Jonathan Edwards on Remaining True to the Emphases of Scripture

“Surely those things which Christ and his apostles chiefly insisted on in the rules they gave, ministers ought chiefly to insist on in the rules they give. To insist much on those things on which the Scripture insists little, and to insist very little on those things on which the Scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing; because it is going out of God’s way, and is to judge ourselves, and guide others, in an unscriptural manner. God knew which way of leading and guiding souls was safest and best for them; he insisted so much on some things, because he knew it to be needful that they should be insisted on; and let other things more alone, as a wise God, because he knew it was not best for us, so much to lay the weight of the trial there. As the Sabbath was made for man, so the Scriptures were made for man; and they are by infinite wisdom fitted for our use and benefit. We should therefore make them our guide in all things, in our thoughts of religion, and of ourselves. And for us to make that great which the Scripture makes little, and that little which the Scripture makes great, tends to give us a monstrous idea of religion; and (at least indirectly and gradually) to lead us wholly away from the right rule….” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, III.XIV)

This is a good reminder, especially as we think about preaching.

Our aim in expository preaching is not to use the text to preach our own thoughts, ideas, applications, hobby horses, opinions, or to trampoline off the text into some topic or application we want to emphasize, but to dig into the text and let our emphasis and focus proportionally reflect that of the text (while of course contextualizing for pastoral concerns of our particular church and setting). Let’s be honest; we are not that wise (Prov 3:5-6). Our ideas are utter foolishness compared to what God has to say. Moreover, to insert our agenda or displace the emphasis of scripture is actually somewhat quite audacious — to hijack the very purpose that God had in given that passage.

My Personal Sermon Check-List & Preparation Process

The following is a general outline of the process I follow when preparing sermons:


Sermon Preparation Process

** Prayer throughout **

  • Understanding the text:
    • Read the text including its broader context.
    • Read the passage slowly, meditatively, and prayerfully – Compile notes.
    • Exegete and interpret – Look at text in original language; look at various translations; attend to text critical matters, grammar, syntax, word studies, structure, purpose, relevant parallel passages, theological analysis, etc.
    • Consider the passage’s relationship to redemptive history, the Gospel, Christ, and mission.
    • Anticipate sermon development: formulate passage’s purpose; develop initial conception of sermon structure; consider illustrations and applications.
    • Use resources (e.g., commentaries, sermons). Compile notes on key
  • Sermon construction:
    • Determine main point/purpose.
    • Develop sermon structure.
    • Fill-in sermon substance: introduction, prayers, explanations, illustrations, and applications, and conclusion.
  • Final matters:
    • Refine/complete sermon.
    • Practice sermon.
    • Preach the sermon to yourself.
    • Pray for sermon delivery and effect.

The following is my personal check-list I developed for consultation when preparing sermons:


Sermon Check-List

  • True to the passage’s…
    • Authorial intent?
    • Passage structure or form?
    • Genre?
    • Context and book?
    • Aim (affections, belief, trust, obedience, thoughts, actions, etc.)?
  • Biblical theology:
    • Redemptive-historical context considered?
    • Relationship to Christ?
    • Passage interpreted in light of the Gospel?
    • Mission-equipping?
    • Inspiring vision of God set forth?
  • Sermon quality:
    • Main point—clear and frequently stated?
    • Well organized—clear and helpful structure?
    • Simple—avoids unnecessary complexity?
    • Selective—on what will you choose to focus?
    • Brief—the “less is more” principle; distinguish what is important vs. what is merely interesting?
    • Perspective—don’t miss the “forest for the trees” or the “trees for the forest.”
    • Concise—high quality to quantity ratio?
    • Use of pithy, memorable phrases?
    • Helpful illustrations, introduction, and conclusion?
    • Practical? Down to earth? Thoughtful, engaging, quality applications
  • Audience consideration:
    • Sermon oriented specifically to this audience?
    • Clear, understandable language?
    • Clear explanations of theological issues?
    • Answers given to questions the average person may have of the text?
    • Audience’s translation(s) considered?
    • Conscientious of nonbelievers? Gospel presented?

Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: A Look Forward to the Upcoming Table Talk with Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy

This post was originally published at Rolfing Unshelved.


On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.

I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!

This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.


As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,

The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.

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Application and the Authority of Scripture

One of the areas of study that I find absolutely fascinating is what I call “hermeneutics of application.” Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation; it’s the discipline of study related to the methodology and principles of interpretation. So when I say, “hermeneutics of application” I mean the study of how one properly moves from interpretation of the text to application of the text.

Hence, when I read this quote many years ago, I’ve never been able to forget it:

Every time we derive an interpretation and application from a text that is not consistent with its contextual sense—no matter how biblical the truth itself may be–we rob that text of the meaning and application that God intended when He gave it. In the process, we rob ourselves and others of that text’s truth from God. … Worst of all, we rob God of His voice in that verse. – Layton Talbert, unknown source.

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