Preaching Needs to be Exegetical & Systematic
Why do so many professing Christians think that following Christ is about their personal happiness and success? Perhaps ... these professors no longer endure sound teaching and have itching ears and so accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Tim 4:3) Why do professing Christians think that Christ has nothing to say about politics and government? Perhaps they do not understand the mediatorial reign of Christ, His supremacy over all things in heaven and on earth. Why do books like “THE SHACK” and “THE HARBINGER” mislead and hold believers in bondage?
The questions, the problems, the wrong beliefs are legion in the church! Perhaps, just maybe, a possibility exists that American pulpits no longer preach the whole counsel of God. Sermons are “topical” or meet “felt needs”. Pastors “tickle the ears”, but they do not preach like Paul, who said: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Act 20:27 ESV) Systematic Theology is the study of God’s word that endeavors to “systematize” and present “the whole counsel” of God on any given topic. The study of Systematic Theology encompasses such doctrines as: God, Salvation, Christ, Human Nature, Scriptures, the Church, and the End Times. For a pastor to preach the whole counsel of God, the study of Systematic Theology is essential. When each portion of the word of God is presented in such a way that the rest of scripture informs the understanding of the passage, the pastor is preaching, in one sense of the word, “systematically”. The people of God are protected. Neither the pastor himself or false teachers will be able to lead the people of God astray by taking verses out of context making them say what they do not say. There are things in the Scriptures that are hard to understand. The ignorant (those who do not know Systematic Theology) and the unstable (those who want their ears “tickled”) twist the Scriptures to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16; 2 Tim 4:3) Systematic Theology equips the people of God to “stand” against false teaching by helping them use scripture to properly interpret scripture.
An Exegetical addition: Therefore, sound exegesis is part of an overall package of Systematic preaching. Let us look exegetically at a well known, but oft misunderstood, passage of scripture to demonstrate how exegesis helps develop sound understanding of the whole counsel of God AND why a systema- tic understanding of the WORD of God is essential for the well being of God’s people. In Ephesians 6:10, we find the following command: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” A surface reading of the text seems to imply that this is something the believer must do. He must pull himself up by the boot straps; he, himself, must make himself strong! “Be strong” - Paul uses an imperative that is in “passive” voice in Greek. In his commentary on Ephesians, Clint Arnold notes that the English phrase be strong “should be interpreted as a passive voice, stressing the idea of receiving strength from an outside source.” Hence the text reads: “Finally, become strong or (be made strong) in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” The command is for something to happen to the believer. The Ephesian believers, and by extension each of us as a child of God, are unable to fulfill the command. Yet as Arnold notes: “Nevertheless, because it is an imperative, it does imply volition and action on the part of the hearers to seek God and present themselves to him for filling with his power.” In verse 11 Paul tells us how we will be “made strong,” he equates it to putting on the whole armor of God! When we put on the armor, we will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. In verse 12, he details the nature of our warfare: powerful spiritual beings seek our destruction. Therefore, in verse 13 Paul repeats: “we are to stand!” Then starting in verse 14, utilizing participles of means, Paul begins to enumerate the specific exercises we are to practice that God will utilize to make us strong. We stand when we put on the whole armor of God. Therefore we are to stand: 1) Having a. fastened on the belt of truth b. put on the breastplate of righteousness c. put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace 2) By taking a. up the shield of faith b. the helmet of salvation c. the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. These are the actions we take. God uses these actions to make us strong. It is systematic theology which helps us to understand this important transaction.
Conclusion: We live in an age of “Sesame Street”, where people no longer reason or think deeply about theology. Sound bite answers based on single scriptures ripped out of context are the norm. This method of doing theology has a destructive impact on the people of God. Not having “fastened on the belt of truth”, they become prey to false teachers who manipulate the scriptures to their own ends. Out people must be taught the whole counsel of God. This demands the use of “Systematic Theology” in our preaching. How else will our people know how to rightly understand and apply the word to life? Brothers: preach the whole counsel of God! Preach systematically and exegetically!
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and 2 grand children.