The Gospel: Exegesis & Theology of Christ CrucifiedWednesday, February 23, 2005
The sun is the center of our solar system. And the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the center of our gospel. Therefore, these central truths must become the bedrock and foundation for thinking, living and preaching. But it cannot, as almost every foundations is, be forgotten, or merely alluded to now and then. To magnify that which I walk upon is to speak of it and think of it constantly.
When it comes to preaching these truths as central in every sermon, the task becomes difficult We don't want to simply find a good spot where we can add or mix these truths into our sermon so we can be justified as gospel preachers. That's too superficial. The way to avoid this seems to be two-fold.
1. Do exegesis and do it well. Chances are, almost any text we preach will in some way be exegetically tied to these central gospel truths. Finding them becomes as easy as simply reading and knowing the context of the book, sections, and paragraphs. This is especially true with epistles, and more specifically, Pauline epistles. The death, burial or resurrection is somewhere made the hinge upon which the rest of the book swings. Find it first, because this is the root of that book from which everything else grows as fruit. And having found it, always be able to show how individual exegetical points are inseparably woven into or out of that hinge.
2. Do theology and do it well. Where there are those few texts which must be preached, yet which are not exegetically pivoted on these gospel truths, we must make the assumption that the author presupposes these gospel truths as he writes. This is why the redemptive-historical hermeneutic and methodology are so important. Every text, including those that do not directly connect to gospel truths either illustrate those truths or else lead up to them. Ask where that text fits in with the history of redemption in Christ. So while the author may not make any direct exegetical connections between his exhortations and encouragements with the core of the gospel truths, we must presuppose that they are most certainly in his heart and mind as he writes.
Therefore, the task of the preacher is to do systematic AND biblical theology in order to make those connections clear in his own mind first, and then in the minds of his flock. Not every author thinks the same way or writes the same way. So it is wrong to presuppose, for example, that since James doesn't write as Paul, and since James never makes one mention of Jesus Christ, that his book is useless. Wasn't this the conclusion Luther came to? Instead, biblical theology makes the connection crystal clear, for the faith that works in chapter two is saving faith in the gospel truths. And the lack of prominent gospel core truths (though they are mentioned, to be sure, though not prominently) in John's three smaller epistles only means we must know his gospel and Revelation to make his theology of love and obedience clearly connected to God's love for the world in the death of Christ, and our obedience to Christ because of His death and burial and resurrection for us.
The next few blogs will consider this topic in more depth. Several resources will be utilized to collect and piece together what this looks like. My favorite introduction thus far is Charles McIlvaine's Preaching Christ (Banner of Truth, 2003). My favorite in-depth study is Graeme Goldsworthy's Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Eerdman's, 2000).