My first ever seminary class was with Dr Bruce Fong sixteen years ago. It was such a joy to walk through half the Bible under Bruce’s contagious laugh and delight in the Scriptures. We have both changed jobs a couple of times since then, but he is now the Dean of Dallas Theological Seminary’s Houston Campus. Bruce blogs regularly on brucefong.com. As we continue this series marking the release of Pleased to Dwell, Bruce shares with us some thoughts on the difference the Incarnation makes to expository preaching.
Every preacher is challenged to build a bridge between the sermon and the souls of people. These two worlds of earth and eternity were stunningly linked by the life of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He was incarnated at His birth. The Scriptures tell us that He gave up the expression of who He was as the Son of God in order to identify with mankind and ultimately sacrifice His life on their behalf. This incarnation of the Christ to be Jesus of Nazareth is a model for every preacher to do the same.
When an expositor successfully follows the example of Jesus’ incarnation they ultimately blend culture with the Gospel by way of four emphases. He modeled each of these qualities in His coming to earth. They are humility, a new mind, a renunciation and a new identification.
First and foremost of these incarnational elements is Christ’s example of being sent to be born as a human. He did not argue, complain or resist the Father’s plan. Instead, He humbled Himself and became human so that He could die as a substitute for sin in our place. The expositor lives a humble life in compensation, Spartan lifestyle and public affirmation.
Second, somewhat related to His humility Jesus Christ demonstrated a new way of thinking. His incarnation led to an existence that was never self-absorbed. He did not worry about losing public status but instead was absorbed with an unending interest in His assigned mission, bringing the Gospel to the whole world. In the same way expositors by virtue of their mission selflessly bring attention to their Lord.
Third, before Christ came to earth as a Galilean Jew He first “emptied himself”. This was a sacrifice. He renounced His status, his independence and his immunity. Voluntarily He set aside what was rightfully His. Pride and the pursuit of fame has no place in the life of an expository preacher who is following the incarnational model of the Savior.
Fourth, Jesus had a genuine solidarity with man by becoming a true human, sharing in the limitations of flesh and blood, through both life and death. He lived among the people, embraced them and served them. Expository preachers will be more effective when they live among and embrace the people to whom they bring the Word.
The incarnation that Jesus followed and modeled is our example of His devotion for us. Furthermore, it is the example that should be the driving motivation for every expository preacher.