Preaching (August 2 study)

In our last study, we continued to look at some biblical-theological truths that hopefully helped make us more discerning of what that central event of corporate worship – preaching – is.  There are both good and not so good approaches to preaching out there.  The merits of every sermon must be judged on the basis of God’s Word.  Below are some extracts from an essay setting forth one model of preaching – called redemptive-historical preaching – embraced by the contemporary Reformed tradition: one that I believe is most faithful to the biblical witness.

According to the Biblical view of reality there are two ages: this present evil age, and the age to come (Matt. 12:32; Gal. 1:4, Eph. 1:21). These two ages provide an overarching framework for understanding our identity as Christians…

This two-age view of reality takes on an additional twist in the New Testament. According to the teaching of Jesus in the gospels, the age to come (or the Kingdom of God) has arrived earlier than expected (Mark 1:15; Luke 17:20-21)…

As real and life-changing as the arrival of the eschatological Kingdom is, however, we who are believers in Christ have not yet arrived to its fullness. For those who have been transferred into the age to come by the Spirit still dwell on earth in the flesh…

Redemptive-historical preaching begins with this two-age understanding of the Christian life. It strives to bring the hearers into a fuller awareness of their position in Christ: already raised with Christ, yet groaning in this present age and longing for the second coming of Christ. The implications of the believer’s eschatological and Christ-centered identity are comprehensive and practical. It is the redemptive historical preacher’s goal to bring out those implications (“applications”) from every text of Scripture.

This approach differs dramatically from the contemporary preaching method I call “the application bridge.” This is the misguided attempt to make Scripture relevant by crossing the chasm between the ancient text and the modern world by building man-made application bridges. Redemptive-historical preaching denies the existence of the chasm in the first place, thus eliminating the need to “make” Scripture relevant or applicable. The text does not contain certain abstract principles or ideas that can be extracted, processed, and then applied to our situation. Rather, the text itself is an extension of the incarnation. In the history of redemption in the Old Covenant, God has ordained a typological anticipation of the coming of Christ in the flesh. And the text of the New Covenant is the apostolic proclamation of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant history and the inauguration of a new creation by Christ. United to Christ by means of the text, we live and move and have our being, not in this present evil age which is passing away, but in Christ himself.

If we take the application bridge approach, we are in effect denying that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We would be saying that our lives are ultimately tied to this passing evil age, rather than to the eschatological Kingdom to which we are bound by our union with the crucified-but-now-exalted Christ. The application bridge denies union with Christ with the Christ in whose death we were severed/crucified from this corrupt, present evil age (Gal. 6:14) and in whose resurrection we have ascended into the incorruptibility and glory of the age to come…

What, then, is redemptive historical preaching? It is preaching which strives to imitate the preaching of the New Testament itself by making applications that are determined by the redemptive historical, eschatological, and Christocentric nature of the text. Applications which merely build a bridge from the ancient text to the modern world leave the people of God still in the hopelessness of the present age. Applications which show them who they are in Christ (indicative), and which exhort them to live in light of the implications of that union with Christ (imperative), bring the people of God into the heavenly arena of the glory of the age to come. (Lee Irons)

2 thoughts on “Preaching (August 2 study)

  1. Thank you Simon! I have really battled with RH in trying to craft sermons accordingly. Your summary has made a huge difference – one of those AHA moments. Blessings Paddy

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