A Text Driven Devotion

April 2, 2009

Below is a brief devotional I was asked to compose for the Stillwater News Press. Further down, after the devotion, I will provide some analysis on how I came up with my four points, specifically focusing on verse thirteen of the passage.

People search for answers during tough times. There is no doubt that things are getting tougher for many. But, how can the community of faith navigate through difficult times? The Apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:13-25) offers us four checkpoints to follow. First, while in this world, we are to look beyond our present situation to the grace we will fully realize when Jesus returns for His church. While things may be unstable here, we can be assured of our hope in Jesus when he returns to set this fallen world straight. Second, while in this world, we are to live our lives in a manner that reflects a growing holiness in our actions that stems from a relationship with Jesus. The old ways that was conducted in worldly ignorance must not be our habit as Jesus is now our new example. Third, we are to do all things with reverence, not with sloppy aimlessness. The Father gave the most precious thing He could, His Son, and the lives of those who call upon the name of the Lord should reflect the price that was paid to redeem them from their iniquity. Finally, we are to love one another in the community of faith. Not superficially, but in such a way that the true believer displays passion and finds pleasure in loving his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Our closest friends and confidants should be found in the household of God and it is where we should find our greatest encouragement. Ultimately, our love comes from God and we are able to love during difficulty because God has brought us to a new birth that was supernaturally seeded by His Word. The answer to these tough days is Jesus as told to us in the scriptures. May all who are being transformed by His Holy Writ search for Him, live in Him, honor Him, and love each other through Him.

I have never been good at writing short devotions, in fact it was requested that I keep the words down to 150! Well, I went over that at 325. Being a preacher, I fall into the error of sometimes being too long-winded. The passage studied was 1 Peter 1:13-25. In these verses I found four imperatives (commands) given to church under difficult times. Normally when imperatives are given it indicates a primary clause. In this passage the primary clauses are found in verses 13, 15, 17, and 22. If I was preaching this in a sermon, it would have four points that supported the idea of how Christians are to persevere in times of trouble and trials.

The Epistles contain mainly a didactic genre. In preparing lessons or sermons, it is important to focus on what the writer was emphasizing in light of its context. It is too easy to focus on a secondary clause and neglect the main emphasis of the passage. I see this a lot in so-called “expository preaching.” The preacher will take a verse of scripture, possibly do some word studies on it and develop a sermon from that. This can lead to a gross error in missing the point of the passage. While word studies are important to understanding the text, they must follow a proper understanding of how the clauses in the passage relate to one another.

I am a believer in text-driven preaching (TDP). The basis of TDP is understanding the semantic structure of the text. This requires searching out the primary and secondary clauses. Primary clauses stand on their own as independent units of thought. Secondary clauses relate to the primary clause in a supporting way. For instance, if I say, “I played football and I went to college,” both “I played football” and “I went to college” are independent clauses without a supporting relationship between them. Yet, if I say, “I played football when I went to college,” there is a subordinating (supporting) relationship of “when I went to college” to “I played football.” The primary clause is, “I played football” and this is further explained in that it was while I was in college that I played.

So what does all this mean for the preacher preparing to deliver God’s Word? In the passage used for the devotional there was identified four primary clauses. The first clause is in verse thirteen.

13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Someone might look at that and preach a sermon on being self-disciplined, yet that is not the main point of what the writer intended. By the way, I consider the author of all Scripture to be God using inspired human writers to convey His message to us. In doing so in this verse, God did not put the major emphasis on being self-disciplined, even though He does want us to do that. No, the main emphasis is on setting our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us. When will we fully realize this hope of ours? At the revelation of Jesus Christ. Yet in this world of trouble and trials, our minds are prepared through self-discipline. The focus of this verse is not being self-disciplined or being prepared. The focus is while in this world, to set our hope on the next world where grace will be fully realized at the unveiling of our Savior. How do I know this? Because in the Greek, the imperative command is not on being self-discipline or having ready minds. The imperative is placed on setting our hope.

It takes time to learn TDP. I am still learning myself, but it is well worth the effort. In a later post, I will write on how to identify primary and secondary clauses in a scripture. But, until then, I’d like to suggest some resources you may or may not have in your library. First is David Alan Black’s, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. On pages 185-86, he gives a brief description on how to identify the primary from secondary clauses. Also, if you do not already have it, you must get Daniel B. Wallace’s, Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics. It also discusses the relationships between clauses and how to identify those relationships. Plus, it is written is such a way to quickly find answers to various Greek questions.

A surgeon never stops studying his craft in order to save lives; how much more important is it for us to study our craft when it is souls we seek to save? I have benefited greatly from TDP. May the Lord use it in all the pulpits so that His Word will be delivered the way He intended it to the original hearers.