Friday, November 14, 2008

Christ-Centered Preaching: A Review

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2007.
399 pp. $29.99

Christ-Centered Preaching is an introductory manual to expositional preaching. The author, Bryan Chapell, is professor of practical theology and president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri. He also served as a pastor for many years. He earned his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University.

Christ-Centered Preaching is comprehensive in scope. First, Chapell seeks to inform on how best to prepare an expository sermon by discussing how to organize, develop and deliver it. The book also seeks to inform the student about the necessity of preaching Christ-centered sermons from any text in the Bible. He discusses the problems with a “Be” sermon, which is a sermon that proclaims ethical instruction but lacks the redemptive message of Christ. He argues that this type of sermon will only discourage those who are listening because it implies that the power of our ethical performance is in us rather than through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He is also concerned that this type of sermon will lead to a theology of self justification and ultimately to despair and/or legalism. He does not argue against preaching ethical commands but that our message must be informed by the cross of Christ. Also, he points out that our obedience should not come from fear of damnation but rather through thankfulness to the God of the gospel.

Many people might be afraid that preaching Christ from a section of scripture that does not mention him explicitly is to impose on the text an unwarranted point of application. That is exactly what expositional preachers want to avoid! They might be concerned, for example, with someone taking a passage from the Old Testament historical books and “Christianizing” them. However, he makes the point that we interpret the historical flow of the Old Testament through the eyeglasses of the New Testament and points out that the focus of all of scripture is on Jesus Christ (John 5:39,46;Luke 24:27). He also warns that there is a necessity to preach Christ, arguing that the only true hope and motivation for ethical transformation is not found in mere commands but in the Christ of the gospel. He writes, “…no text tells us what we can do to complete ourselves or to make ourselves acceptable to God (by our actions), for then we would not be truly fallen. No passage tells us how to make ourselves holy (as though we could achieve divine status by our own efforts). The Bible is not a self-help book. Scriptures presents one, consistent, organic message. It tells us how we must seek Christ, who alone is our Savior and sources of strength, to be and do what God requires. To preach what people should be and do and yet not mention him who enables their accomplishment warps the biblical message ( 277).”

It was encouraging for me to read a preaching book that labored, both to be faithful to the theme of the individual sermon text as well as the main theme of the Bible; Christ and him crucified. The book did a good job focusing on the theology of preaching as well as on how to preach. Its greatest strength is that it is comprehensive in its approach. For instance, he covers everything form grammatical outlining of the text, the mechanics and importance of sermon illustrations, commentary, and language tool recommendation to a sustained argument for preaching Christ in every sermon from all of scripture.

In light of the above, I whole heartedly recommend this book to any student of preaching. It is a great place to begin as you develop your ability to create a biblical sermon. Chapell has succeeded in writing a theologically driven, textually accurate, gospel saturated and listener sensitive introduction to homiletics.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Notes on the Proverb

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3;5-8

v.5 "Trust in the Lord..." We should trust God, accepting his guidance and doing as he commands. God has knowledge and power over all things. If he is for us, then we will prevail. This trust should be sincere and confident knowing God's designs will be accomplished.

"Do not lean..."
We should not rely on our own understanding. Where God knows all things, we do not; where he has power, we do not. What God has not revealed we can not know. Our understanding is not sufficient to accomplish our plans, and we ought to trust God and his commands no matter what, recognizing that he is wise and good and that nothing happens apart from his plans. We may not know God's plans, but we know that he will fulfill them. The bible is a testament to his faithfulness and goodness and should make us confident in our trust of God. (see Gen. 22, The Sacrifice of Isaac)

v.6 "in all your ways acknowledge him..." The first part of this sentence commands our action and the second affirms what God will does when we obey. We need not say, "this is for God" or "praise the Lord" in every moment, even though it is good to say so. The idea behind acknowledging God is not that of verbal praise-giving, but of doing all that God commanded in every area of life. We acknowledge him as we obey him. When we begin to think like God (as much as possible) we will acknowledge him in ways that we could not conceive before.

"the Lord will make straight your paths."
This is not a promise of prosperity, but that we will walk rightly or righteously when we obey. This righteous walking is the work of God in us and credit is do to him. No one walks righteously without him, but only by him.

v.7 "Be not wise..." We ought not conceive of ourselves as wise and do as seems best to us. What seems good is an illusion (not really good), but if one fears the Lord he will turn from evil( and what seems good). Fear of God assumes that one knows Gods power. No one's plans will stand nor will his way prosper apart from the Lord. Therefore, the one that walks apart from the Lord has no reason for confidence. (see Luke 12;13-21, Parable of a rich fool) He thinks that he will accomplish his plans not knowing that it is only possible if God wills it. To trust oneself and not God is evil. The one that fears God turns from evil because he knows God's wrath burns against evildoers.

v.8 "It will be healing..." To obey and trust God is good for us, it is necessary for proper health. The one that does not is sick. But to fear God and turn from evil will bring healing to the flesh and refreshment to the bones. It is good for whole person. It will revive the weak, the sick, the weary.

By Samuel Gantt