Thursday, September 19, 2013

3 "church" sermons

In the posts of Tuesday and Wednesday, I considered some of preaching to unbelievers in the book of Acts. Today we will consider three occasions when the speaker or speakers addressed a church/gathering of disciples.

Peter's defense & testimony before the Jerusalem Church, Acts 11:4-18.
After Peter preached in Caesarea, the word was out; good to some -- the Gentiles has received God's word -- and bad to others -- Peter had eaten with uncircumcized Gentiles. It was necessary for Peter to give account of himself and the progress of the gospel. He tells of his vision and associated events, including traveling to Caesarea at God's insistence (he also had witnesses). He identifies this experience with their experience "at the beginning" (Pentecost) and quotes Jesus's promise about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Everything is attributed to God, and their can be no resistance. The church is satisfied and glorifies God. This preaching by Peter is much in the form of testimony rather than expositional preaching, and the only scripture quoted (as a "proof-text") is the parting promise of their Lord.

Did Peter "preach the word" to the Jerusalem Church?

Peter, James, and the Jerusalem Council, Acts 15:7-21.
The church at Jerusalem came together to consider the effect of doctrine taught by "certain which went out from us." The dissension was over the relationship of salvation to the law of Moses, particularly circumcision. This interactive meeting addressed the concerns of the disciples, and includes speech by Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James. The words of Paul and Barnabas are not recorded, only that they testified of God's work among the Gentiles.

Peter's teaching consists of reflection and testimony. He draws their attention to his preaching in Caesarea, when God opened up the field of the Gentiles, concluding with the observation that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by grace, not law. James claims their attention and references Peter's testimony. He finds agreement in prophetic testimony with the experience of Peter (Amos 9:11). He does not further expound on the prophecy, but uses it as a basis for judgment that the Gentiles not be troubled with Jewish ways -- though he gives a recommendation whereby Gentiles might not be offensive to their Jewish neighbors. James reference to Amos might be nearer to the dreaded "proof-text" than to an expository text of a sermon. Nothing in these speeches before the church in Jerusalem looks like the "mandated" expository sermon, and calls in question whether the apostles ever had any such mandate.

Did Peter and James "preach the word" at the Jerusalem council?

Paul at Troas, Acts 20:7-12.
Unlike the first two accounts reviewed, Luke does not record the content of Paul's speech at Troas. Later in this chapter, a lengthy "farewell speech" to the elders of the church at Ephesus is recorded. Yet meeting at Troas yields some interesting information. From the time of coming together until midnight, Paul preached at Troas. After an interruption of a young man falling from a third floor window, Paul broke bread and talked again until day break. No thirty minute sermon for Paul! More like a 12 hour one. Considering the context and word choice of Luke (dielegeto), it is likely that this preaching done by Paul at Troas was not a nearly 12-hour marathon speech, but rather a dialogue conducted by Paul with the brethren at Troas. There is no information to indicate whether Paul chose a text to concentrate on and expound for this preaching session, or that the dialogue ebbed and flowed as it went.

Did Paul "preach the word" at Troas?

Over three days I have investigated 8 sermons from the book of Acts with an eye on whether we might find any expository sermons. The evidence for them is weak, if we're looking for a "mandate". There are many more sermons or sermon references, and perhaps someone will think that I have tried to choose to avoid the inevitable. Please review such records yourself and bring forward any testimony I have missed. I don't think the record denies that we should preach expository sermons, but rather indicates it is only part of the type of speaking that should go on either in church or before the world. There are defenses, testimonies, dialogues and more. It would be wrong on our part to pick our preference and exalt it to first place just because it is our preference.

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