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Theological Matters

Theological Insights from Southwestern

Steven Smith

The Royalty of Immediate Action


Abraham was considered a prince.

However, he was not royalty. No blue blood, just the hot blood of a nomad coursing through his veins.  He was literally a professional wanderer, wandering at the call of God. When his wife Sarah died, he went to the land of the Hittites who graciously allowed him to bury his wife in their land, saying, “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us” (Gen. 23:5). Would to God people may say that about us. All accolades aside, what if those around us sensed that we were divinely set apart? What made this man so princely? Easy, really: he was a good follower.

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Connecting the Truth of Scripture to Cultural Issues


Almost every cultural issue that a pastor will face today involves gender roles. Whether abortion, pornography, sex trafficking, or the advance of the homosexual platform, every issue revolves around gender and God’s plan for marriage, and on these the Bible is not silent.

No doubt most believers feel like Scripture addresses these issues, but how to connect the truth of Scripture to cultural issues in a way that is both clear and winsome is another thing all together.

This is why I am grateful that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention will host its national conference on The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage, October 27-29, in Nashville, TN. The conference will cover the waterfront of issues surrounding the church as she engages the culture for the Kingdom of God.

There may not be a more pressing arena for the church to engage. If you desire to winsomely articulate biblical answers to the issues of today, I strongly encourage you to be a part of this conference.

Toward that end we at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are offering a course for credit surrounding the conference. If you’re interested you need to enroll in both the conference and the course separately, as well as secure travel and lodging in Nashville. Register Today!

I hope to see you in Nashville. The times have never been more urgent.

Download Course Syllabus

The Colonization of the Call: An encouragement for those residing in their call


In a few moments students will fill MacGorman Chapel for the convocation of the fall semester. They represent many states, nations, churches and families. This is the sobering reality that makes me want to craft each word in class as an act of stewardship. These are students who have chosen not to colonize in their home church, but pioneer to a different place as an expression of God’s next step. Their obedience is an earnest reminder that that there is a time to colonize, and a time to pioneer.

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LAUNCH: Creating a Culture of Everyday Evangelism [VIDEO]


On June 11, Southwestern Seminary hosted a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to discuss how churches can create a culture of everyday evangelism and reach their communities with the gospel. Pastors and SBC leaders from across the country shared their experiences with leading their churches and training their congregations in personal evangelism. Below is the video introduction for the panel discussion, which features the late evangelism professor Roy Fish recounting his “Three Driving Forces for Evangelism,” and the full version of the panel discussion. Read More »

Shorter Stories II: Double Parables


How do you preach a double Parable?

Jesus told as many short parables as he did long parables. For every Prodigal Son of Luke 15:11-32 (21 verses), there is a parable like the Unworthy Servant of Luke 17:7-10(4 verses), Trained Scribe of Matt. 13:51-52 (2 verses), or Pharisee and Tax Collector of Luke 18:9-14 (5 verses). Read More »

Shorter Stories: Preaching the Short Parables of Christ


Jesus had incredible structure to his sermons …  but only sometimes.

Think of the Sermon on the Mount. Its introduction (eight beatitudes) is followed with six antitheses: Jesus fights the thesis that keeping a warped standard of righteousness was enough. It ends in chapter 7 with four warnings. It has a clear logical structure.

However, Jesus also preached some “pointless” sermons. Read More »

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 »

ENDA and The Superiority of Men

Congress is currently considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). For review of the issues see the helpful ERLC piece here. The bill would require employers to hire without consideration of an employees’ sexual orientation. The truth is that a person’s abilities may not be hindered by their sexual orientation. It is also true that no one should ever be discriminated against—for any reason. However, the reality is that this bill threatens the existence of businesses that desire to govern themselves in consistence with their religious convictions. In this way, it infringes upon the right to operate a company by conservative evangelical convictions. Read More »

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 »

Paige Patterson and the Battle for the Blood


Engaging the atonement has been, for Paige Patterson, a long walk in the same direction. As Al Mohler noted in a recent blog, the debate about penal substitution and the atonement had roots in the fertile soil of the seminaries—roots that would expose themselves during the Conservative Resurgence. Mohler notes it as a time when the convention began to understand, “… a deeper divide over the nature of the atonement than many Southern Baptists had been prepared to acknowledge.” Read More »

The End of School

On my desk sits a small relief of Rodin’s “Thinker”. We know the famous statue—the nude kneeling on his left leg in the contemplative pose—as the symbol of modern thinking and philosophy. The little statue came from a small gift shop in Paris on Rue de Bellechasse, not too far from the original, which sits in the garden of the Muse Rodin. 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 »

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 »

How You can Vote Like a Christian and Then Go to Sleep: A plea for confidence and clarity

I voted today.  With a clear conscience I voted for the candidate that I thought would protect freedom, protect life, and uphold the ideals of our nation.  However, there was not one candidate that had as his platform to uphold the Gospel. In fact, one candidate denies the Gospel by his religion; the other rejects the implications of the Gospel by his actions.  So, the question is, how can I sleep tonight knowing I cast my vote for one of these Gospel rejectors? Read More »

Repent Before You Call for Repentance

If a preacher is not willing to bend his will to the text, then it will never live in the pulpit.

This may be the hardest part of the process of preaching. When we arrive at a text of Scripture and it calls us to change something about our character, confess a sin, or right a wrong, we must do so immediately. What is at stake of course is our own sanctification. However, what is also at stake is the sanctification of others. This does not mean a heavy-handed personal lashing; a self-loathing from which one cannot recover. Rather this is a glad submission to the will of God for your life as revealed in Scripture. Your integrity is at stake. How can I call someone to repent of a sin when I am unwilling to repent? Read More »

That Scriptures Might be Fulfilled: Perspective on Post-Preaching Feeling

My brother and I call it “Post-Preaching Feeling,” or PPF. It’s the Sunday, 12:30 p.m. feeling. A little bit wasted. A little bit reflective on the good and bad of the heavenly transaction that just took place between God, His Word, His people, and a preacher. Perhaps we preacher-types can be too contemplative and too self-aware, but that comes with the territory, and we swallow it because in 6 days and 23 hours we do it all over again. The great thing about preaching is that it’s so redemptive.

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