As I have written before, one of the hardest things in preaching is choosing what to leave out. And one of the sources of extraneous material is the qualifications we tend to add to every point in the message. You know how it goes: the next point Paul makes is ABC . . . of course, we have to balance this with DEF from Paul’s other letter, and GHI from Peter’s second epistle, and JKL from Proverbs, and MNO from our general experience, and PQR to keep pressure group 1 happy, and STU to avoid criticism from fashionable trend watch group 2, and VWX to touch the pet peeve issue of in-church political group 3, and YZ to… By the time you get through that nobody has a clue what the actual point of the message, or the text, actually was. Over-qualified sermon.
So, here’s a principle (and, ironically, a gentle qualifying follow up):
Principle – Preach the passage with its full force. Allow other passages to be preached another time. Your job is to faithfully and effectively communicate this particular passage with relevance to the listeners. Your job is not to cover every possible qualifying statement and pack so much material around all that you say that the cutting edge is not only dulled, but totally hidden.
Qualifying follow up – Preach the passage with fidelity to the whole canon. This doesn’t mean you have to refer to the whole canon, or even any of the rest of the canon. But you do need to think about whether the point could be misapplied or whether the truth, the gospel, etc., could be misunderstood. Qualify as much as necessary. Often the only thing that needs to be added is a brief statement such as, “what we are saying here doesn’t mean we should never do XYZ, but we’ll talk about that another time. Don’t miss what this passage is saying . . . ”
How do you handle the qualifying issue in your preaching?