Missing the Point of the Text

July 14, 2009

I have passed the half-way point of my two week seminars here at Southwestern. Because of my blogging slavemaster friend, Wes Kenney, :-D I find myself writing a post instead of working on my DMin assignments. Yet I am reminded of why I entered this program back in 2007. At that time I would have considered myself an expository preacher, but today, as I look back, I was anything but one. Back then I would taken a text like Genesis 39 and the incident of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife and preached on how to keep oneself from sexual sin. I would have used the lives of both Joseph and of Potiphar’s wife to illustrate techniques and habits that could help in keeping oneself pure. I would have proclaimed, “Be like Joseph!” while missing the point of the text. Yes, my sermon may have been biblically true on those points, but it would not have been scripturally based according to the original intent of Genesis 39. In all this, I would have claimed to be an expositor of the scriptures. I was wrong and I knew I needed to change.

The phrase “Text-Driven Preaching” (TDP) is used to express not “a” way of preaching, but “the” way of preaching. One’s theology should drive their preaching and if someone believes God has given us His Word without any mixture of error, then his preaching should be reflected in that theology. What TDP believes is that God not only inspired the words of the text, but also the way in which it was recorded (genre) and the semantic/syntactical structure.

To faithfully understand Genesis 39 is not to begin with an idea of sexual purity and develop some self-help, bullet point sermon on how to live a sexually pure life. While some references could absolutely be made to that in passing, to develop a sermon on sexual purity from this passage would be missing the grand scheme of what the author had in mind. The main idea is not even a narrative reflection on the life of Joseph. Genesis 39 is a message about God and his plan of redemption that will culminate in His Son Jesus. While God’s plan may seem to be at stake with the imprisonment of Joseph, verse 21 records that the Lord was with Joseph. God is still active in bringing about His will. Even though Joseph may have been thrown in jail for something he didn’t do, giving a sense of helplessness, God was there with Joseph seeing him through this ordeal and sovereignly working to preserve His promise to Abraham and his seed.

I have heard many “how to be a better….” sermons that totally miss the point of the text and the reason for its inclusion in the canon of scripture. Unfortunately, some of them have been from me. But through Southwestern, I am acquiring the tools to combine doctrine with practice in order to gain a deeper understanding of the scriptures that will produce “text-driven sermons” that remain faithful to the Author’s intent and give a clear understanding of that intent to His people.

I will not be able to interact with comments on this post today. Sorry, but a full day of seminars await my participation.