Wednesday, September 18, 2013

3 "evangelistic" sermons

Yesterday in What kinds of sermons? I considered two of the best known sermons in the book of Acts -- Peter on Pentecost and Paul at Mars Hill. Neither of these sermons yield much evidence to support modern expository preaching as the mandate for the pulpit. Today I will consider three more in which Philip, Peter and Paul preach to unbelievers -- a Jewish proselyte, Gentile "God-fearers", and Jews & "God-fearers" at a synagogue.

Philip to the eunuch, Acts 8:26-40.
The 8th chapter of Acts is hemmed in by preaching beginning to end. Luke presents persecution as the cause of scattering the church, with the "scatterees" going every where "preaching the word" (Cf. 1 Tim. 4:2). Luke then focuses on one of the scattered flock, Philip, as he goes to Samaria and preaches Christ. The author provides no excerpts of the spoken words. Soon after God calls Philip to go south where he meets a eunuch returning from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. The eunuch is reading scripture -- Isaiah 53:7-8. Philip begins at the very place the eunuch is reading and preached unto him Jesus. Some will identify this as personal evangelism/witnessing rather than a sermon. But just perhaps this hints that we don't know exactly what "preaching" is. Though we don't know the exact content of Philip's preaching, the context suggests this as one of closest examples of expository preaching -- and the preacher didn't even choose the text!

Did Philip "preach the word" to the eunuch?

Peter to Cornelius's household, Acts 10:34-44.
Peter is called by God and three messengers to go to Caesarea to preach to the Gentiles. When he opens his mouth, he witnesses to his new-found perception of a God bigger than the Jews. He goes back to the beginning -- John's baptism -- and testifies of his eyewitness account of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. He takes no scripture text, though he does allude to it, especially the fact that Jesus is the one of whom the prophets foretold. Before the preacher can finish his sermon, God pours out His Spirit on the Gentiles. They speak in tongues and magnified God. Any further sermon was redundant for the moment, and Peter called on witnesses to agree to their baptism. Nothing in the record of Peter's sermon in Caesarea hints of a comparison to expository preaching.

Did Peter "preach the word" to Cornelius's household?

Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:15-42.
Paul and Barnabas are called to preach the gospel in regions beyond. Answering that call, they make their way from Antioch in Syria to Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath day they visit the synagogue services. As visiting Jews they are given an opportunity to exhort the attendees. Paul does not read a specific text, though one could wonder if he starts where "the reading of the law and the prophets" left off. He traces the redemptive history of God with the calling of Abraham, Isaac and Israel ("our fathers"). When he comes to David, he introduces Jesus as the son of David and the Saviour. He brings the testimony up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He introduces quotes from the Psalms to support the doctrine of the resurrection. He presents the power of this man to justify them where the law could not, and finally concludes with a scriptural warning from the prophet Habakkuk. Though this message is full of scriptural history and references, there is no exposing of a specific text to the congregation.

Did Paul "preach the word" in Antioch Pisidia?

Considering three more notable examples, we see little support of a scriptural mandate for expository sermons. Nevertheless we find sermons full of "preaching the word". Surely no Bible-believers will reject than conclusion.

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