How many times have you been in a conversation and had to ask someone, "Wait, what do you mean by that?" Words and even phrases can mean different things at different times and we often need clarification while talking with friends, listening to sermons, or reading books. The phrase "I have the right to bear arms" can mean I have the right to own guns or I have the right to own the arms of bears. One is normal, the other is strange. Clarifying phrases can make a world of difference. There are two clarifications of vital importance for you as a preacher.
What does "Bible-based sermon" mean? We will explore that in this post, which will set us up for our next post: What does, "It's all about Jesus" mean?
For someone to say they are a "Bible-preaching" church or they preach "Bible-based sermons" can mean many, many different things. If "Bible-based sermon" means any sermon that contains biblical texts, whether read, quoted, explained and/or referenced, this means a "Bible-based" sermon might not even be a Christian sermon. For instance, the Pharisees, who hated and rejected Jesus, preached and taught the Old Testament Scriptures, their Bible. However, they are well-known in the New Testament as having emphatically rejected Jesus, the One the Old Testament was all about. If "Bible-based" preaching means merely quoting or reading biblical texts, the Pharisees preached wonderful Bible-based sermons.
But do you want to preach those kinds of "Bible-based" sermons? Would you have gone to their church to hear their sermons?
The problem with the Pharisees was that they had no idea what the Old Testament was about. Their sermons were heavily steeped in the Old Testament, yet they were antithetical to the Old Testament. They are better labelled "Bible-users", not "Bible-based". Their sermons were dead wrong. This means we must clarify what it means for a sermon to be "Bible-based". It means when visiting a church, the claim to be "Bible-based" needs to be clarified, for the Pharisees would have said the same thing.
A Bible-using preacher is not necessarily a Bible-based preacher. A Bible-user may read, quote, and even explain a text, but they miss the point of the text in some significant way. This issue really comes down to preachers properly interpreting the Bible and then preaching what a particular text means in light of proper interpretation. Hermeneutics is too big of a topic for this post, so instead of blogging an entire hermeneutics course, we would like to offer two major steps take in order to rightly handle the Bible when preaching.
First, let the Bible drive your sermon preparation each week.
The temptation preachers always face is to bring their own thoughts, feelings, and gut intuitions to the biblical texts. In doing so, we bring our own sermons to the Bible. But as you know, we look outside of ourselves for revelation from God in the Bible. Sermons are nothing more than the preaching of the Bible. Preparing a sermon that is not driven by the Bible is a contradiction in terms. If you drive sermon preparation then you may become a classic Bible-using preacher, but not a Bible-based preacher. We have blogged about this here.
Secondly, and more focused for the purpose of this blog and our next blog, don't be like the Pharisees.
Let's say it positively: keep in focus at all times what the Bible is all about. The best way to use the Bible but not be based in the Bible is to isolate texts from the context of the Bible as a whole. But if you understand what the whole point of the Bible is, you can preach each part properly. In order to rightly interpret a random passage halfway through the Bible you need to understand it in the context of the book in which it is in. And in order to rightly interpret a random book halfway through the Bible you need to understand it in the context of the entire Bible. The big idea of the Bible is what every 8 year old in Sunday School understands: Jesus.
So, what does is it mean that the entire Bible is "all about Jesus"? You might be surprised. See you in 2 weeks.