through the eyes of either someone observing the action (3rd person) or a character in the story itself (1st person).

StorytellingThe strengths of narrative preaching are:

  • It engages the people listening – who doesn’t like a story dramatically told.
  • It involves the listeners in an emotional or sense-based encounter with the characters in the story.
  • Stories are fairly easy to remember.
  • In an illiterate community, it serves as a partial substitute for the Bible.

But narrative preaching does have weaknesses:

  • It is not at all effective, and sometimes impossible, to present the teaching-rich portions of the Bible. Imagine trying to convey the meaning of chapters 14 to 17 of John’s Gospel, let alone the Letter to the Romans, using only a narrative style.
  • It is difficult to emphasize the key truths of a passage without breaking the flow and interest of the story. The danger is that listeners may benefit to some extent from the story but not comprehend the truth that the story is supposed to incorporate.
  • Application to current living is also mainly absent from narrative preaching and the listener can get lost in biblical time without appreciating how to apply the contents to modern life.
  • Not all topical or expository preachers are good story tells and the style can easily degenerate into amateur dramatics.

In our church, we are currently preaching through John’s Gospel using the first-person narrative style. My contribution to date has been to tell the story of the woman at the well from John chapter four. Have a listen and see if you agree with my analysis of this form of preaching.

To start listening, simply click on the play button below, or click HERE. If you would like to listen to other sermons I have preached, you can find them, along with sermon notes HERE.

 

 

Sermons & Articles added

truthtalks

Hi there

I’ve uploaded some new Sermons along with a few Articles which were published in Joy! Magazine. Please have a listen or a read, and as always your comments are welcome.

 

SERMONS:

LUKE 15 ‘Lost and Found’ The Prodigal son, the lost sheep and the missing coin are a trio of Jesus’ parables. I realise these are well known and loved verses, but I would like you to listen to them with new ears – you may hear something you’ve not heard before if you listen to the sermon and, of course, the Holy Spirit.

LUKE 17 ‘Thank you Jesus’ Remember the good Samaritan? This sermon will give you insight into the background and true meaning of this story. We find that we are all united in Jesus, no matter what our differences, customs or races. This has been the case since Biblical times and still is today, among believers from all ‘walks’ of life.

EPHESIANS 1 ‘Who are We in Christ’ My apologies for the poor sound quality of this sermon. The first few seconds are very bad but it get’s better, really! Ephesians 1 7-19 is the wonderful prayer of Paul to the Church in Ephesus and also to US.  Ask yourself ‘How well do I know God?” and “Who am I in Christ?” and listen to this message.

 

If you would like to hear more sermons, please CLICK HERE or on the SERMONS IMAGE to go the the main sermons page where you can listen to or download a number of other sermons.

 

truthreadsARTICLES:

WHAT IS TRUTH is an article I wrote in 2006. If you haven’t been paying too much attention to my ongoing talks and posts about truth 🙂 then this short article should fill you in on my understanding of the nature of truth.

APOLOGETICS.  Apologetics is the branch of Christian studies that deals with why we believe what we do. I dislike the word because it comes from the same root as ‘apologise’, which means essentially to defend something we feel guilty or embarrassed about. “Hey, I know this might sound foolish, but let me tell you why I believe in God… or the creation… or the Gospel”. This article challenges the very nature of apologetics.

A CONSIDERATION OF FRANK VIOLA’S ‘BEYOND EVANGELICAL’ is not a book review. I have written several book reviews, but this not one of them. In this article I am considering ‘Beyond Evangelical’, not reviewing it. My purpose is to reflect on some of the things written in this book from a positive perspective and leave the evaluation and critique to others.

 

If you would like to read more articles please CLICK HERE or on the ARTICLES IMAGE. Alternatively use the previous and next buttons at the bottom of each article.

 

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.