As a preacher it is important to know the big shape of the book you are preaching. It is also important to communicate it. Too many Christians see the books of the Bible as a random assortment of random chunks. Our preaching should not exacerbate that lack of macro awareness. While preaching a passage it is helpful for our listeners to hear how this piece fits in the whole message of the book.
We won’t agree on every attempt to “macro frame” a Bible book, but we should agree that people need to recognize the unity and flow of the books.
The first three chapters of Ephesians describe the calling of believers as church – a body united in Christ Jesus. Then from 4:1 on the book is concerned with the conduct of believers as church – a body living out its unity in Christ Jesus. Calling: Conduct. Overly simplistic? Maybe, but better than only having random details or a couple of favorite verses.
What about Mark’s gospel? Two big questions. Who is Jesus and what does it mean to follow him? In 1:1 the reader is told who He is (Christ, the Son of God), but the characters in the narrative take a long time to get there. The hinge of the book is in the middle of chapter 8, where Peter makes his “you are the Christ,” confession, only to then put his foot in it by rebuking Jesus for introducing crucifixion talk. But the reality is that a Christ who is simply miracle-working man of power is an incomplete Christ. You can’t have the Christ without the cross. So in the next chapters Jesus keeps explaining and predicting the cross. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The followers of Jesus are to take up their cross and follow Him. Do they get it? When will someone understand? Perhaps once the Christ dies on the cross, and the climactic statement of the centurion standing close by, “this man was the Son of God.” (1:1; 8:27-34; 15:39). Mark’s gospel has a profound flow to it, but how will people know this if we don’t let it slip out in our preaching?
Romans seems to move through four chunks of thought – Our problem (we lack God’s righteousness – 1:18-3:20); God’s provision (he gives us His righteousness – 3:21-8:39); God’s promise (we can trust His promise of righteousness – 9:1-11:36); Our practice (we live out God’s righteousness – 12:1-15:33). Now I know that this righteousness emphasis doesn’t also point out the other core issues of God’s faithfulness and unity between God’s people that spans the book. Perhaps we can present differing macro frames of reference for the same book to help people see the big picture?
We’ll leave it there for now, but as preachers, let’s not miss opportunities to help people see where a passage fits in the flow of a book. Let’s do some macro framing!