If This Were My Last Sermon -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 14:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: If This Were My Last Sermon
Author: Robert H. Stein


If This Were My Last Sermon

Robert H. Stein

Robert H. Stein is Senior Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

This sermon previously appeared in The Minister’s Manual 2006, ed. James Cox (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2006). Used by permission of Wiley Publications.

Introduction

When I was asked to fill the pulpit for today’s service, the thought came into my mind, “What if this were the last sermon I ever preached? What should I preach on?” Now do not misunderstand me, I have not received any prophetic insight that this will indeed be the last time I ever preach, but it made me think. What if? What if this were in fact the last sermon I would ever preach? What should I choose as my subject? My first inclination was to think about choosing a difficult text in the New Testament that no one has ever understood and try to explain it clearly and accurately for the first time. As a professor of New Testament, to preach on such a subject would be quite tempting. After all, professors sometimes preach on things no one has ever heard of before. As I began to reflect on the idea of preaching on something new and unique, however, two thoughts came to mind that made me realize that this would not be a very good idea.

First, I thought of the likelihood that I might discover some text in the Bible that no one else has understood correctly and that I would be the first person ever to discover its true meaning. I have told students through the years that if they come up with some new and unique interpretation of a biblical text, they may indeed be correct, but they should first take a deep breath and think. Why is it that no one in the history of the Christian church has come up with this interpretation until now? Why is it that great scholars in the early church such as Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, or great Reformation scholars such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchton, or great post-Reformation scholars such as Bengel, Holtzmann, Michaelis, or great scholars in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries such as Westcott, Hort, Lightfoot, Lagrange, Zahn, Schlatter, or great scholars of more recent times such as Vincent Taylor, Joachim Jeremias, C. F. D. Moule, I. Howard Marshall, Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, etc.—why was it that they never came up with such an interpretation, whereas I have? Over the years I have heard people preach new and original interpretations of biblical texts and I think I can say, if my memory does not fail me, that

in almost every instance there has been a very good reason why no one in the history of the Christian church c...

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