One of the pet peeves of Reformed theologians and preachers is the constant and repetitious using of Scriptures out of context. How many times have we heard preaching wherein the speaker would quote a passage from the Bible, and then spin a couple of stories that may or may not have any bearing on the passage, and “condition” people to obey some rabbit-out-of-the-hat application that seems to come from the passage? A passage like 1 Timothy 5:23, for example, would lead to a long-winded talk about the evils of wine (including, but not limited to, drunk driving and spousal abuse), and would then be recapped with pious statements like, “You wouldn’t invite Jesus to a bar, would you?” [Who? The Jesus who was a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors? Or some other Jesus?]
Or the one time yours truly listened to a preacher who said he would preach “about not being ashamed of the gospel” from Romans, and ended up spending a good three-quarters of his preaching time “sharing” about his ministry experiences and teaching the congregation how to do exercises. Sigh.
It is therefore quite refreshing to read articles like the one I’m going to recommend. It’s from R. Scott Clark’s Heidelblog blog. Here’s a snippet:
“The Reformers were more theological in their reading of Scripture, though they were also concerned about drawing out the implications of a passage for piety and morality. They tended to ground their reading of Scripture in the historical, original setting and sense of Scripture. None of the Reformers exemplifies this more than Calvin, whose commentaries continue to be valuable because he read Scripture in context and paid attention the intent of the human author and to the intent of the divine author (the Holy Spirit) of Scripture. The Protestants, however, didn’t suggest that Scripture has as many meanings as there are readers. it has implications and there are good and necessary inferences (to borrow from the Westminster Confession of Faith) but our reading of Scripture is always grounded in the original setting and in the original intent as understood in light of its setting and through the grammar of the passage.”
This is not to say that there aren’t any bad preaching on the Reformed side, neither is it saying that those who adhere to the Reformed confession are “in” with God. The thrust of the article is that preaching should be focused on the text and only on the text. Examples, illustrations, and all that should be grounded on the text. It’s all about Christ, not you.
I highly recommend this article. For the full article, go to http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/any-text-without-a-context-is-pretext-for-a-prooftext/#more-8612.
Another good site to visit would be the White Horse Inn with Michael Horton, Ken Jones, Kim Riddlebarger and Rod Rosenbladt. Their latest (uploaded) episode can be found here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2010/11/28/whi-1025-textual-narcissism/