Preaching: Encountering the living God who has come to us in Christ

Craig Bartholomew’s newly published book Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture (Baker, 2015), is a spiritually rich and intellectually satisfying read. I loved this section on preaching:

Claritas scripturae teaches us that the large landmarks of Scripture are clear, but the metaphor of clarity simultaneously alerts us to the fact that much in Scripture is not clear and not least how Scripture is relevant for us today in all areas of life. This is a major reason why groups of Christians, all of whom are in holy orders, in full-time service of the Lord Christ, set apart those appropriately gifted to devote their full time to prayer and the Word. If we are to listen fully to God’s address through his Word, then we need skilled preachers who increasingly lift the veil that for us remains over much of Scripture.

However, it is a mistake to think that preachers function only to increase our knowledge of the Bible. Speaking of the role of the Word and teaching in the church, Bavinck rightly insists, ‘This teaching, nevertheless, must not be understood in an intellectualist sense.” This would be to reduce faith and personal encounter with God to information. Karl Barth is right to link preaching and the nature of Scripture to proclamation. Scripture’s character is kerygmatic; it is the message or announcement of the great king and as such is addressed to the very core of our being, what Old Testament Wisdom literature refers to as our heart. As kerygma, Scripture is not confined to one illocutionary force in its speech acts. Kerygma can take many forms: the telling of a story as in Jonah, the sermons of Moses in Deuteronomy, the Letters of the New Testament, the visionary form of Revelation, and so on. Undoubtedly, a function of Scripture as kerygma is to instruct and to provide information, but the knowledge that Scripture seeks to impart is far more than that. Scripture is the means by which God gives himself to us and draws us into his very life. Preaching is never there simply to illumine what we do not already know, although it may and should do that; it is primarily to enable us to encounter again and again the living God who has come to us in Christ.

Pgs. 34-35. Bold emphasis added.

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R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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