I’m scheduled to preach on of those tricky ones. You know, one of the crux interpretum of the New Testament. There’s the end of 1st Timothy 2, the end of 1st Peter 3, the end of James, the end of 1st John, Hebrews 6, etc. A passage that begs every exegetical skill you possess, or if you’re rushing, a passage that just checking two or three commentaries doesn’t resolve.
It is important not to avoid the complexity as we preach. If your listeners can see the verses, but are confused by them. Just avoiding them in your sermon is not the solution (tempting as it may be!) You have to address them if you’re preaching through the book, or if they’re in your preaching passage.
It is helpful to acknowledge the difficulty. Just giving a simplistic explanation may satisfy a few, but many will be left wondering what the passage really means (and they will be left with less respect for your ability to handle and explain the Word to them!) If it is hard to interpret, don’t pretend otherwise. Nobody should expect you to find everything super simple.
It is important not to let the complexity overwhelm the main idea. Often the main idea of a passage is still clear, even with the complicated element present. Be sure that your main idea is clear so that the sermon is a preaching of the text with applied relevance, rather than a pulpit lecture in theological method (a lived out excursus in the pulpit section of daily life).
Pray for me as I preach one of these tricky passages. Pray not that I’ll stun people with my brilliance, but that I’ll handle the Word well and be sure to preach the Word, not merely lecture or present an exegetical curio for their passing interest. Let’s pray for each other to always preach the Word with accuracy and applied relevance.
One thought on “Complicated Passage, Clear Preaching”
Many commentators avoid the issue, don’t they? You try to get ideas on the passage you are to preach and right when you need them the most, they take a coffee break and don’t come back till the next passage. Where did they go?
You could just do as others and list all the possibilities and say, “Pay your money and take your choice.”
But you are right. They need to hear from one who has diligently and prayerfully studied it. They need to hear from us and we need to hear from God.
I’ll be praying for you,