A Resource for Text-Driven Preaching

March 10, 2009

I do not claim to be a Greek scholar, which is why I need all the tools I can get in order to understand the Greek text. I also don’t believe that one must have a working knowledge of Koine Greek in order to preach the Word. But, if you are blessed to be able to attend seminary, I highly suggest investing in the biblical languages that are being taught. Frankly, at the master’s level, I could never understand why a seminary would offer a MDiv without an intense study in the original languages. I am glad to see that fault has been corrected at Southwestern and now one must take all the language requirements in order to graduate.

One of the things we seek to do at SBC Today is to provide resources to pastors and teachers of the Word. With that intent in mind I point you to the web site, OpenText.org. The purpose of this site is to help the Bible preacher/teacher to understand the semantic structure of the text. I believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and in that understanding I also believe it has been inspired even to the semantic structure in the clauses and how they relate to each other.

How sentences are formed conveys meaning. Within the Greek text there are primary and secondary clauses. The primary clause conveys the main thought with the secondary clause further expanding and explaining what was originally said in the primary clause. When we correctly understand what the author was trying to convey in the sentence, we are driven to focus on the main thought and allow the secondary or subordinate thoughts feed it rather than focusing on those subordinate clauses.

One of the primary problems with topical or seeker-sensitive, “felt needs” preaching is when the preacher comes to the text with an idea and picks scriptures out of context according to that idea. In doing so he makes the mistake of eisegesis, or implanting his understanding into the text. Eisegesis means we no longer explore what the meaning was to the author, we are now in pursuit of what the text means to us at this time. For example in 1 Peter 2:24 it states, “for by His wounds you were healed.” Many “word of faith” preachers use this verse to support their promise of physical healing from sickness and disease. Yet, when we look at this verse, we see that this phrase is actually a subordinate clause to what was previously said of Jesus bearing our sins on His body so that we would die to sin and we would live to righteousness. In fact it ultimately goes back to verse 21 speaking of Christ’s example for us to follow during times of suffering.

What OpenText.org does is clearly show the semantic structure of the text which allows the preacher/teacher of God’s Word to see how the clauses fit together. It helps us focus on the central idea or primary clause. When the structure is understood and applied with other tools of interpretation then the meaning of the scripture can be understood and conveyed by means of illustration and application. When you click over to the site, you will need to read the introduction and guidelines in order to understand their system. A working knowledge of Greek is also helpful, but if you have don’t know the Greek, an interlinear can provide some assistance in making sense of what each word means.

While a return to expository preaching is a must, we can be fooled by diverse definitions of expository preaching. What I believe we should encourage is a movement to “text driven” preaching that allows the meaning that is conveyed in the structure itself to guide us in structuring our sermons. OpenText.org is an excellent resource on the web that greatly helps in recognizing this structure. And for seminary students, it is also a great tool that can be of great benefit when used for study in the classroom.