Impositional Preaching

Some of the greatest preachers of recent history have built sermons on single verses.  I tend not to do that.  Am I saying I know better than them?

Dr Lloyd-Jones, not to mention Spurgeon, and others, have demonstrated extended sermon series that essentially preach a single text at a time.  Surely if we were to be preachers after their kind today, then we should pursue the same kind of ministry?  Actually, I think not.

First, let’s recognize what these men did. Spurgeon sometimes resorted to an allegorical exegesis of the text, but not always.  Lloyd-Jones tended to preach the Bible’s theology radiating from the impact point of a single verse.  That is, since the word “justified” is in this verse, what all could be said from the whole canon on that theme (perhaps in this message, perhaps over several).

Second, let’s recognize what wannabe’s often do. Today when I hear people building messages from single texts I tend not to hear people with the pedigree of Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones.  I do hear some allegorical, not to mention fanciful, interpretations.  These lack credibility and authority.  I also hear some waffling messages padded with poor cross-referencing that shows neither theological acumen, nor precision in respect to recognition of biblical connections (nor genuine understanding of the theological needs of the listener).  In an era where listeners will look at the text and dismiss apparently unfounded sermonizing, we would do well to reevaluate the efficacy of many “single verse” approaches to preaching.

Third, let’s realize that imposition is not exposition. Too often the preacher has the mindset of seeking to utilize the text as a series of pegs on which to hang their thoughts.  All too often those pegs are not divinely intended to hold the weight placed on them.  The Bible is an intricate and powerful construct of divine design.  Sadly, all too often preachers take a twig from the oak tree and assume it will bear the same weight as the oak was designed to hold.  Impositional preaching is not exposition, it is a pale imitation of what some greats from church history did.

Fourth, let’s realise that exposition is about honouring God, not historical figures. I deeply respect Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones, as well as many other preachers through church history that I do not seek to emulate every week.  My view of expository preaching is built on my understanding of the nature of God’s Word.  As I seek to explain it, to demonstrate its relevance, to say what it says and seek to somehow make the message do what it does, I am pursuing a contemporary ministry of expository preaching.  I may fall short of historical models, and yet at the same time I may at times get closer to honouring the intent of the text.  I pray that God will enable me to have a fraction of the impact of these great men.  I pray that God will equip me to be a preacher of His Word, rather than one who seeks to reproduce a historically bound model of ministry.

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