Something for Preachers and Teachers to muse on…

Lately I have been studying Jay E. Adams’ essay on “Nine beliefs at the heart of biblical preaching (The Art & craft of Biblical Preaching).

Adams gives as one of the beliefs at the heart of biblical preaching is that: the original intent of the text controls its message to hearers today. 

I think it is important to not confuse the word “controls” with the word “confines.”  While the preacher or teacher must never compromise the original intent of a particular passage or the Holy Scripture as a whole, nor the character of God, it must be remembered that God is eternal and omniscience and thus knew when the original Scriptures were written that He would be calling particular persons into the ministry of preaching/teaching and also calling that preacher/teacher to a particular congregation and a particular point in time (Ephesians 4:11-16). 

It would seem to me then that the caring preacher/teacher is required; beginning with the original intent, to seek with the prayerful illumination of the Holy Spirit what the Holy Spirit had in mind for the contemporary preacher/teacher went the original intent was penned.   

Therefore, while I agree with the statement: “The original intent of the text controls its message to hearers today”, I do so in the sense of a mother who is baking a cake that tells her child to not lick the icing.  The mother’s original intent sets the context for understanding her statement, but it does not demand that that child never lick the icing of that particular cake or of future cakes.  In other words, there is a world of difference between being “creative” with the Holy Scriptures and being “corruptive”. 

Having said that, I know there is a very real danger of mishandling this responsibility.  It does not take long to discover creative preaching that has devolved into corruptive preaching.  However, there is also the corresponding danger of adhering to a rigid hermeneutics that produces a confining message that is lifeless and ineffective at moving the contemporary listener to exalt and obey the Holy God.

The essential element is reading, studying, preparing and delivering the Holy Spirit in the presence of and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

david l. kemp (January 5, 2012