Yesterday I shared two thoughts on preaching Bible-wide thematic grains. It isn’t about chasing every use of a term through the concordance (although that may be part of the study process and a valuable pursuit). Neither is our goal to overload listeners with references. So what should we do?
3. Pursue genuine grains that feed forward through the canon. That is, know the Bible as well as possible and don’t think the concordance is more important than the Bible. Get to know the writers and their books, their sources, their influences, etc. I’m not chasing into radical liberal theories of unproven phantom documents, but the intertextual connections that are present within the text.
Somehow Paul wasn’t only thinking of Roman soldier garb in Ephesians 6, there was some Isaiah 59 in the mix too. Commentaries may help, but the real key is to read the Bible and recognize when an earlier text is influencing a later one. Walter Kaiser speaks about the “informing theology” of a writer. How did Isaiah influence Mark, how did the Torah influence Jonah, etc.
4. Move forward from your text with hermeneutical honesty, avoiding anachronistic imposition. That is, show how the themes in a text progress forward through the canon, but don’t make the text dependent on later revelation. If the listeners are looking at a text in context and can’t fathom how the text had any value without revelation from centuries later, they may question either God’s ability to communicate, or your communication about God. Can the text in question bear its own weight?
When the New Testament is on the Old inflicted, or the Old is by the New restricted, then we can lose too much. Much better to see the richness of a passage, then see how it builds forward to the fullness of all we know now in light of later revelation.
5. Invite people into the Scriptures, don’t intimidate them with your knowledge. Seems simple – if you want people to be in the Bible for themselves, then don’t make them feel completely incapable of finding anything worthwhile without you. If you want them to rely completely on you, something’s gone awry.
Our listeners need to get a sense of the richness of Scripture as a whole. What strategies do you have for achieving this?