So do we have to thoroughly define terms every time we mention God? That is, will every sermon be thwarted by a systematics lecture within moments of setting sail from the introduction? Not at all. Here are four suggestions that I think will have cumulative power without disrupting every sermon completely. Remember the first suggestion from yesterday though . . . you need to know the difference between the God defined by philosophy and the one true God who has revealed Himself in the Son and through the Spirit.
2. Repetition of “which God” question – by repeatedly pointing out that not every assumed description of the “one true God” is biblically true of the “one true God.” Some assumptions are true of Him, but not primary in His self-revelation. Just as it can be powerful in an evangelistic setting to ask someone who doesn’t believe in God which God they don’t believe in, so it can be powerful to open the subject up to Christians and ask which God they do believe in. It is a dangerous assumption that all who refer to God mean the same being, or even are clear on who He is. Sadly too many end up assuming a sort of impersonal ultimate force rather than the feeling, thinking, personal, loving creator God of the Bible. Let’s chip away at the naive assumption that everyone basically knows who God is.
3. Emphasis of particular text in light of its context – just as we can overlay a certain set of divine assumptions on the Bible as a whole, so we can easily do that with particular texts. Try to be more nuanced in making clear what a text is offering us as it reveals God. For example, Yahweh high and lifted up in Isaiah 6, holy holy holy . . . needs to be preached in light of Isaiah 1-5, where His heart for the whoring faithless nation who don’t draw near in loving devotion is made clear. Sovereign and holy? Absolutely. Distant, cold, rule-obsessed and uninvolved? Never! Without seeing how God reveals Himself and His heart in chapters 1-5, the sixth chapter can be preached with wrong emphasis, and the last five verses can really end up preaching that other philosophically-driven view of God.
4. Emphasis of particular text in light of complete revelation – that is to say, don’t give the impression that “God” in the Old Testament is just “Father” in New Testament terms. How easy it is to give the mistaken impression that God becomes a trinity when the Son is incarnated. The God of the Old Testament is trinity, even if each particular instance doesn’t make that clear. Was it the Father than spoke face to face with Abraham, that wrestled with Jacob, that spoke to the elders of Israel, etc.? What about the Spirit in the Old Testament? Any time we see “God” referenced in the Bible, we must be sensitive to the content and the informing theology at that point in the progress of revelation, but we shouldn’t forget what we now know more clearly about the one true God being trinity!
5. Since God is trinity, repetition of trinitarian hints are worthwhile – just to reinforce the previous point, don’t feel you have to fully explain the Trinity every time you mention it. Why not intrigue people with a sense of the beautiful attractive wonder of who God really and personally is through trinitarian hints as you preach the Bible. Don’t wait for the overt trinitarian formula to refer to trinity. Don’t miss the Father/Son language and turn that into a generic one-size-fits-all “God” reference as some preachers and authors do (almost giving the impression that the Son is somehow less than God). Don’t ignore the trinity in the Old Testament where there is a hint, and even where there isn’t. After all, we want to preach the one true trinitarian God of the Bible!
Ok, two posts over the daily limit . . . I need to stop, but feel free to comment.