This post is building on the previous two. Yesterday I shared “Five Looks” approach to Bible study to illustrate a discussion on Monday’s post. The issue raised on Monday was do we preach the main thought of a text, or a biblical theology prompted by the main thought of a text? The question really focuses in on step 4 of the “five looks” – Look Forward. How does looking beyond our focus text help us in the process of interpretation?
Some would say that we must read all of Scripture through the lens of later revelation, and that consequently all preaching must progress the story to its full conclusion. I beg to differ, while asking for careful hearing so that I am not just dismissed as being somehow outside the pale of someone’s definition of orthodoxy!
It is important to consider a text in its biblical context. This includes what comes later, as well as what came before. However, we should not explain a text in light of later revelation such that the text itself, as inspired originally, is left stripped of its value. The human author did not know the later revelation, so why must we require later information in order to interpret the text as it stands? The progress of revelation matters greatly, but we need not immediately read a passage through a later lens. We look at a passage in its context of the progress of revelation, but then progress the story beyond that if necessary and helpful. We do not need to meld the latter with the former into one “super-interpretation” (although I would call such a process actually a diminished interpretation). Rather we should do one, then the other, recognizing that the order matters.
Study, understand and preach a passage in its context (recognizing where it fits in the progress of revelation). If necessary, develop the greater story to its culmination. If you like, using the “five looks” approach presented above: step 4 carefully understood is important in our Bible study, but in preaching we should preach the fruit of steps 1-3, plus 5, adding in 4 if necessary and helpful.