Human Authors, Words of the Spirit, and Preaching Christ
Our hermeneutics and homiletics need to be focused on Christ.
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Before the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to "Preach the Word!" (2 Tim. 4:2), he admonished the pastor of the Ephesian church to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15). The handled Word becomes the preached Word. Richard B. Gaffin, lecturing on Reformed hermeneutics at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, says,
The theme of hermeneutics has a particular focus in the direction of preaching. … I will focus on the hermeneutical side, but I always do that with an eye toward preaching. … Exegesis, the work in the study, ought to always be in the interests of the pulpit.
Sidney Greidanus suggests that the term "hermeneutist" best describes the task of the preacher because it expresses the fact that "(1) he interprets the Word, (2) he translates the Word, (3) he proclaims the Word, and (4) that these activities cannot be separated."
The preacher must not be like a television anchorperson delivering lines that someone else has written, having no personal investment in the material. Instead, the preacher should be delivering a sermon from God's Word that has first gripped their heart and shaken their mind, a sermon born from hours of wrestling with the text and delivered with the scars of hermeneutical and homiletical preparation apparent.
Michael Fabarez observes, in his book Preaching that Changes Lives,
Your weekdays, imagined by the naïve to consist of pastoral chitchat, hours of pleasure reading, and afternoon rounds of golf, are in fact days of intensive study that culminate in a spiritual battle called a sermon. As Bruce Thielemann writes, "The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises, and does not rest … . To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know that each time you do it that you must do it again." The life of preaching requires dedication to the ongoing rigors of weekly preparation and delivery.
What are we looking for?
One of the significant issues in hermeneutics, and therefore homiletics, is answering the question of what we are looking for when we interpret the Bible. Should preachers search for the single original intended meaning of the human author in the immediate and antecedent context alone, or should he also be looking for the fuller meaning of the divine author in the context of the entire Bible? The answer to that interpretive question will have a profound effect on the content and nature of sermons.
I contend that the Bible teaches us that no text is rightly interpreted apart from understanding its meaning in the context of the entire Bible and every text must be understood and interpreted in light of its relationship to Jesus Christ, the center of Scripture, and eschatological fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ.
David E. Prince: