This week we have been pondering the importance of word studies. It is vital that we take the words of Scripture seriously, and thereby make our preaching as accurate and effective as possible. So let’s say we’ve identified key words in a passage, pivotal terms on which the passage turns, and we’ve studied them to get a good sense of what the author meant by choosing those particular terms. How do we use the fruit of the study in our preaching? Here are some suggestions:
1. Default to smooth integration. The majority of word study work that you do in your study need not show in your preaching. By show, I mean overt reference to it. The default should be that the study you’ve done is hidden, but the explanation you give is accurate. Sometimes I would even go for smooth integration when I think the translation isn’t the best. So I will read it as is, and then subtly state a preferred translation. No fuss, no critique, just staying on track for effective explanation. I think this is a good default.
2. Underline word studies sparingly and strategically. There are advantages to sometimes letting some of the word study show overtly. Perhaps you go to a couple of familiar or enlightening uses of the term, to give a taste of the process and help people see why you explain it as you do. If this is done too much it will lose its impact. Choose to show the word study more overtly in strategic moments – perhaps when the term is critical to the passage as a whole, or at least to a major point in the passage.
3. Avoid original language flaunting. I know it is tempting to let your Hebrew or Greek hang out. And if you haven’t studied it, it may be even more tempting to show you’ve read heavy commentaries. I also know that some people will shake your hand and thank you for the wonderful insight into the original language. What neither of us know is how many in your congregation are sitting there feeling linguistically inadequate, assuming that you can find things in the Word they never could, and therefore feeling less motivated to read the Bible between now and when you preach again. Typically there is no need to refer to the actual term, just say “in the original” or “the word Paul uses here . . . ”
Tomorrow I’ll finish the list with three more suggestions on using the fruit of Word Studies.