One question we must ask in assessing our preaching is this: “What are my listeners impressed with at the end of my message? Or you could put it this way: “Who are my listeners impressed with at the end of my message?”

Consider the following except from Jonathan Leeman and Matt Chandler’s book Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People.

A group of American Christians in the nineteenth century planned to visit London for a week. Their friends, excited for the opportunity, encouraged them to go hear two of London’s famous preachers and bring back a report.

On Sunday morning after their arrival, the Americans attended Joseph Parker’s church. They discovered that his reputation for eloquent oratory was well deserved. One exclaimed after the service, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no doubt, that Joseph Parker is the greatest preacher that ever there was!”

The group wanted to return in the evening to hear Parker again, but they remembered that their friends would ask them about another preacher named Charles Spurgeon.

So on Sunday evening they attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where Spurgeon was preaching. The group was not prepared for what they heard, and as they departed, one of them spoke up, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no doubt, that Jesus Christ is the greatest Savior that ever there was!”

I recently heard this story from Richard Phillips. He heard it from his seminary professor. Whether it actually happened or is a piece of folklore that has grown up around Spurgeon, known as “the Prince of Preachers,” I’m not sure. What is sure, however, is that this is the response Christian preachers want to produce in their congregations–a reveling in Jesus Christ. And this is the response, I hope, that Christians want to have Sunday after Sunday.

Christian preaching, if it’s about anything, is about announcing the amazingly good news of Jesus Christ. (emphasis mine)

So, preachers, make it your greatest ambition to impress your listeners with the person and work of Jesus Christ. Pray to that end. Prepare and craft your sermon to that end. And preach the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit to that end.

Have you ever been deeply disappointed with your own preaching, felt like a failure, and considered leaving the ministry?

Bryan Chapell did, and in a recent Faithlife Today interview, Chapell relates how his sense of failure as a preacher led him to write his book Christ-Centered Preaching.

I was first introduced to Christ-Centered Preaching in a seminary class called Expository Sermon Preparation. To be honest my initial impression was that the book was too formulaic. I didn’t care for the recommended (or required, as some of us thought) indicative-imperative structure of the homiletical idea (“Because this is true, you must respond in this way.”), and I was not convinced that the Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) was a legitimate or necessary concept.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and I now have a different perspective on the book. I have come through experience (both in preaching and in teaching preaching) to buy in to many of the concepts presented in Chapell’s book. Each year I have my advanced homiletics class read chapters 10 and 11 on the theology of Christ-centered messages. We have some great in-class discussions, and I love seeing the lights come on for my students as they realize that preaching Christ doesn’t mean forcing Jesus into every text.

Here’s how Chapell put it, and in my opinion, this has to be one of the most important sentences in the entire book:

Christ-centered preaching rightly understood does not seek to discover where Christ is mentioned in every text but to disclose where every text stands in relation to Christ. (emphasis mine)

Others have since written on this subject and provided valuable and additional light on what it means to preach Christ, but let me encourage you to read those two chapters if you haven’t (or haven’t in a while). And why don’t you take five minutes to listen to Chapell share the story behind one of the most-used books on preaching. You will be reminded that the heroes of the Bible are often a mess, but that God in his grace still uses them. And he can use you and me too.

Effective expository preaching finds it origin and power not so much in clever construction as in detailed, obedient listening to God’s voice in the text.
~ David Jackman in The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching, 229.

Effective Preaching Begins with Obedient Listening

Students regularly ask me when and how to cite sources in their sermons. There is, of course, no easy, one-size-fits-all, black-and-white answer to their question.

As J. D. Greear points out,

The question of plagiarism in sermon preparation is rather tricky, primarily because we are interpreting a document (the Bible) which has been interpreted by thousands of people for the last 3000 years. Almost everything we say, especially relating to Christo-centric interpretation, Greek and Hebrew linguistics or historical context, comes from commentaries and other sermons.

I think we would all agree that it is wrong to steal ideas from someone else and present them as our own. But exactly when and how to cite our sources is not always clear.

Case in point. As a sophomore in college if I had seen the following test question–True or False. It is wrong to steal ideas from someone else and present them as our own.–I would have marked “true” without hesitation. And yet that didn’t stop me from preaching the sum and substance of one of my first sermons right out of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ commentary on Ephesians without giving him any credit, as far as I remember! I do recall thinking that he said things a lot better than I could, and I really didn’t see any way to improve upon it.

Looking back at it now, I’m sure people must have been amazed by the maturity and depth of my message as a 19-year-old. Perhaps that’s why one of the deacons came to me afterwards and asked me if I had ever considered the possibility of becoming a pastor someday.

All that to say, even if we are opposed to plagiarism in theory, it is sometimes difficult to know how to apply the principles of honesty and integrity within a sermon.

Greear has adopted for himself 5 general “rules” for avoiding plagiarism in a sermon.

  1. If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon, meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit.
  2. If I glean an interpretation of a passage from someone, but the organization of the points, application and presentation are my own, I generally do not feel the need to cite.
  3. When I take a direct point or a line or the creative wording of a truth from someone, I feel like I should cite.
  4. When I give a list that someone else has come up with or offer some piece of cultural analysis, I feel like I should cite.
  5. If I hear a story told by someone else that reminds me of a story of your own, and I tell that story from my own life, I don’t think I need always to identify where I got the idea for that story from originally.

These “rules,” of course, do not cover all the bases, but I would say in general “When in doubt, cite your source.” It is always better to err on the safe side and give credit when none was technically necessary. However, be careful that your sermon doesn’t end up coming across as an academic paper full of bibliographic citations.

There are ways to give credit without bogging your listeners down with bibliographical information.

Let’s say, for example, that you wanted to reference or use Greear’s blog post in your next sermon.

You could go all-out and introduce the material this way:

J. D. Greear (author) posted an article May 21, 2013 (date) at Between the Times (source) entitled “What Counts As Plagiarism in a Sermon?” (article title).

But I think in most cases in a sermon (which is not an academic paper or scholarly article) it would be sufficient to introduce the material in one of the following ways:

In a recent blog post J. D. Greear gives 5 rules for avoiding plagiarism in your preaching. Here they are . . .


One blogger recently posted on this topic and gave 5 rules for avoiding plagiarism in your preaching. Number 1, . . .

To me the key in preaching is that you give the audience some kind of indication (whether general or specific, long or short) as to what is yours and what is not. The thoroughness of the detail given will depend on the particular situation, but the need for integrity remains.


Question: Do you have any rules or guidelines for when and how to cite sources in a sermon? If so, I’d love to hear them.

Regardless of what you think of Roger Olson’s theology, this excerpt from his book The Story of Christian Theology serves as an important reminder for preachers to fact-check their sermon illustrations.

A popular misconception—perhaps a Christian urban legend—is that the United States Secret Service never shows bank tellers counterfeit money when teaching them to identify it. The agents who do the training, so the legend goes, show bank tellers only examples of genuine money so that when the phony money appears before them they will know it by its difference from the real thing. The story is supposed to make the point that Christians ought to study truth and never heresy.

The first time I heard the tale as a sermon illustration I intuited its falseness. On checking with the Treasury Department’s Minneapolis Secret Service agent in charge of training bank tellers to identify counterfeit money, my suspicion was confirmed. He laughed at the story and wondered aloud who would start it and who would believe it. At my request he sent me a letter confirming that the Secret Service does show examples of counterfeit money to bank tellers.

I believe it is important and valuable for Christians to know not only theological correctness (orthodoxy) but also the ideas of those judged as heretics within the church’s story. One reason is that it is almost impossible to appreciate the meaning of orthodoxy without understanding the heresies that forced its development.

I won’t ask for a raise of hands, but I wonder how many of you have heard the counterfeit money illustration in a sermon? If you have, I hope it wasn’t one of mine.

Even though the principle we are seeking to illustrate may be valid, we have to be careful that our illustrations are not, uhm, . . . counterfeit, right? If our listeners know the facts, our phony illustrations will only undermine our credibility.

Question: What do you do to maintain integrity and credibility in the use of sermon illustrations?


Okay, so you have your preaching text selected for this Sunday and you’re ready to dig in and start studying. Question–where should you start?

Should you begin by studying the broader literary context (a macroscopic perspective) or by examining the details of the text itself (a microscopic perspective)? In other words, should you move from the context inward or from the text outward?

Here’s what NT scholar Gordon Fee says in answer to that question:

Before the investigation of any sentence, paragraph, or other subsection of a document, one always needs to have a good sense about the entire document. . . . You never start exegeting a book at chapter 1, verse 1. The first step is always to read the entire document through. You need a provisional sense of the whole before analyzing any of its parts. (New Testament Exegesis, 3d ed., 8-9, emphasis mine)

Martin Luther pictures it this way:

I study my Bible like I gather apples. First I shake the whole tree, that the ripest may fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.

The Expository Book Series

No matter what kind of preaching you are doing (expository, textual, or topical) big-picture thinking and study are critical. But if you’re planning to preach through a book of the Bible, you need to start by studying the book as a whole.

The best way to do that is to read through the book multiple times. This was the practice of the well-known British expositor, G. Campbell Morgan:

After having selected a text, Morgan would read the entire book in which it was found, as many as forty or fifty times. Then he was able to feel the scope, the main structure, of the book. This was done before he took his pencil in hand to put down the outline of the general movements of the book. For Morgan believed the minister’s work should first be original, and afterward he should consult the commentaries.” Arthur F. Katt, “G. Campbell Morgan and Sermon Preparation,” The Seminary Review 7, no. 1 (Fall 1960): 4.

Whether or not you read through the book 40-50 times you should have a good grasp on the following:

  1. Author: what do you know about the author of the book?
  2. Audience: who were the recipients
  3. Occasion and purpose: what situation prompted the author to write the book, and what response did he seek to elicit?
  4. Organization: how is the book structured, and how do the parts fit together?
  5. Themes: what is the big idea of the book, and what are the main theological themes that develop that idea?

Now here’s the beauty of the expository book series: once you begin your series you won’t have to go back and redo this big picture work for each sermon. That doesn’t mean you won’t shake the whole tree from time to time. But now you can focus more of your attention on the branches, twigs, and individual leaves–the details of your preaching text and immediate context.

Again, that doesn’t mean you won’t continue to grow in your understanding of the broader literary context. As you study the parts you will continue to refine your understanding of the whole. But in general you’ll be happy to know your next preaching text comes with batteries included. Or, to put it another way, each new text comes preloaded with the necessary context. Now the task becomes one of understanding the text and relating it back to the context.

The Topical Sermon

Understanding the big picture is extremely (and at the risk of being redundant, let me say it again–extremely) important when preaching a topical sermon.

Topical sermons are notorious for their abuse of texts. In a topical sermon you are pulling in verses from multiple books of the Bible. Each of those verses has a literary context. If ignored the results are often disastrous.

That’s why topical sermons are actually the most difficult to do well, because they require the greatest amount of Bible knowledge and contextual consciousness.

Mastering Biblical Content

Be encouraged. As you grow in your mastery of biblical content, you won’t be able to come to individual texts without bringing the context with you.

If you decide, for example, to preach a single sermon on the Christian and the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-17, your Bible-saturated brain will immediately download the information you need to get your contextual bearings. Within a matter of seconds, you will recall the author, audience, purpose, themes, and organization of Ephesians.

So make it your ambition over time to master more and more of the Bible.

Here’s a suggestion I give to my young, undergraduate homiletics students: pick one book of the Bible and master it. Make it yours to the point that if you were cut you would bleed the contents of that book. Then, as God gives you opportunities to preach single sermons here and there, your default should be to preach from that book since you already know the context of each unit. Then add another book. Now you have two books to choose from when given the opportunity to preach.

Zoom In and Out

Finally, in the real world of sermon preparation, it is not a sin to have some level of familiarity with your preaching text before branching out to explore the broader literary context. I think it is natural (and perhaps even beneficial) to have some level of familiarity with your preaching text before zooming out.

In the world of Google Maps, there are times when you start with a particular house and zoom out, and there are times when you start with a county or neighborhood and zoom in. The important thing is that you’re getting both vantage points.

The reality is this: both perspectives (macro and micro) are vital, and neither should be overlooked as you prepare to preach on a particular passage.

There’s a sense in which the approach should resemble something of a sanctified dance with the text–the preacher moving back and forth, in and out, near and far.

But, as a general rule, if you’ve got your text, but you’re not sure where to begin, the first thing you should do is shake the whole tree.

Question: Which direction do you tend to move in as you prepare your sermons? Do you have a preference?



I find it helpful at times to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of weekly sermon preparation and think about preaching from a big picture perspective.

There are lots of ways to look at preaching and describe the process of preparing an expository sermon. I’m always trying to refine my thinking in this area and come up with better ways of articulating and explaining the process to my students. In some cases I’m just trying to remind myself of what this thing called “preaching” is all about. Too often we lose sight of the forest for all of the trees.

So here are 10 P’s of preaching. (Honestly I’m not a huge fan of alliteration, but if it shows up at my door and doesn’t contort everything, I’m probably not going to turn it away.) This is intended to be a basic, simplified overview of the preaching process. In general the first 7 capture the hermeneutical phase. The last 3 represent the homiletical phase.

1. Steep the Process in Prayer.

Sermon preparation must always begin (and continue) with prayer. We need to be reminded at the outset that we desperately need God’s help to understand and communicate the Word.

2. Begin with a Passage.

Biblical preaching begins with the Bible. The form of preaching called expository preaching begins with a passage from the Bible.

3. Consider the People.

That passage was written by a particular person. In the case of the Bible there is a human author (small “a”) and a divine author (capital “A”). Those authors are addressing a particular group of people—one ancient and one modern (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

The preacher must consider all these people in his preparation of an expository sermon. What do we know about the original writer? Who are the people he is writing to? How does this information help us understand the passage?

Preaching from a passage begins by thinking of the people involved.

4. Uncover the Problems.

Anytime you have people you have problems. Not always sin problems, but sometimes problems associated with being a finite person living in a world that’s broken. (This is what Bryan Chapell refers to as the “Fallen Condition Focus” in his book Christ-Centered Preaching.)

What are the struggles of the biblical writer? What is the situation of his target audience? What are their circumstances, questions, fears, and weaknesses? In what areas are they experiencing pressure from the world? Where are they falling short of the glory of God?

Preaching from a passage begins by thinking of the people involved and their particular needs.

5. Understand the Purpose.

With the situation in mind, the preacher needs to think deeply about the objective of the biblical writer. Knowing what we know about him, and knowing what we know about his audience, what does he want to accomplish with them? What is his purpose? To encourage? To warn? To instruct?

6. Identify the Point.

Driven by his objective the writer sets out to communicate a point (or two or three). Even if there are many points, there is usually one overarching point—what some might call his “big idea.”

7. Trace the Pathway.

Let’s put some of the pieces together now. The people who make up the target audience have needs. The person writing has a burden to address those needs (the purpose) with a particular message (the point of the passage).

So we have answered the who, why, and what questions. But what about the how question? How is the author going to go about accomplishing his purpose with his point? Of all the options available to him, he is going to choose a certain pathway to get from A (where his readers are) to B (where he wants them to be). He may decide to move down the path deductively or inductively. He may decide to employ strong argumentation or moving illustrations.

8. Parallel the Process.

With all this in mind the contemporary preacher begins to parallel this process. He thinks of the passage with reference to his people. He compares their situation to that of the original audience. He thinks pastorally about the problems they are facing and begins to develop a burden to preach the the point of the passage in a way that accomplishes the purposes of the biblical writer and the Holy Spirit for that text.

The preacher must then consider the best pathway forward. Follow the order of the passage? Inductive or deductive? What explanation, application, argumentation, and illustration (and in what order) would best accomplish his purpose?

9. Preach the Word.

Now it’s time to preach and to do so in a way that represents the point and purpose (and maybe even the pathway) of the passage. The preacher’s re-presentation of the text must be done faithfully, clearly, and passionately.

10. Aim for God’s Praise.

The ultimate objective of preaching is the praise and glory of God. From the standpoint of the preacher, our objective is to glorify God through a faithful, Christocenric proclamation of his Word. With reference to our hearers, our goal is the glory of God in their glad and believing submission to the truth.


Question: If you were trying to talk someone through the process of preaching, what would you tell them? How would you describe the steps (without using any P’s 🙂 )?

What is the difference between preaching that works the crowd and that which awakens God-honoring emotions?

That’s the question Voddie Bauchum, John Piper, and Miguel Nunez tackled in a recent TGC podcast.

As John Piper says, “Every human being is wired with a heart and a head.” That’s why we preach to both. It’s not one or the other.

The danger, of course, is preaching to the heart in a way that is manipulative.

But how do you know when you have crossed that invisible line between God-honoring emotion on the one hand and emotionalism on the other?

Here it is. This one question will help you sort through the difference: Have the emotions been stirred by the truth of God revealed in Scripture?

So there’s a sense in which I don’t preach directly to the affections. I preach to the mind in such a way that the affections are awakened powerfully by the truth.

The ditch on the other side of the road is intellectualism. That happens when a preacher targets the mind at the expense of the heart. The careful, line by line analysis of a text in expository preaching is good, but it is often done in such a way that hearers are left empty and un-affected.

Where’s the balance then? Piper quotes Jonathan Edwards as saying,

I consider it my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided I raise them with nothing but the truth, and in proportion to the truth.

Why is it our duty? Because God is not boring. Sure, some who hear us preach may be dull of hearing. But let’s hope they are not bored with God because of the way we represent him in our preaching.

If we ever hope to to convey the emotion of a text authentically and powerfully, we must first be moved and affected by the truth of that text ourselves.

In Piper’s words,

Preaching this stuff to ourselves so that we are moved is going to be key to whether people are awakened to that truth. Because if I preach like what I’m saying is of modest importance, that’s what they’re going to think; that’s what they’re going to feel.

So go ahead–“raise the affections of [your] hearers as high as [you] possibly can.” But do so “with nothing but the truth, and in proportion to the truth.”

You can listen to the entire 13:45 podcast here.


How would you answer the question, “What is the difference between preaching that works the crowd and that which awakens God-honoring emotions?”

Preacher, Doodle. Doo.

March 18, 2016

David Prince is one of my favorite contemporary authors in the field of homiletics. His blog posts, book Church with Jesus as Hero, and dissertation on “The Necessity of a Christocentric Kingdom Focused Model of Expository Preaching” are clear, engaging, theologically robust, and yet eminently practical. He’s a pastor, homiletics professor, a passionate proponent of Christocentric preaching, and huge baseball fan. I mean, what’s not to like about that combination!

In a recent blog post David gave three approaches to sermon preparation “that are not usually considered as normal parts of the discussion when one thinks about how to prepare a sermon.”

One of those approaches was “Doodle the Word.”

I use the term “doodle” here rather than “draw” because no one could confuse the sketching I do in sermon preparation as legitimate art (you may be a far more capable artist than I am). Doodling helps me attempt to conceptualize the message of the sermon. I usually have the text that I will be preaching printed on a sheet of paper, and if possible, I prefer to have it all on one page so that I can see the entire text. As I think through and study the text, I simply doodle circles, highlights, lines, and a variety of other things, most of which, no other human being would be able to make sense of, on the paper. Sometimes, I also draw pictures that aid me in conceptualizing the imagery or scene of a given text. Other times, I attempt to write a rhyming verse (I am certainly no poet), trying to encapsulate the message of the text. Putting pen to paper helps me internalize my thinking in a way that a keyboard does not. This kind of creativity in sermon preparation was common with John Bunyan, John Newton, Isaac Watts, and others.

I too have found it helpful to doodle. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising in light of the number of articles and studies confirming the benefits of writing things out by hand.

Here’s an example of the kind of doodling I do when preparing to preach on a particular text.

As you can see there’s nothing truly artistic here (like what the super creative guys over at The Bible Project are doing)–just some boxes and lines and circles. But I am engaging my hand and my head in ways that help me see, and therefore, understand the passage with greater clarity.

The Process

  1. I begin by doing a structural display of the passage. This visual helps me see the passage “at a glance” and discern its organization. It also helps me understand the relationships between the individual clauses and phrases. (Mine is in English, but you might prefer to use the original languages.)
  2. Then I print out several copies of the display for use as I take notes.
  3. The first copy I use to record my own personal observations and reflections on the text.
  4. Subsequent copies are used as I interact with commentaries and other secondary sources. In the example above I used the display to take notes as I read through George Knight’s commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the NIGNT series.

The display not only allows me to doodle on the text, it also allows me to verify from the text. Here’s what I mean–as I interact with the data and conclusions coming from the commentators I want to be able to see for myself from the text that what they are saying is truly biblical. So I am constantly glancing back and forth between the text of Scripture and the words of the commentator. Can they convince me based on the details of the text or context that what they are arguing for is accurate?

Doodling on the text keeps the details of the text before me.

Doodling on the text keeps me from mindlessly embracing what some guy with a Ph.D. says without Berean-like verification.

So, preacher, perhaps it’s time you doo some doodling.


Question: Do you doodle as part of your sermon preparation? What kind of doodling do you do? Have you found it helpful?



For a number of reasons 1 Peter has suffered from neglect of interest. In 1976 John H. Elliot wrote these classic words regarding 1 Peter which still ring true today (though perhaps to a lesser degree):

To judge from appearance, 1 Peter suffers second-class status in the estimation of modern NT exegetes. Along with the other relatively neglected documents such as the remaining Catholic Epistles, Hebrews, and the Johannine Apocalypse, it is generally treated as one of the step-children of the NT canon. (JBL 95:2, emphasis mine)

Many preachers who are committed to preaching through books of the Bible consecutively are more inclined to preach from one of Paul’s rich doctrinal epistles, like Ephesians or Romans.

Perhaps you resonate with the testimony of Welton Gaddy who has written one of the few journal articles designed to provide preachers with help in preaching 1 Peter.

Previously 1 Peter has not been an integral part of my personal canon for preaching. I fear that I am not alone in having turned regularly to the Gospels and the Pauline epistles for intensive study with only occasional sermonic forays into the prophets and the Pentateuch. Unfortunately, the smaller non-Pauline writings in the New Testament, like 1 Peter, have served me primarily as source books to which to turn with sermon topics in search of appropriate biblical texts. I repent!  Preaching from 1 Peter,” Review and Expositor 79:3 (1982): 472

It is not surprising, then, that more has been written in the area of the Pauline letters, and, therefore, more help is available for preachers when preaching from that section of the New Testament. There are, of course, a number of good commentaries and helps available for understanding the text of 1 Peter; however, very little has been written to help preachers preach through this neglected epistle.

Let me give you some reasons why you should consider preaching through 1 Peter in 2016.

Its Rich Theological Contribution

1 Peter needs to be highlighted for its rich theological contribution.

The preacher who preaches through this letter will end up covering some of the great themes of Christian doctrine and living:

  • salvation
  • the new birth
  • Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension
  • trials
  • suffering
  • holiness
  • faith, hope, and love
  • the word of God
  • evangelism
  • submission to authority
  • marriage relationships
  • spiritual gifts
  • Satan
  • church structure
  • relationships

Its Value for Our Contemporary Situation

New Testament scholars have suggested that 1 Peter is overlooked because of its apparent irrelevance to our contemporary situation as Christians in the West.

Karen Jobes (2005) poses this question:

What significance could this ancient letter have for Christians for whom social alienation and suffering for the faith are generally unfamiliar experiences? . . . Classroom discussion of 1 Peter has raised the suggestion that perhaps 1 Peter is for the church in another time and place and that its message of suffering is not necessarily applicable to the church today. The relative neglect of 1 Peter in sermons and Bible studies may attest to the truth of that thought in practice, if not in principle.  (1 Peter, BECNT)

Scot McKnight (1996) concurs:

I must admit I have never met any Christians in the United States who have told me that 1 Peter was their favorite book or even high on the priority list. Most Christians enjoy Psalms and Proverbs, many Christians enjoy Philippians or 1 John, active countercultural types like the teachings of Jesus (especially the Sermon on the Mount), academic-theological types like Romans, charismatic types like Acts, practical types like James—but few people raise their hands in Sunday school classes and ask the teacher to expound 1 Peter. Why? The answer is simple: Too much of it is centered on aspects of Christian existence that are far from most Western Christian experiences: social marginalization and suffering. (1 Peter, NIVAC)

The situation for the American church, however, is fast becoming parallel to the situation of Peter’s first-century readers. Peter wrote to a group of believers who were marginalized and ostracized for their faith in Jesus Christ. Persecution for them came primarily in the form of verbal slander, not imprisonment or physical abuse.

  • “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (2:12).
  • “When [Jesus] was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
  • “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (3:9).
  • “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (3:16).
  • “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (4:4).
  • “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (4:14).

In response Peter gives them pastoral help for navigating in a society that is generally intolerant of their counter-cultural beliefs and lifestyle.

Christians (especially in the West) today need to know how to live well and wisely in the world and yet remain faithful to Jesus Christ. They need to know how to respond like Christ to the increasing marginalization and public slander of biblical Christianity. That means there may be no greater time than now for more interest in and preaching of this valuable and relevant letter.

Its Connection to the Life and Ministry of Peter

In addition, preaching through 1 Peter will necessarily involve interaction with the life and ministry of one of the most engaging characters in all of the New Testament—the apostle Peter. First Peter, though not biographical in content (like Galatians), nevertheless grows out of and reflects Peter’s life story and, in particular, his relationship to Jesus Christ.

Many Christians identify with the rash, impetuous Peter of the Gospels. They also connect with his failure to remain loyal to Jesus during His trial and crucifixion. Yet, here in 1 Peter the reader encounters a transformed Peter, a Peter full of hope and confidence. In the Gospels Peter struggled to embrace the cross along with the crown. Yet, in 1 Peter he appeals to his readers to embrace both suffering and glory as it was patterned by the Lord Jesus and predicted by the Old Testament prophets.

Preaching from 1 Peter, then, highlights the transformation of Peter and serves as an encouragement to all those who identify with his personality and struggles as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Its Pastoral and Homiletical Value

Lastly, there is a need to encourage the systematic preaching of 1 Peter for its pastoral and homiletical value.

Since Peter is addressing suffering Christians in a negative social context, it is instructive for today’s preachers to analyze how he approaches this situation with pastoral sensitivity and care.

  • How does one give hope to those who are disadvantaged and dishonored in the world?
  • What theological truths need to be highlighted to encourage Christian joy even in the midst of trials?

These questions will be answered through a careful analysis of the letter.

Preaching through 1 Peter will give pastors instruction in helping those who are suffering, and it will also educate their listeners who may be involved in counseling and discipleship efforts.

I think it’s time for preachers to resurrect interest in 1 Peter and to highlight its increasingly-relevant message in order to equip believers for the coming days.

Why don’t you give some prayerful thought to the possibility of preaching through 1 Peter in 2016.