That the sermon, if it is to be a Christian sermon at all, must be an honest attempt to expound a passage of Scripture should go without saying. To by-pass Scripture at this point is like trying to celebrate the Holy Supper without bread or wine; it is to show that one is ignorant of the commandments and promises which determine Christian worship.
But it is not enough just to take a text. To take a text and then proceed to use it as a peg on which to hang one’s own thoughts is as bad as having no text at all: it is to handle the Word of God deceitfully and to insult the Lord who wills to speak to his people through the words of Scripture. But to say that preaching must be expository is not to say that it must not be topical in the sense of having direct relevance to contemporary events. On the contrary, the scriptural passage has not been properly heard and understood, until it relevance to the actual concrete situation of the congregation has been recognized; and the more patiently and honestly expository preaching is, the more relevant and contemporary does it become. Of course it is true that there is a sort of exposition that leaves everything in the air, but that is no proper exposition. A scriptural passage is not properly expounded until its relevance to the hearers becomes plain.
—C. E. B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958):393
Sing the Bible, pray the Bible, read the Bible, preach the Bible.
—motto of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.
I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri. [A man of one book.]
And the Reformers were clear that in order to control and check the movement of Christian tradition from age to age a norm was needed. That norm was the written Word, and so the Bible was for them the supreme “given” element in the Church and the final authority for all our forms of worship.
—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):73
In every task of the church, the ministry of the Word of God is central. It is the Word that calls us to worship, addresses us in worship, teaches us how to worship and enables us to praise God and to encourage one another. By the Word we are given life and nurtured to maturity in Christ: the Word is the sword of the Spirit to correct us and the bread of the Spirit to feed us. In the mission of the church, it is the Word of God that calls the nations to the Lord: in the teaching of the Word we make disciples of the nations. The growth of the church is the growth of the Word (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20): where there is a famine of the Word, no expertise in business administration or group dynamics will build Christ’s church.
—Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, 199
The content of public worship is of immense importance. P. T. Forsyth said, “The preacher is not there to astonish people with the unheard of, he is there to revive them in what they have long heard.” What is so for preaching . . . is also true for the context in which preaching takes place. Every element of the public worship of the people of God must communicate the true content of the faith, which finds its focus on the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.
–Noel Due, Created for Worship, 235