What is the purpose of preaching? Ask a variety of preachers and you’ll get a variety of answers. Woven into the thread of solid answers will surely be the interpretation of Scripture and the interaction with culture.
Expository preaching must wrestle with the meaning of the original text of Scripture. The preacher must also interpret the culture of the day in order to design appropriate applications of the text.
Let’s take a brief look at the first part of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.
“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem,…”
Peter knew his audience. He was a Jew speaking to Jews, not much of a cultural challenge! In one sense, everything in Judaism was the same, yet everything was different. The Messiah, the Christ had come. He had come not as a political leader to conquer the Romans, but as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. He had come to die and Peter had been an eye-witness of this event. Not only had He died, He had risen again on the 3rd day,….but I’m getting ahead of myself.
“let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”
The art of preaching involves the person and work of the preacher. What was happening demanded an explanation, what had occurred required analysis. What gave Peter the ‘right’ to explain what was happening? What gives preachers the ‘right’ to invite their audience to ‘listen carefully?’ Not all sermons are created equally. Not all represent an accurate handling of the text.
Just yesterday, one of my pastoral friends, expressed his frustration with a Mother’s Day service he attended in Canada with NO scripture reading, NO sermon and a 19 minute Comedy sketch. And then we wonder why churches are declining in spiritual impact??
Preachers, heed the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy. ‘Preach the word!’ Don’t urge people to listen to you unless you’re listening to God. Peter had encountered God. He had met Christ. As a newly minted preacher, empowered with the Spirit of God, he had something to say!
“These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” Spiritual activity requires spiritual explanations. There are all kinds of ‘spirituality’ in our culture. Not all that passes as ‘Christianity’ is actually Christ-centred. There are plenty of false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who scratch the ears of their listeneners by saying what their congregations ‘want to hear.’
Peter corrects the misperception that some had who had encountered the 120 followers of Christ. Like Paul in Ephesians 5:18 he contrasts the control of alcohol with the control of the Holy Spirit. Though Scripture does not demand total abstinence, the use of excessive alcohol is clearly forbid. God calls us to ‘self-control’ not to surrender our brains, our tongues, our bodies to the dominating force of ‘spirits.’
“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:“ At this point Peter cites Scripture. Like a skilled homiletician (preacher), Peter has raised some issues to be explored, connected with his audience and then drawn the attention of everyone to God’s revealed word.
Preachers follow various patterns of gaining interest in their topic. The old ‘Hook – Book – Look – Took‘ model of Christian education bears repeating. Hook the interest of people with a good introduction. Introduce the Book portion you will be explaining. Look at the issues that are raised. And then guide people (Took) to take away some life principles to live out.
By the way, if you haven’t encountered The Bible Project‘s amazing biblical videos – take a look at this sample from the Book of Joel. We’ll look at Acts 2:17-21 in our next post where Joel anticipates the outpoured Spirit of the living God!