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(Above: Pastor Terry D. Streeter, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Washington, DC, captured while proclaiming the meaning of the text with clarity, cultural sensitivity, redemptive-historical theology, and relevancy to the present and future Christian walk.)

 

A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance. The meaningof the text in view is most important in preaching. We will not be rewarded in glory for style apart from faithfulness to say what Godis saying in the passage (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am affirming that style is important, but it is not everything, and it is not the priority of preaching. What Godis saying in/from a passage throughus should not bore, yet neither should it be hidden behind our own “truths” or eloquence (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that we need to prioritize understanding of the text over keeping up with contemporary events and news stories. If we prioritize understanding the text, we will prepare our people to be ahead of the news and contemporary events, for they will be grounded in the voice of God—the decree of God (cf. Acts 20:32).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that application is most “relevant” when it flows from the subject of the text—God’svoice in the text (aka “the central idea of the text;” see the examples of preaching application from the meaning of the word by John the Baptist [Luke 3:3-14], and Peter [Acts 1:15-26, 2:14-41]). When Jesus served in his earthly ministry, he preached the “good newsof the kingdom of God,” and afterward he comforted, rebuked, further instructed, received, or healed people who were listening to him. The acts of compassion and truth did not contradict the gospel; they displayed the power of the gospel of the kingdom.

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying, too, that if, long ago, gospel preachers had provided sustained expositions of the meaning of the passages of the entirety of books within the Major and Minor Prophets, we would have given churches in America much of the knowledge of God needed to address American social injustices as part of the meaningof scripture – as the voice of God– without seeing any conflict with Redemptive History’s presentation of the gospel. But in trying to be both “relevant” and “Gospel-centered” apart from the meaning of the text, all parties – both anti-Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and those described by the anti-SJWs as so-called “SJWs” – have lost much of the power of God’svoice to combat the unrighteousness that leaves racism, sexism, and bigotry in its wake.

I find the words of Phyllis Wheatley upon the death of George Whitefield to have significance towhat I am saying about, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” when she writes of him that he preached,

Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;

“Take him my dear Americans, he said,

“Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:

“Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,

“Impartial Saviour is his title due:

“Wash’d in the fountain of redeeming blood,

“You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God”

– “On the Death of George Whitefield,” by Phillis Wheatley

On the distinction between “meaning” and “significance,” see E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967). When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am encouraging preachers to find that the meaningof Hirsch’s work still has significanceto faithful proclamation of the word of God, despite decades of movement of many away from Hirsch’s original thesis – that many including Hirsch himself.

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