Interpretive Principles and Practices
“What you believe about the Bible determines everything,” Kent Hughes was fond of saying to me as a College Church intern nearly a decade ago. He meant this not just in general terms, but specifically as it relates to preaching. If you believe the Bible to be the Word of God written, God’s words in human words, it should shape your entire approach to preaching. In other words, there are specific interpretive principles and practices that ought to flow naturally from one’s conviction about God’s Word. In this first section, our contributors invite us to reflect upon some of them: things such as listening carefully to the text of Scripture, approaching the study of a passage inductively, appreciating the historical dimensions of a biblical text, seeking to preach both Old and New Testaments as Christian Scripture, and being sensitive to the various genres of the Bible.
It should become clear as one reads these essays that if expository preaching is to be done well, certain habits of study need to be devel- oped and certain pitfalls, both practical and theoretical, need to be avoided. However, as important as right interpretation and interpre- tive methodology are for preaching, the ultimate criterion of success is faithfulness. This section of essays thus concludes on the right note with pastor John MacArthur helping us to hear once more Paul’s charge to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Biblical and Historical Paradigms
Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions is arguably the most oft-cited work of the twentieth century. It is also responsible for inject- ing into our everyday parlance the term “paradigm.” A paradigm is a model. Our second section of essays provides us with a few paradigms, a few models for modern-day preachers. The first is a biblical one, the model of the rugged and indefatigable apostle Paul. Both Bruce Winter and Duane Litfin explore aspects of Paul’s gospel proclamation and set him up, as it were, as a pastoral paradigm for twenty-first-century preachers. Then, drawing upon the rich legacy of history, Wallace Benn and J. I. Packer offer us a glimpse into the lives of the great Puritan pas- tor Richard Baxter and the towering Anglican divine Charles Simeon. Baxter provides us, as Benn demonstrates, with a model of how the preacher’s pastoral care for his flock can enhance, rather than detract