Should a Preacher Solely Preach His Interpretation in Sermons?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by thistle93, Feb 4, 2013.

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  1. thistle93

    thistle93 Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi! In passages of Scripture that have many different interpretations do you think a preacher should (1) solely preach his interpretation of the text he is preaching on or should (2) he mention all or most of the most plausible interpretations and let the congregation decide for themselves given the doctrine of the priesthood of the saints or should (3) he give the different interpretations and then say where he falls and give reasons why?

    If just give your interpretation, the positive is that this is less confusing for congregation but negative is there is a danger of congregation just blindly following pastors interpretation and not searching the Scriptures for themselves, which reminds me of Roman Catholicism.
    If give many of the interpretations, the positive is that people cannot accuse you of preaching a theological agenda but the negative is that some in congregation may come up with some zany interpretations.

    An example would be when preaching Rev 20 and touching on the topic of the millennium. Should the preacher just give their own interpretation or should he list the various views and say that genuine Christians can disagree on this issue and for each to decide for themselves given what they see in Scripture.
    Now while still of a secondary nature and one where genuine Christians can disagree, I am a little less hesitant to preach the equal worth of interpretations of Calvinism vs. Arminianism because I think there is more at stake there then say ones millennial views.

    Do not know if it is an either/or thing.

    Now obviously I am not talking about essential doctrines like divinity of Jesus, Trinity, substantiationary atonement, ect... These I think the pastor is to give a clear interpretation of and not get side tracked on different heresies. Maybe that is more appropriate for studies rather than sermons.


    Any resources (book, articles, audio) you know that touch on topic? Thank you!

    For His Glory-
    Matthew Wilson
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    I believe that our flocks not only expect, but need, a preacher to tell them, "thus sayeth the LORD." There will be times when even the most skilled preacher will run into difficult texts that will test his mettle. Revelation is a book that contains many such texts. I know pastors who hesitate to teach it because they simply do not understand it. It is possible to preach on a passage that gives you difficulty. For instance, I am a tentative amillennialist. I recently taught on the error the Apostle Paul wrote to dispel in Thessalonica, namely that the day of the Lord had already come. I found it helpful to present the various orthodox positions on the Second Coming, while stressing what I believe the Bible teaches about the amillennial view. This allowed me to be honest while at the same time to teach with conviction. This is why every preacher should labor at exegesis and preach in an expository style.
  3. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    In my opinion, it depends upon the specific text and the nature of the differing opinions. Sometimes the alternative options are so banal or impious that I'm not even going to mention them. Other times, there is sincere disagreement by godly folks. As a matter of charity I think it can be helpful in those cases to at least recognize the other position and then explain why you believe the passage means whatever it is you think it does.
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    As a pew-dweller, it seems a distinction should be made between systems of doctrine and difficulties with specific texts.

    That believers hold differing millennial views makes for a great Sunday School class or Bible study. Even there, it is appropriate to say: "this is what this church believes, and here's why." There's no spiritual leadership in saying: "here are the different views, take your pick.

    In a sermon, when a text is notably difficult, I wouldn't expect a full Greek or Hebrew grammar lesson. But I do like to know the difficulty exists and will often make a note: org. Gk: and write the word in question when its direct translation resulted in the NASB to make an interpretive decision on the translation. (Or I'll underline what's given in the margin notes if my Bible's editors have made a note of it.) I'm looking to gain a greater understanding of the text and to have the tools in place the next time I revisit it on my own.
  5. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    This is exactly right. Well said. If the differences are important to the main idea of the sermon, then fine. However, we must avoid mentioning the differences just to demonstrate how well read we are. (See the quote from Derek Thomas in my signature.)

    In fact, I prefer to bring these differences up only when asked about them. The sheep are there to feed on the word of God and going out of your way to mention various interpretations is like when you go to dinner at someone's house and while you are eating the cook keeps telling you why the food tastes the way it does but it could also have been prepared a different way. Just shut up and eat!
  6. ShagVT

    ShagVT Puritan Board Freshman

    In one of my preaching classes last year I was assigned 1 Thess 4:13-18 to preach, the great text about "meeting the Lord in the air" ... I felt there was no way to approach preaching this text without dealing with the popular misconceptions of a premillennial rapture. When there is a major misconception of a text, I think we have to give at least some attention to the alternate views and explain why we chose otherwise.

    But I don't know if there a verse in the Bible that is not contested by somebody. It serves nobody to spend all of your time presenting views that you believe are wrong. I mean just take the simple macro distinction of liberal scholarship that views the Bible as a fundamentally disjoint collection of the writings of man. Do you really want to keep reminding your people of that error every week?

    Perhaps you get to a verse where you just don't know what the text means. Maybe 1 Tim 2:15? I think in that situation it is ok to lay out the options available and have the humility to admit that you don't have 100% confidence on what Paul is getting at there. My guess is that there shouldn't be that many times when you just don't know.

    I say all of this as a student and not somebody who has had to wrestle with this issue week by week. People who have been tested by fire may have better wisdom to offer ... this is where I've come down on this at this point.
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