From Text To Sermon: The Proper Use Of The Bible In Preaching -- By: Thomas A. Jackson

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 003:1 (Fall 1985)
Article: From Text To Sermon: The Proper Use Of The Bible In Preaching
Author: Thomas A. Jackson

From Text To Sermon:
The Proper Use Of The Bible In Preaching

Thomas A. Jackson

Pastor, McLean Baptist Church, McLean, Virginia

In thousands of churches every Sunday someone enters the pulpit, reads from the Bible, and preaches a sermon. The impression is conveyed or the claim is made that the sermon is based upon the biblical text, as when the preacher intones, “My text today is...” Even when such a preamble is omitted, the sequence, text/sermon, combined with the traditional use of the Bible in preaching, creates the distinct impression that a relationship between the two is likely to exist. Whether or not there actually is such a relationship, people in the pews seem to feel there should be. It is a widely-shared assumption that the task of the Christian pulpit is to proclaim the message of the Scriptures.

Why? Why not the Dialogues of Plato or the plays of Shakespeare or the Great Books? The question will seem absurd to most church members who assume that the Bible is the uniquely inspired Word of God. But the question is becoming less absurd as the authority traditionally ascribed to the Bible becomes more and more eroded. Between the rising floodwaters of secularism on one side and a swelling tide of religious pluralism on the other, the Bible’s once formidable position as the unquestioned source of faith and morals is less awesome than in the past. These challenges, coupled with the near biblical illiteracy of multitudes of church members, make it imperative for preachers and other committed members of the church not to take the Bible for granted as a foundation forever secure. Even among the faithful today the Bible is often more symbol than substance, more talisman than Torah (Teaching), more superstition than resource. Since it is the Bible, and only the Bible, which bears witness to events which brought the church into being and in which the church finds its meaning and mission, a weakening relationship between Scripture and church is certain to impact the church adversely. Do we doubt, in fact, that much of the lethargy which afflicts so much of the church today, the confusion of identity and purpose and agenda, is traceable to a diminished experience with the Word which God speaks from the pages of Scripture?

In the present situation it is not surprising to hear Christian preachers being summoned to proclaim the biblical Word faithfully and responsibly. In seminaries, preaching workshops, and a burgeoning literature, we are being challenged to a preaching which takes the Bible seriously, seeking its inspiration and content within the text rather than elsewhere. This challenge owes much of its impetus to the constructive results of two centuries of biblical scholarship which have greatly enriched our understanding of the Bible. ...

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