Two things have come together to create this post: reading Joel Green’s, Practicing Theological Interpretation and Trueman’s, Luther on the Christian Life.
Well, actually, three things. The third one is my discussion last week with a young pastor who will begin his first pastoral post in about a month.
Let me start with the third factor. In talking about how to gain depth for preaching, I mentioned how important it is to read theology. The temptation for pastors is to read only for church growth, leadership, or commentaries for sermon helps. Over the years I’ve discovered how important it is to find in-depth theological works. These aids are tremendously helpful as a supplement to what would be considered normal exegetical work.
One place you may want to turn is to ancient catechisms. Green writes, “a theological hermeneutic might be well advised to ask, ‘What do we see as we read Scripture through the prism of the creeds that we would not otherwise see?'” (p. 80). Just as the creeds help flesh out interpretation and application of Scripture, so do catechisms.
Take, for instance, Luther’s catechism. Our Theology Readers’ Breakfast just completed a study of Trueman’s book, Luther on the Christian Life. The entries contain an intriguing combination of theology and practical application–practical theology.
Luther’s catechism is especially helpful because as Trueman states, “Luther was the first author of a catechism in the history of the church who came to the task as a father.” (p. 111) He writes for his children. But listen for the combination of theology and practical application.
“You shall have no other gods.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.” (p. 111).
In both cases, notice that Luther begins with fearing and loving God. I would normally begin discussion of the first commandment with some minutes devoted to worshiping God. In the second case, notice the list of positive applicational actions.
So, as you study for Sunday’s sermon(s), ask yourself if anything in your preaching portion might necessitate some help from a good theology book or from an ancient catechism like Luther’s. And may our preaching contribute to God receiving glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).