Him We Proclaim, 1

April 14, 2008

1) Introduction: Preaching the Bible Like Peter and Paul

Dennis E. Johnson explains that the intent of his book is largely recovery. He poses the question as to how we can expositionally proclaim Christ from every biblical text and theme. He writes:

This book tries to answer that question, first by arguing in favor of reuniting insights and disciplines the apostles displayed in harmonious unity but that sadly have become disconnected since then. Then is suggests perspectives and strategies to help ordinary Christians discover their Savior throughout Scripture and to equip ordinary preachers to proclaim this Savior convincingly and powerfully from the diverse panorama of Scripture’s genres and eras (2).

In order to refocus biblical interpretation on Christ, Johnson wants to reunite bonds that over time have become wrongly separated. Herein rests the heart of this book’s purpose, “we need to reunite Old Testament and New Testament, apostolic doctrine and apostolic hermeneutics, biblical interpretation and biblical proclamation” (4). In the reunion of Old Testament and New Testament, Johnson gives a short historical overview of the wedge that has been put between the two. He discusses the Enlightenment and the historical-critical method along with dispensational theology which sought to “establish objectivity of its reading of Scripture by treating symbolism with suspicion and preoccupying itself with establishing the text’s ‘literal’ sense” (5). The following quote captures his point:

Thus over the last three centuries, the theological substructure of apostolic hermenuetics and homiletics has been assaulted both by the “hostile fire” of Enlightenment criticism and by the “friendly fire” of Bible-believing students who sought to develop an objective hermenuetic sufficient to withstand the acidic rigors of Enlightenment doubt (5).

In reuniting apostolic doctrine and apostolic hermeneutics, a key issue arises. This is especially a key issue in my personal understanding on the subject. There are a couple of main reasons why some people do not emulate apostolic hermeneutics, one of which is discomfort with the “unbridled embellishment exemplified in the allegorical excesses of the patristic School of Alexandria and the medieval church” (11). According to Johnson, this subject will be discussed in more detail in chapter 6. He does include an outline of what is to follow by mentioning three additional features of an apostolic approach to Christ-centered hermeneutics. He writes, “Apostolic preaching of Christ is redemptive-historically structured, missiologically communicated, and grace-driven” (16).

Finally, Johnson introduces the reunion of biblical interpretation with biblical proclamation. He is reacting here to the disconnect between biblical scholarship and ecclesiastical ministry. He gives a brief historical overview of how the Academy developed and the ensuing result that divided biblical research from its practical and personal applications. He writes:

Exegesis itself is impoverished when specialization and professional pressures in the academy inculcate into faculty and students a mold of biblical interpretation that aborts the process short of application, depriving it of its sweetest fruit (13).

The plan for the book traces two parts. Part 1 (chapters 2-5) makes the case for apostolic hermeneutics and homiletics. Part 2 (chapters 6-10) provides the framework and strategy of apostolic hermeneutics and homiletics in action by referring to the epistle to the Hebrews.

This introduction has me thrilled! I am excited to open this book and read slowly in hopes of learning how to better open the Book and proclaim rightly Christ-centered exegesis and application!

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3 Responses to “Him We Proclaim, 1”

  1. Bryan Barley said

    Great summary! Sorry it has taken me several days to post some comments, but I’m on Spring Break now and all caught up…

    There was so much that jumped out on me in this first chapter and also has me really excited to dive into this book. The reuniting of the “Old” and “New” Testaments also jumped out at me – what a diservice that has been done by us not teaching the Old Testament as the introduction to God’s great narrative about Christ. As Johnson puts it: “Reading and preaching the Bible redemptive historically is more than drawing lines to connect Old Testament types in ‘Promise Column A’ with New Testament antitypes in ‘Fulfillment Column B.’ It is recognizing that Adam’s, Abraham’s and Israel’s entire experience was designed from the beginning to foreshado the end, and that ancient believers experienced true but limited foretastes of sweet grace because in the fullness of the times, Jesus, the beloved Son, would keep the covenant and bear the curse on their behalf and ours” (17).

    Your point about the necessity of application was also powerful, and I’m so thankful that Johnson made a point of emphasizing this. This was my greatest barrier to believing in expository preaching- it seemed like it was often more of a seminary lecture than a sermon. I have come to realize what Johnson also holds to be true; the true expositor makes the text come alive and applicable in its context. Scripture, with all its depth, complexity, and mystery, is applicable especially when taught in its context. Hearing Johnson’s belief in the necessity of application leaves me more excited for the rest of the book.

    My biggest question right now is how to best implement this as a leader in a church. How do you think we take people who view the Bible as an encyclopedia for their problems and let them see that Scripture is an unfolding narrative about Christ? I figure an answer to this is to show them on a weekly basis from the pulpit, but do you think that there are any other ways?

  2. Jonathan P said

    I have thought about the very question that you have brought up before. I usually wonder about where I would begin preaching on my first Sunday at a pastor. I think that you have to have the consistent example of Christ as the testimony of Scripture’s metanarrative. But I also think that it would be good to set aside sermons/teaching sessions to explain to the congregation your procedure in understanding Scripture. A pastor’s teaching ministry does not end in the pulpit, but is continued as the congregation leaves and implements the same form of reading Scripture that they see exampled before them. It may be good to preach some sermons and explain some of the background steps that led to the product of a sermon. I think this can happen very naturally. For example, pastors can teach authorial intent just by how they refer to the text, such as “The Apostle Paul wants us to get here….”
    This is the way that I have thought about it, of course outside of the actual experience of doing it, I have to call this my theory.

  3. Jonathan P said

    My hang up on apostolic hermeneutics concerns just how interpreter’s restrain from “unbridled embellishment,” and in such a way that is still loyal to authorial intent. I have heard some pretty creative sermons as a youngster in the church that are best summarized by saying that the “Bible was used to preach”, rather than actually “preaching the Bible.”
    I’m looking forward to chapter 6 when Johnson plans to lay this out.

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