About Me

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I am the Pastor/Teacher of Rivers of Joy Baptist Church in Minford, Ohio since August 2008.  I am married to Charity since June 14, 1969.  I have four grown children.   Having served in the local church for over forty years as Pastor/Teacher, Asso., Youth Pastor, Minister of Education, Building Upkeep, Camp Director, Sunday School Teacher, etc. Also I have worked in the public place for as many years as I have preached. Charity and her sister are co owner of Union Mills Conf. (Bakery) in West Portsmouth Ohio

Preaching Biblical Theology in the Sermon



 
Preaching a Biblical Theology in Your Sermon

What does it mean to say that we should use biblical theology in preaching?

Biblical theology, in contrast, to systematic theology focuses on the biblical storyline, whereas systematic theology, though it is informed by biblical theology, is a temporal.

What is biblical theology? Don Carson argues that biblical theology stands closer to the text than systematic theology, aims to achieve genuine sensitivity with respect to the distinctiveness of each corpus, and seeks to connect the diverse corpora using their own categories. Ideally, therefore, biblical theology stands as a kind of bridge discipline between responsible exegesis and responsible systematic theology (even though each of these inevitably influences the other two).2

In other words, biblical theology restricts itself more consciously to the message of the text or corpus under consideration. It asks what themes are central to the biblical writers in their historical context, and attempts to discern the coherence of such themes. Biblical theology focuses on the storyline of scripture—the unfolding of God’s plan in redemptive history, so that in every passage we preach we consider the place of that text in relationship to the whole storyline of the Bible. It should be apparent, therefore, that any systematic theology worthy of the name builds upon biblical theology, though systematicians also rightly explore themes that are implicit in biblical writings but do not receive sustained attention in the biblical text.

The distinctive accent of biblical theology, as Brian Rosner notes, is that it “lets the biblical text set the agenda.”3

Systematic theology, on the other hand, also poses questions to the text that reflect the questions or philosophical concerns of our day. Kevin Vanhoozer articulates the specific role of biblical theology in saying, “‘Biblical theology’ is the name of an interpretive approach to the Bible which assumes that the word of God is textually mediated through the diverse literary, and historically conditioned, words of human beings.”4 Or, “To state the claim more positively, biblical theology corresponds to the interests of the texts themselves.”5

Carson expresses well the contribution of biblical theology, “But ideally, biblical theology, as its name implies, even as it works inductively from the diverse texts of the Bible, seeks to uncover and articulate the unity of all the biblical texts taken together, resorting primarily to the categories of those texts themselves. In this sense it is canonical biblical theology, ‘whole-Bible’ biblical theology.”6 Biblical
theology may limit itself to the theology of Genesis, the Pentateuch, Matthew, Romans, or even all of Paul. And yet biblical theology may also comprehend the entire canon of scripture, in which the storyline of the scriptures as a whole is integrated.

Too often expositional preachers limit themselves to Leviticus, Matthew, or Revelation without considering the place they inhabit in the storyline of redemptive history. They isolate one part of the scripture from another, and hence preach in a truncated way instead of proclaiming the whole counsel of God. Gerhard Hasel rightly remarks that we need to do biblical theology in a way “that seeks to do justice to all dimensions of reality to which the biblical texts testify.”7 Doing such theology is not merely the task for seminary professors; it is the responsibility of all preachers of the word. We think again about the differences between systematic and biblical theology. Carson again charts the way for us.8

Systematic theology considers the contribution of historical theology, and hence mines the work of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, etc. in formulating the teaching of scripture. Systematic theology attempts to speak directly to our cultural setting, so that it speaks forth the word of God to our day. Obviously, then, any good preacher must also be rooted in systematics to speak a profound and powerful word to his contemporaries. Biblical theology is more inductive and foundational, whereas in systematic theology the worldview of all of scripture is formulated. \

Carson rightly says that biblical theology is a “mediating discipline,” but systematic theology is a “culminating discipline.” We can say, then, that biblical theology s intermediate, functioning as a bridge between historical and literary study of scripture and dogmatic theology.

Biblical theology, then, works from the text in its historical context, but Scobie rightly argues that biblical theology is not a purely neutral or objective enterprise.  The notion that we can neatly separate what it meant from what it means, as Krister Stendahl claimed, is a chimera. Scobie rightly says the following about biblical theology: “Its presuppositions, based on a Christian faith commitment, include belief that the Bible conveys a divine revelation, that the Word of God in Scripture constitutes the norm of Christian faith and life, and that all the varied material in both Old and New Testaments can in some way be related to the plan and purpose of the one God of the whole Bible. Such a Biblical Theology stands somewhere between what the Bible ‘meant’ and what it ‘means’.”9

It follows, then, that biblical theology is not confi ned only to the New Testament or the Old Testament, but that it considers both Testaments together as the word of God. Indeed, biblical theology works from the notion that the canon of scripture functions as its norm, and thus both Testaments are needed to unpack the theology of scripture.

There is a wonderful dialectic between the OT and the NT in doing biblical theology. The NT represents the culmination of the history of redemption begun in the OT, and hence biblical theology is by definition a narrative theology. It captures the story of God’s saving work in history. The historical unfolding of what God has done may be described as salvation history or redemptive history. It is also fruitful to consider the scriptures from the standpoint of promise and fulfillment; what is promised in the OT is fulfi lled in the NT. We must beware of erasing the historical particularity of OT revelation, so that we expunge the historical context in which it was birthed. On the other hand, we must acknowledge progress of revelation from the OT to the NT. Such progress of revelation recognizes the preliminary nature of the OT and the definitive word that comes in the NT. To say that the OT is preliminary does not downplay its crucial role, for we can only understand the NT when we have also grasped the meaning of the OT, and vice-versa. Some are hesitant to embrace typology, but such an approach is fundamental to biblical theology, for it is a category employed by the biblical writers themselves. Nor is typology limited to the NT, for the OT itself employs the exodus theme typologically, for both Isaiah and Hosea, among others, predict a new exodus that is patterned after the first exodus. In the same way, the OT expects a new David who is even greater than the first David. We see in the OT itself, then, an escalation in typology, so that the fulfi llment of the type is always greater than the type itself. Jesus is not only a new David, but the greater David.

Typology acknowledges a divine pattern and purpose in history. God is the fi nal author of scripture, i.e., the story is a divine drama, and God knows the end from the beginning, so that we as readers can see adumbrations of the fi nal fulfi llment in the OT.