“Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, Black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of Black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves—Black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights. Without the idealistic, strenuous, and patriotic efforts of Black Americans, our democracy today would look very different; in fact, our country might not be a democracy at all.”
I had a brief social media exchange with people I do not know about a well known preacher’s expositions of Scripture. I remarked that the preacher in question is a highly competent expositor of NT Letters – which, if trained in evangelical academies that affirm inerrancy, is almost a given. (As Jonathan Pennington says, “For Protestants, especially evangelicals, especially Reformed, doctrine-oriented ones, we love Paul. Give us Romans and thirteen years to preach through it phrase by phrase, and we will be in heaven!” [Reading the Gospels Wisely, Baker Academic, 2012], 37.) However, I also mentioned that the same preacher is not a competent expositor of NT Gospels and Acts, or the OT. I made no comment on the person’s abilities with the book of Revelation because I did not want a debate over views of interpreting the Apocalypse.
The comments related to the NT Letters and the other biblical literature recognizes that many expositors use hermeneutics intended for NT Letters to interpret the Fourfold Gospel, Acts, Revelation, and the OT. When they do so, they yield sermons that do not respect the biblical writer’s combined theology, structure, tone, and argument even if they might respect the use of the original languages. Yet even that respect for the languages is only to a certain degree if one does not place the grammar and syntax of the language back into the structured theological content of the passage’s tone and flow of the argument of the words.
Expositional preaching takes the biblical author’s central idea in a passage and communicates that idea to a contemporary audience, while respecting the biblical author’s language, structure, theology, tone, and argument. To do otherwise in preaching is not exposition, even if one is a highly respected expositor of the NT Letters.
For example, the subject of Judges 13 is, “Manoah’s increasing understanding of the identity of the Angel of the Lord in the revelation of the child to be born to his barren wife.” While there are typology and echo related to the child to be born, the passage moves from Manoah’s ignorance related to the words of the Angel to Manaoah and his nameless wife bowing in worship before the Angel as the Angel reveals his divine identity. If one preaches a sermon on Judges 13 without the above subject being the central idea behind the homiletical idea, the sermon will not be an exposition of this passage no matter how well studied, crafted, and delivered.
A good adage to insert here might be the one that begins, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….” However, having moved to Chicago, I have noticed how many people identify Canadian Geese as ducks.
Although our methods differ ever so slightly, I highly respect the work of David Helm and what his team at Charles Simeon Trust is doing to train preachers to give expositions of Scripture in various genres according to the conventions of the genre. Tony Merida and his team of writers are doing the same in the Christ-Centered Exposition series; (see this resource too). Also, if one is looking to approach the exposition of 1 and 2 Chronicles, some helps are offered here, there, and there.
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Meaning of Matthew 5:43-48:
Jesus’ authoritative teaching on love for one’s enemies corrects the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father.
Why do I say this is the author’s intended meaning of this passage?
First, “Jesus’ authoritative teaching” reflects “But I say to you” (44). The content of what he says takes up the most space and unifies the passage, so it is the Subject of the passage. That content concerns “love for one’s enemies.” Jesus gives an imperative on loving enemies (44b), with a reasoning related to sonship before the Father (45), and two examples of wrongly reciprocating love and greetings (46-47).
Second, “corrects” reflects the contrast between what the disciples have been taught and believe to be right and what Jesus now teaches. “Corrects” is what Jesus is doing within the entire passage. His “authoritative teaching” is correcting.
Third, “the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father” concerns the remainder of the passage. There were some in the listening crowd who were returning love only to those who demonstrated love toward them, and not toward those who did not. Similarly, there were those in the crowd of listeners who greeted only their fellow Jewish brethren and ignored the Gentiles with their greetings. Those are practices of reciprocation: I will give to you only if and what you give to me. Reciprocation concerns justice, i.e., “I will give you what is fair, what is equal, what you are deserving based on your treatment of me or status in life, and no more.” Any “tax collector” and any “Gentile” – both for whom the first century Jewish people had great disdain – could reciprocate, and did so. So any Jewish listener in the crowd was not being righteous by reciprocating, but was acting no better than any thieving tax-collector or any other non-Jew.
However, Jesus intends for citizens of the kingdom of God to be like our heavenly Father—to imitate his works and not the practices of sinners. Unlike the listeners, tax collectors, and Gentiles, the Father does something vastly different than reciprocating. He gives the sun (and all of its benefits) to people who are evil before him. If he gave the sun as reciprocation, no one would get sunlight, heat, or all of the other benefits of the sun! In the same way, the Lord gives rain to people unrighteous in his sight in the same measure that he gives it to people who stand righteous before him. When it comes to sun and rain, the Lord does not give better treatment to his followers than he does to his haters.
What do such actions by the Father show? They show love toward the sinful; his love toward the good and just is assumed.
So then what is “perfect?” To be perfect is to show love – the Father’s love – to those underserving of your love rather than responding to people on the basis of what a just treatment of their behavior or status toward you would deserve. To do so is to be a son of the Heavenly Father (and to do otherwise is to be like a first century Jewish tax collector and Gentile). To be perfect, is to prioritize love over justice in your personal treatment of people.
So this is a passage that calls us to act with mercy and grace toward all. Go pour out sun and rain on those you deem undeserving of such love, even as the Father is doing for each of us this very moment. The cross of Christ and his resurrection from the dead provide the Son and the reign of God for us, in mercy, at the cost of justice poured out on Christ instead of us.
I talk more on the above theory and method of interpretation employed above in Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody 2020).
Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody Publishers, 2020) argues that Biblical Exposition is most dynamic when coupled with the African American preaching tradition. Charlie Dates, Romell Williams, George Parks, Jr., Terry D. Streeter and a cast of pastors and preaching professors collaborate to demonstrate the power of exposition in the cradle of the Black pulpit. The contributors in the volume give examples of African American Biblical exposition in every section of the OT and NT. They also explain how to preach from narrative, poetical, prophetic, epistolary, and apocalyptic genres throughout the Scriptures. This important and powerful resource celebrates the faithful, biblical preaching of African Americans that is so often overlooked because it’s stylistically different than the style of most white preachers. Appropriate for training associate ministers or use as a textbook in homiletics, Say It! will give the preacher what is needed to speak to real life from every page of the Book! Look for its release in February of 2020 or pre-order now
PREFACE: The Treasure and Potential of African American Preaching
— CHARLIE DATES —
INTRODUCTION: The Joining of the African American and Exposition
— ERIC C. REDMOND —
Black Preaching and Black Hermeneutic—A Background for Biblical Exposition
- African American Exposition Rooted in a Biblical Hermeneutic
- A Ladder, An Ark, and A King: The Challenge of Old Testament Exposition
ERIC C. REDMOND
- Contextual Considerations in a Tension-Filled New Testament Text
Biblical Exposition of the Old Testament
- Enough Is Enough: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Pentateuch Book—Deuteronomy 1:1–8
GEORGE PARKS, JR.
- Take Your Mountain: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Historical Book—Joshua 14:6–15
ERIC C. REDMOND
- Holla if You Hear Me: The Mission of Worship: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Poetical Book—Psalm 96
- The Ministry of Vision: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Prophetic Book (Mainly Poetical) —Habakkuk 2:1–4
TERRY D. STREETER
- His Word Works: Expository Preaching from an OT Prophetic Book (Mainly Narrative) —Jonah 3
CHARLIE P. DATES
Biblical Exposition of the New Testament
- Who is this Man? Expository Preaching from the Gospel and Acts—Mark 5
- Have You Got Good Religion? Expository Preaching from a New Testament Epistle—James 1:26–27
- Waiting for a Wedding: Expository Preaching from the Apocalypse—Revelation 21
- A Case for a Regular Diet of Preaching through a Biblical Book
ERIC C. REDMOND
I am excited to see my colleagues’ publication of, Standing Firm: The Doctrinal Commitment of the Moody Bible Institute (Moody Publishers, 2019). I hope that readers will find that at Moody we still align ourselves with orthodox truth. Contrary to rumors published this past spring, we have not made any sort of doctrinal slide. All of our professors fully embrace the inerrancy of the Scriptures of the OT and NT and live out the truth of the gospel contained therein.
Standing Firm also is a good text for personal or group study of the truths Christians believe from Scripture. It is a good, easy-to-read work for firming or reaffirming your understanding of Christian doctrine.
In yesterday’s MBI Bible Department chapel, Dr. John Goodrich asked me what books would I recommend a student majoring in Biblical Studies read before graduating. In the shortness of time, I mentioned this list:
- Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, because Hirsch used to believe meaning is stable.
- Johnson, Expository Hermeneutics, because Johnson built a model for interpreting Scripture based on Hirsch’s theory.
- Ward, Planet Narnia (also Kindle), and both the Narnia series and the Space Trilogy series by Lewis, because Planet Narnia is a great piece of literary criticism that also will help one learn to discern meaning in texts.
- Ellison, The Invisible Man, because it is apropos for the divided American society in which many Biblical Studies majors will serve. (Kindle)
- Meade, Teaching Hearts, Training Minds or Comforting Hearts, Training Minds, because many of them will begin families of their own one day and need a resource to help disciple their children, and in discipling their children they also will see a good text and method for discipling church members in theological truth.
- As many Christian classics as one can (including those in the Catholic tradition), because we should know our own classics and interact with their enduring ideas.
To this list immediately I would add Carson’s, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, The Gagging of God, Exegetical Fallacies, The Intolerance of Tolerance, and The Gospel of John , because Carson is all about rightly reading Scripture and engaging culture with the gospel, and Packer’s, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, because personal evangelism should be one of the ends of teaching and learning Scripture and we should do it in the truth of God’s grace.
An exhaustive list would be too long for a blog post.
“It appears that our entire encounter with the Bible, even if it involves our natural abilities, is a supernatural encounter. This would seem to imply that whatever we meet in the Bible—historical facts, poetic praises, proverbial wisdom, promises of help, descriptions of God’s nature, illustrations of God’s ways, standards of holy living, procedures of church discipline, predictions, calamities, warnings of Satanic opposition, summons to faith, analyses of human depravity, directions for husbands and wives, political insights, financial principles, and much more—all of it will only be seen aright when we see it illumined by, and in relation to, the peculiar glory of God. In other words, no matter how natural the process of reading is, and no matter how natural the objects discovered are, no reading and no discovery happen without dependence on God or without seeing all things in relation to his worth and beauty—if we are reading the way God means for his book to be read.”
John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 178-179. Also available via Kindle, and at wstbooks.
Finally, I secured my copy of Edwards the Exegete. I am so excited! It takes a little while to fit a work like this into the budget, even when it is sale price.
Edwards was an incredible Christological, whole-Bible thinker. I hope to learn from his method how to become a better reader of Scripture. From the little bit I have read, I would invite anyone who wants another look at a better understanding of how to read Scripture to slowly wade through Sweeney’s work. It will be worth every effort given to the task. Sweeney is academic, yet lucid in his writing.