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Theological Matters

Theological Insights from Southwestern


Christ in the Old Testament


In Luke 24 Jesus showed Himself alive to His disciples and explained that the cross and resurrection, and indeed much else in His life, were predicted in Scripture. Verse 27 states: “Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Then in verse 44, He told them “that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Read More »

Text-Driven Preaching and Pragmatic Textual Analysis


Pragmatic analysis of texts asks the questions “What is the author’s purpose of a text?” and “What does an author desire to accomplish with his text.” The text-driven preacher is always attempting to accomplish something with every sermon. All verbal or written communication has at least one of three purposes:

  1. Affect the ideas of people
  2. Affect the emotions of people
  3. Affect the behavior of people

Preaching should incorporate all three of these purposes. We should be attempting to affect the mind with the truth of Scripture (doctrine). We should be attempting to affect the emotions of people because emotions are often (some would say always) the gateway to the mind. Finally, we should be attempting to affect the behavior of people by moving their will to obey the Word of God. Read More »

Will All the Ducks Fly Away?


“God, Family, Ducks…in that order.” So reads the Twitter profile of Jase Robertson, one of the stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” reality show. It looks like that saying is about to be tested. A&E has suspended Phil Robertson, father of Jase, Willie, and Jep Robertson and founder of Duck Commander, for his recent comments about homosexuality in an interview published in GQ. Read More »

Four Types of Meaning in Texts


The text-driven preacher must recognize that there are four basic types of meaning conveyed in every text and context: referential, situational, structural and semantic. Referential meaning is that which is being talked about; the subject matter of a text. Situational meaning is information pertaining to the participants in a communication act; matters of environment, social status, etc. Structural meaning has to do with the arrangement of the information in the text itself; the grammar and syntax of a text. Semantics has to do with the structure of meaning and is in some sense the confluence of referential, situational and structural meaning. 1 Read More »


  1. See Beekman, Callow and Kopesec, Semantic Structure, 8-13.

Wholly Bible: Preaching Revelation


The book to end the Book is an incredible book. Some look at it as a road map through which they can navigate modern events. Therefore they go slow. They stop to gaze at the magnificent visions in Revelation, and as they gaze they wonder exactly why it is written this way. They poke and prod, they squeeze and mix, until what is extracted from this vision becomes a blend of modern events glazed over with speculation and hope. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Parables


The parables of Jesus are go-to texts in preaching. They are so familiar, so convicting, so artful that they just beg to be preached. However the familiarity of the text can lull us into exegetical slumber: the state in which we never rethink our approach to understanding them. And what’s worse, the exegetical slumber leads to a homiletical boredom. If we think the text is predictable then we will preach it predictable ways. So, here are features of parables that we need to attend to while preaching parables. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Prophecy


If the prophets are the leftovers of preaching, the Minor prophets are the vegetables—the really, really, last resort in text selection. With the exception of Jonah, rarely is a Minor prophet a go-to text. Why is it that these major chunks of the Old Testament are largely neglected? Three reasons come to mind. Read More »

Debating Paige Patterson: 1981 Southern Baptist Inerrancy Debates with Cecil Sherman & Kenneth Chafin


Seven-score and ten years ago this very day, Abraham Lincoln arrived in a town not far from here to dedicate the cemetery and honor the men who had fallen at the Battle of Gettysburg. In his two-and-a-half-minute address, Lincoln remarked, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Gettysburg, says historian Alan C. Guelzo, was “the greatest and most violent collision the North American continent had ever seen,” 1 and thus the testing of the nation to which Lincoln alluded was “a kind of pass/fail examination to determine once and for all whether the American founding had indeed been misbegotten.” 2

Download PDF of “Debating Paige Patterson” Read More »


  1. Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (New York: Knopf, 2013), 5.
  2. Ibid, 480.

Wholly Bible: Preaching Law


If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.

Deut. 13:1-4 Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Old Testament Narrative


Isn’t she someone else’s wife?

David ignores the question of his servant and sleeps with her anyway. She’s pregnant. David ignores the opportunity to come clean and orders her husband to be killed. The stealth of deception is absolutely shocking. Cold, sterile, calculated, lying. From the heart of the most poetic God-fearer who ever lived oozes this willful independence and vulgar dishonesty. David lied. David stole. David killed. He would be forgiven from these sins, but neither his kingdom nor his family would ever recover. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Wisdom


The structure of the text should be the structure of the sermon.

This axiom is easy enough to follow when preaching a New Testament Epistle where you can follow the clear paragraph structure of the text, using rhetorical clues to divide the text such as verbs and conjunctions. However, doesn’t this axiom break down when preaching the Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)? If, for example, one were to preach Proverbs 14:1-4, the first verse relates to a wise woman, the second to uprightness, the third to foolish talk, and the fourth to the value of the oxen. That’s a pretty entertaining four-point sermon, but it hardly seems to flow. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching the Psalms


Have you ever sat next to someone in church who has a terrible singing voice and just doesn’t care? They just sing it like they really mean it. I envy this person. Without the slightest bit of self-awareness, they simply rear back and let the song fly. They’re too enraptured with the theology of the lyrics to be self-conscious about what others think. This moment is between them and their God. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Why Genre Matters in Preaching, Part 2


As we established in the last post, the genre of the text of Scripture affects the tone of the text. By tone, or spirit, we mean the author-intended emotive design of the author. Thus, a Psalm feels like a song, and prophecy feels like a prophet has spoken. This is somewhat subjective, but it is real. There is meaning in the emotion of the text. This is important for the reason that once we identify the tone, the text-driven preacher must ensure the tone of the text is the tone of the sermon. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Why Genre Matters in Preaching


Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Preaching a sermon demands a lot of thought. There is the exegesis of the text, which demands quite a bit of time and energy. Then there is the exegesis of the audience. How will the listener receive what God has said? In all of this, who has time to consider the genre in which the text was written? This is where Willie Nelson helps us. Read More »

Text-Driven Preaching and Sermon Form

All preaching rests upon certain convictions about the nature of God, the Scriptures, and the Gospel. James Barr said he doubted whether the Bible itself, regardless of one’s view of inspiration, can furnish the preacher with a model for sermon form and content that could be conceived as normative.1 Such a statement is clearly informed by a less than evangelical view of biblical authority. Contrast this with Haddon Robinson’s statement: “Expository preaching, therefore, emerges not merely as a type of sermon—one among many—but as the theological outgrowth of a high view of inspiration. Expository preaching then originates as a philosophy rather than a method.”2 Read More »

An Altar Inscribed “To the Unknown Preaching Method”

On any given Sunday in today’s preaching pantheon, one can observe a diverse group of devotees, some paying homage to the chapel of “creativity,” others sitting at the feet of the “culturally relevant.” Some are transfixed at the nave marked “narrative,” while others have their hearts strangely warmed at the chasse of “pop-psychology.” There is never a shortage of worshippers at the “new homiletic” altar, and the “topical” shrine always receives its share of Sunday patrons. Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.” It is that method which I declare unto you. Actually, the method itself is not “unknown” at all, and like the true church on earth, it has always had its practitioners in every era of church history. In fact, it is the oldest method in the preaching pantheon, having been used by the earliest preachers as far back as the apostolic era of the church. It is called “expository preaching.” Read More »

Taking the Text Test

Many of us are familiar with the advertising campaigns of various soft drink manufacturers that have involved a “taste test”. That is, the consumer is directed to taste one brand of drink, taste a second brand, and then compare the two in order to determine which brand tastes the best.

Such an exercise brings to mind an infinitely more significant test. This one concerns the preacher’s attention to the text of Scripture from which he plans to preach and his faithfulness to it. If a preacher believes in the inerrancy of Scripture and aims to deliver text-driven sermons, this test is no small matter. The following list, while not exhaustive, may offer the preacher some guidance in testing the quality of his attempts at text-driven preaching. Read More »

Re-gaining an appreciation of the Old Testament

Marcion of Sinope lived in the second century during some of the most formative years of the early church. The son of a bishop, he was also active in the church as a teacher in the region of Asia Minor. In 144 A.D., Marcion parted ways with the Christian community by starting his own movement, and by doing so, encouraged thousands through his teachings to better appreciate the Bible. Read More »

The Senior Pastor and Transformational Student Ministry


Pastor, you can decide to support youth ministry for one of two reasons. First, you can decide to support youth ministry because you ought to—in the same way you ought to support every ministry of the church. On the other hand, you can decide to support youth ministry because you see it as a strategic and powerful way to fulfill the vision you have for your church and for the coming of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Read More »

The Ministry of a Shepherd: They Don’t Need to Go Away


Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series on the The Ministry of a Shepherd from Ezekiel 34.

Matthew records an account during the ministry of Jesus that took place after the execution of John the Baptist. The Gospel accounts that after Jesus learned of those events, He withdrew to a deserted place alone. The people soon discovered where Jesus was, and a large crowd gathered on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee to spend time with Him. Here, we see the compassion of Jesus who, despite His own personal sorrow, saw that the multitudes were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). He was moved with compassion for them and healed the sick among them. Read More »

Preaching While Sitting

It became clear that things were not right. I could not walk straight, there was a tingling sensation in my hands and feet, and I had limited use of the muscles in my face. Multiple doctors but no answers. I remember sleeping on the couch, trying to get comfortable and telling God that I was ready for whatever He had to tell me. During all of this I shared my symptoms with my brother, who casually mentioned them to a member in our church. She was a doctor who formerly worked at a neurological hospital. She called him late on a Saturday night and woke him up to tell him she knew what I had and exactly what hospital to go to. Read More »

Nailed to a Bed of Pain: Lessons on Life and Death from John Donne

“God never uses a man greatly until he hurts him deeply.” So said A. W. Tozer. Few men can attest to this truth like John Donne, the 17th century English preacher, poet, and Dean of St. Paul’s Church in London from 1621 until his death in 1631. Today Donne is more known for his poetry than for his preaching, but he was a master at both. Oddly, Donne lay in virtual obscurity for the average person until the first quarter of the 20th century when T.S. Eliot’s recommendation that Donne be published anew catapulted him into the status of a major English poet. Read More »

Preaching the Christ at Christmas


The irony of the Christmas season is that Christ gets pushed out. That’s clear enough. It’s an observation that’s good to make to our people when we preach as we refocus their attention on the manger not the mall. But a little honesty forces me to admit that I often leave out the “real meaning of Christmas” in my preaching. Read More »

Moving a Church Toward Christ


Church leaders can become discouraged when their churches are not moving forward. Some churches are militant against change, but most churches today are composed of people who live in a world that is changing all the time. In the 21st century, we have learned to roll with change and even to see change as a good thing. Though this is not true of every church, a majority of people in most churches are at least somewhat open to new ways of doing things. Change is inevitable, so in the longer run, even in resistant churches, the inertia is on the side of the leaders seeking the church to move forward toward Christ. Read More »