Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why I Normally Preach Through Books of the Bible

I think working through books of the Bible, passage by passage, is the best method for preaching and the most healthy diet for the church. I don't think this the only way to do God-glorifying expository preaching. It is entirely possible to preach on unconnected passages and do it faithfully (see Charles Spurgeon). The most important thing is to preach the text (that the point of the passage be the point of your sermon). But, there are some good and wise reasons to preach consecutively through books of the Bible. Here are a few of the most important to me:

1. Preaching through entire books is a clear way to honor the Spirit's inspiration of the Bible. The Bible is not a random collection of passages with no order or context. The Bible consists of 66 separate books that were all breathed out by God and recognized by the church to be the authoritative Word of God. Each book has a purpose and flow. Thus, if our normal practice is to just preach on unconnected passages Sunday after Sunday, are we not subtly saying, "Holy Spirit, I know a way to put these truths together that would have been better than what you inspired"? God knows better than we do what our people need to hear. And He knew what He was doing when He inspired the human authors to write the books they way they wrote them.

2. Preaching through entire books is the best way to ensure that difficult passages don't get neglected. If its up to me to decide which passage to preach Sunday, I'm going to lean toward passages that are familiar and free of difficult truths. God's Word is sufficient for the heath and growth of His Church. There are no passages that are unhelpful for God's people. 2 Tim 3:16 says that ALL of God's Word is designed to equip and mature the people of God. Therefore, no passage should be intentionally neglected.

3. Preaching through entire books ensures that I'm growing in my own grasp of God's Word and not just preaching things that I already understand and embrace. These past 6 years of systematic exposition have been incredibly sweet to my soul. I look forward to moving into the next passage every week. God's Word is like a treasure chest full of rich delights. Forcing ourselves to honestly come to the text each week is a way to expose ourselves to the full scope of sanctifying Biblical truth.

4. Preaching through entire books is the best way to model how to study the Bible. Our people are going to follow our example in their own personal Bible study. If they see us skipping around, they'll be tempted to do the same. But, if they see us dealing with the context, tracing the main point, outlining the key movements, and bringing out the big idea, they'll be better equipped to do the same.

5. Preaching through entire books ensures that no one thinks I've chosen a topic in order to address their particular situation. When I'm preaching through a book, there is only one reason I'm preaching this particular text on this particular Sunday: It is the next passage in the book. It's amazing how many times people say things like, "I felt like that passage was meant especially for me." God knows when His people will be ready to hear particular passages. If they feel like we are snooping into their lives to find passages/topics that address their particular sins and struggles, they'll be listening to us, not God.

6. Preaching through entire books is the best way to ensure that I'm not neglecting the context of the passage I'm preaching. Every passage has a context. Preaching through books is the best way to understand that context so that we can correctly interpret the author's meaning. In fact, I always feel like I understand a book better after I've preached through it passage by passage. Sometimes I think I understand it sufficiently before I start preaching through it. But, when I'm done, I wish I could go back to the beginning and preach it again. If you preach from a different book every Sunday, you've got to do a lot more setting up of the context.

7. Preaching through books frees my mind to be meditating on the next passage instead of looking for what the next passage will be. This is one of the most practical benefits of systematic exposition: You don't have to spend so much time wondering what passage to preach on next. God's already got it picked out.

8. Preaching through books helps people know what is coming so that they can study throughout the week on their own and with their family. If you preach on different passages each week, people come on Sunday with no idea what to expect. If you preach through books, they come prepared to listen to the next passage in the book.

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