Why do we do that?—LONGER SERMON TEXTS
In this mini series, we are considering why we do certain things at Table Rock the way we do. For this post, Ryan Eagy is answering the question, “why do we use longer texts of Scripture for the sermon?”
Commitment to Expository Preaching
At the core of our sermons at Table Rock is a commitment to expository preaching. We want to “expose” the original intent of the author—God—and the human writers operating in the power of the Holy Spirit to write down the concepts, statements, and storylines throughout Scripture. We don’t want to impose our own thoughts and ideas on the text. God has seen fit to reveal himself to us through a variety of different texts and book types in our Bible, and we are excited to know him more through his very words.
Interestingly, most of these thoughts that God has revealed do not come in one or two sentence blurbs. With the exception of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and some Psalms (collectively known as the wisdom literature), most of God’s words to us come through longer stories, history, narrative, and letters. And like the stories and letters we read today, we were meant to read them in their entirety or in larger sections. While many of these writings have groupings of smaller ideas (often called vignettes, scenes, or pericopes), the authors string these ideas together to make up much larger statements and concepts.
Model an Approach to God’s Word
At Table Rock, a main priority in our preaching is to model for our members and attenders how to approach God’s word. More often than not, our best approach is to read the larger sections of Scripture and understand the overarching purposes and concepts of each section. We should ask: What is this section all about? What should I learn from this about God and his plan for mankind? How does this change how I feel about God and relate to him? Does this challenge me to trust and have faith in God in a new or different way? It is through these larger sections of scripture that we see the primary concepts of Scripture and are challenged to know and love God in new ways.
Certainly, it is good to slow down at times to evaluate individual words or smaller statements within Scripture. This kind of analysis can show us the amazing continuity across all of Scripture and God’s joy and plans revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Yet, we have found that most seasoned Christians, new believers, and not-yet believers in our current culture struggle most with understanding God’s big story and how it applies to our lives. Reading his story and seeing it in its original context of the book it was written is the most helpful thing Christians can do.
Amazingly, this is not antithetical to going “deep” within Scripture. While a student of God’s word can use second-hand knowledge, like concordances, lexicons, commentaries, and other study guides, for help, the best way for someone to become capable of seeing these connections for themselves is through repeated exposure to the big ideas of Scripture. It is often on your third or fourth time through a section or book of Scripture that you will notice particular themes—like the image of God, the insufficiency of the Old Covenant, or Jesus’s humility in his life—for yourself! Rather than training up a church full of members who look to specialized tools, we want to see a people in love with God and his word, who see the sufficiency of their Scripture to encounter God themselves, and who see the beauty of his plans in grace and mercy across every page.
These reasons and more are why you will see us most often preach through larger sections of Scripture on Sunday morning. These sections are meant to model an appropriate length of Scripture to read to understand broad context and to see an overarching principle of God and his character. We undoubtedly will preach topical sermons, smaller scripture sections, and biblical theological themes, but our steady diet will most often consist of reading through larger sections of God’s word as it was revealed to us in Scripture.