From The Scriptures To The Sermon I. Some Perspectives On Preaching -- By: J. I. Packer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 22:0 (NA 1990)
Article: From The Scriptures To The Sermon I. Some Perspectives On Preaching
Author: J. I. Packer

From The Scriptures To The Sermon
I. Some Perspectives On Preaching

J. I. Packer

Dr. Packer is professor of historical and systematic theology at Regent College, Vancouver. This article and the next were delivered at ATS’s fall lecture series in 1989.

I urge you, Timothy, as we live in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus (whose coming in power will judge the living and the dead), to preach the Word of God. Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season. Prove, correct, and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching.” Thus J. B. Phillips, that prince of paraphrasts, renders the first two verses of 2 Timothy 4. Note the aspects of the communicative action that Paul prescribes (they are all there in the Greek): proclamation, demonstration, correction, instruction. Note the commitment to the preaching ministry for which Paul calls: press on, he says, with utmost urgency and stick-to-it-ive-ness (a fine North American word that catches the force of makrothumia better than does the English scholar’s “patience”). And now consider whether we evangelicals, who so often cite these words of Paul to each other and who claim to know so clearly that the preaching of the Word is the power-source of the church, can be said to succeed in rising to the demands of this insight that we inherit. I think it must be honestly admitted that often we fail here; we do not succeed in preaching the Word of God as plainly, pungently, and powerfully as we would like to do. What follows is offered in the hope that it will help us to preach better. If you do not find my thoughts useful, please remember that, like so many of our unsuccessful sermons, they were at least well meant.


First let me focus the concept of preaching the Word of God as I think it ought to be focused. I do not define preaching institutionally or sociologically, but theologically and functionally. An institutional definition would present preaching in terms of buildings, pulpits, and pews.1 A sociological definition would view preaching as a special kind of monologue fulfilling specific corporate expectations on the part of the group being addressed. Both types of definition are no doubt useful in their place; but if one is, or hopes to be, a preacher oneself, and wants to know what fulfilling the ministry that Paul urged upon Timothy really involves, then a theological definition that shows what should happen when preaching takes place is what one needs. Here, then, is my attempt to formulate this concept in normative theological terms.

Christian preaching, I urge, is the event of God bringing to an audience a Bible-based, Christ-related, life-i...

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