Today's Expositor's Quote comes from Sinclair Ferguson:
The preacher operates with two horizons: (1) the text of Scripture and (2) the people of God and their environment in the world. He ought . . . [to consciously bring] these two horizons together. . . . The preacher must ask himself several questions: Am I covering the whole range of biblical teaching? . . . Am I covering the whole range of biblical doctrines? . . . Am I dealing with all the applications of the gospel message? . . .
The preacher will also, by necessity, be a biblical theologian. . . . [Yet] the preacher is not a systematic theologian whose exclusive task is to expound an inwardly coherent account of the Christian faith. He is a pastor, whose major task is to feed the flock of God. The context of the congregation therefore plays a major role in the selection of his material. Where are they in terms of their Christian pilgrimage? What are their . . . needs, lacks, pressures? . . . Our preaching is not to be need-determined, but it must be people-oriented, as Jesus Christ's was (cf. John 16:12).
At this point we see something of the value of systematic theology, when that theology enables us to see the interconnections between Christian truth. For those connections are not always the ones preachers tend to make. To give an obvious illustration: we find ourselves called to preach to people whose chief characteristic is lack of assurance. How does this govern our selection of biblical material? The natural instinct is to reply, "Preach a series of sermons on the nature of true assurance." But to do this is not only pastorally a questionable response; theologically it is a confused response. Why? Because assurance is not received by knowing about assurance so much as it is by knowing about Christ! In other words, the selection of material in such a context should be governed not by the nature of the problem so much as by the shape of the gospel, what Paul calls "the form of teaching to which you were entrusted" (Rom. 6:17). This is a principle of selection that lends itself to wide illustration.
Sinclair Freguson, "Exegesis," chapter 7 in The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel T. Logan (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986), p. 196-198.
[This quote is related to last week's: We must read theology and think theologically if we are to avoid pastorally questionable responses to our people's needs. And we must aim to present our people with the whole counsel of God, the nature of God's work of redemption from the beginning of history to its end. Yet always, we must keep foremost in our minds that our goal is to feed the flock, not to cover doctrine systematically. May our preaching this week proclaim the eternal verities of the faith, and may the imparted word dwell richly in the hearts of our people, that we all together might "attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" - Coty]
Return to EQOTW Archive
Return to Expository Sermons and Worship Resources