One of the challenges we face when preaching epistles is the challenge of coherence. We need to hold it together!
In a narrative, it is typically clear that all the details are working together to tell a story (though not always, it seems, for some preachers!) Sometimes an apparently disconnected detail can actually help us to understand more clearly what is going on in the story, if we will only take the time to wrestle with the detail.
But in epistles, we sometimes find a dense set of theologically rich and eminently preachable truths. And the temptation will be to select and present some of them. But here is the problem: authors of biblical epistles didn’t compile random lists of theological phrases. They wrote coherently. Their content flowed logically and sequentially.
When you are preaching a paragraph in an epistle, be sure to invest study in the flow of thought and not just the theological meaning of details. How do the sentences flow from one to the next? How does this paragraph fit with what has come before and where the author goes next?
Biblical authors were not drunk. Plus, the inspiration of God’s Spirit also reinforces our expectation of coherence. They were not random. It does make sense. It is our job to make sense of it, and then, in our preaching, to make sense of it for others. Our job is more than that, but it should not be less than that. When you have a text to preach – hold it together!