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The Net Pastor’s Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 43, Spring 2022

A ministry of…

Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
Email: [email protected]

I. Strengthening Expository Preaching:
Preaching N.T. Gospels, Pt. 2

This series on “Strengthening Expository Preaching” started with the Fall 2018 edition (Issue 29) of this NET Pastors Journal. The purpose of this current series is to build on what we learned in the previous series (“The Essentials of Expository Preaching,” Issues 1-28, Fall 2011 to Summer 2018). So far in this current series we have covered the following topics:

1. Strengthening sermon introductions (Fall 2018)

2. Strengthening sermon conclusions (Winter 2019)

3. Strengthening sermon illustrations (Spring 2019)

4. Strengthening sermon applications (Summer and Fall 2019)

5. Strengthening biblical interpretation (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall 2020)

6. Strengthening preaching Hebrew narrative (Winter and Spring 2021)

7. Strengthening preaching Hebrew poetry (Summer and Fall 2021).

8. Strengthening preaching N.T. Gospel (Winter 2022).

In the Winter 2022 edition, I covered Section A, “The Gospel Genre: Its literary style, structure, and characteristic.” In this edition I will continue with the same topic, moving on to section B…

B. Interpretive Hints And Principles For Understanding Gospel Narratives

I have been particularly helped in this section by the work of Graeme Goldsworthy (“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture,” 222-232), Sidney Greidanus (“Handbook of Contemporary Preaching,” 329-343), and J. Scott Duval and J. Daniel Hays (“Grasping God’s Word,” 249-253).

1. Be aware of differences in perspective. Interpretation is affected by perspective. Our perspective differs from that of the Gospel writers due in large part to the cultural, chronological, theological, and linguistic gaps between them and us. When we preach the Gospels, therefore, we need to be aware of these differences and interpret them appropriately.

The first question to ask ourselves is: “What is the theological thrust or intent of the Gospel writer?” I think we are safe to say that the overall message of all of the Gospel writers is the kingdom of God. Indeed, as Sidney Greidanus writes, “all four Gospels tie this central message of the kingdom of God to the person and work of Jesus Christ…This all-encompassing good news – that in Jesus Christ the kingdom of God is coming near, has come, and will come - calls for a theocentric-Christocentric interpretation of each individual preaching-text from the Gospels” (“Preaching in the Gospels,” 332).

2. Start with textual analysis. Textual analysis helps you gain a better understanding of the structure and content of the story.

As to structure, typically, the Gospel stories are structured around four progressive sections:

(1) The life situation, context, or background.

(2) The problem or issue at hand.

(3) The conflict or climax.

(4) The resolution.

(5) The conclusion - an application, lesson, or challenge.

In the structure, you want to learn what drives the story forward – is it questions, fear, opposition to Jesus etc.?

As to content, you can fairly easily analyze its context, characters, places, and events by asking six standard questions of the text:

(1) Who are the characters involved? – either named or unnamed.

(2) What takes place?

a) The background of the story.

b) The issue involved (e.g. a healing or a storm etc.).

c) The progression of events.

d) What the characters said or did or how they reacted etc.

(3) When did this take place? – the time of day or season of year, during a Jewish festival or at a wedding etc.

(4) Where did this take place? – on the lake, at a private home, in a city, in the synagogue etc.

(5) Why did the events of this story take place? – to perform a miracle, to expose someone’s faith or lack of faith, or because of doubt about who Jesus was etc.? In this analytical step, look for any clues the author may give as to the purpose of the story. These clues may be given at the beginning or end of the story. Take the example (from Duval and Hays) of Mark 4:35-41 where the final question by the disciples indicates that Mark included this event to teach and reinforce who Jesus was. He was not merely a rabbi but God himself, who alone controls and directs his creation.

(6) How does the story unfold? – to answer someone’s need or question, to show Jesus’ power over nature or his intervention in a crisis etc.

Another helpful analytical tool is to take note of the use of repetition in the story. This is an interpretive pointer in all biblical literature not just Gospels - the repetition of a word, phrase, or theme. Repetition is used by the author to drive the point home unmistakably.

3. Determine the universal, theological principle of the story. Once you have carefully analyzed the story’s structure and content, then you need to draw it together into the overall principle it is teaching. Here you are answering the question: “What is the point of the story?” In particular, what is the theological point the author is making by including this story and telling it as he did? Is it about relationships or faith or unbelief etc.? Is there a lesson in the story that we need to learn? Is our reaction to Jesus mirrored in the reactions described in the story?

Sometimes the Gospel writers emphasize a point through a series of stories. For example, Luke 15 contains three parabolic stories: (1) The lost sheep; (2) The lost coin; and (3) The lost son. Our job is to determine the common theological point that connects them. That one story is connected thematically to the one before or the one after can often be determined by the setting, the characters, the themes (e.g. the common theme in Lk. 15 is “lost” and “found”).

Once you have determined the theological principles, try to state them in ways that are relevant, applicable, and personalized to your audience today. This is what we need to preach – the theological point that is applicable to all audiences for all time. It’s easy to retell the story itself for your audience, but our job is to tell them more than that. Our job is to flesh out the principles of the story, not only as they relate to the characters in the story but more particularly as they relate to us. We need to answer the question: “What does this have to do with me?” In so doing, be sure to be faithful to the text itself within the context of the larger story of Scripture.

Final Remarks. These steps are critical when you are preparing to preach a Gospel narrative. It is not acceptable to merely retell the story and draw some moral applications from it. You must understand the Gospel writer’s theological perspective and Christocentric focus, analyze the story’s structure and content, and determine the theological principle of the story as a whole as well as of each scene of the story. Then you are ready to prepare your sermon and appropriately apply the story’s principles to life today.

II. Strengthening Biblical Leadership
“The Ministry Of Reconciliation, Pt. 4: An Appeal For The Reconciliation Of God’s People To God’s Minister” (2 Cor. 6:11-7:16)

The subject of the ministry of reconciliation unifies the entire section from 2 Corinthians 5:18 to 2 Corinthians 7:16, as follows:

A. The reconciliation of all people (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

B. The reconciliation of God’s people (2 Cor. 6:1-7:16)

(1) Their reconciliation to God (2 Cor. 6:1-2).

(2) Their reconciliation to God’s ministers (6:3-7:16) - for reconciliation to God can only be fully and properly accomplished by reconciliation to the pastor as well, for he is God’s ambassador (5:20).

In this study we will examine 2 Corinthians 6:11-18 and continue our study of this section in following editions.

First, let me make some introductory comments here about the structure of the passage we are about to study (2 Cor. 6:11-7:16) because there has been extensive debate among textual critics as to whether this was written by the apostle Paul and, if it was, whether it contains a fragment from another letter. The reason for this debate is that the language of 6:11-13 changes so abruptly in 6:14-7:1. Indeed, 7:2 seems to carry on from 6:13, with 6:14-7:1 as an unconnected insert. But in fact, the flow of thought can be traced throughout the passage without any need to conjecture that 6:14-7:1 is a fragment from some other document or an editorial insert. Indeed, the phrasing of 7:3 (“for I have already said that you are in our hearts”) is a clear reference back to 6:11-13 and infers that he has said something else in between.

This section, then, is the climax of an integrated treatise about Paul’s apostolic ministry that began in 2:14 and finishes in 7:16. As David Garland astutely points out, rather than being a digression, this final section that we are studying sums up his whole argument with a climactic appeal. Hence, the list of imperatives: (a) “Be reconciled to God “(5:20); (b) “We appeal to you ‘Don’t receive the grace of God in vain’” (6:1); (c) “Open your heart to us” (6:13); (d) “Do not be yoked together with those who do not believe” (6:14); (e) “Come not touch” (6:17); and (f) “Make room for us in your hearts” (7:2) [see David Garland, 2 Corinthians, New American Commentary, 322-323].

First, Paul’s appeal to them is based on…

1. A Pastoral Appeal of Love (6:11-13). “11 We have spoken openly to you, Corinthians; our heart has been opened wide. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 I speak as to my children; as a proper response, open your heart to us.”

This address to the Corinthians is unique in Paul’s letters to them. Perhaps he uses this mode of address to express the love he feels for them in his heart and to make his appeal particularly personal by calling them by name. Paul has been frank and transparent with them not only in his speech but also in his affections. He has spoken openly to them because of his love for them. No doubt his straightforward speech is motivated by the danger that they faced if they pursued the course they were on. The greater the danger, the more overt and frank are our warnings, as we know when we supervise children. The openness of his heart toward them has never changed despite their sinful practices which needed stern rebuke. His love for them and his rebuke of them are not mutually exclusive – he does not express and feel love for them only when they are going on perfectly and properly for the Lord (although that would undoubtedly be his preference).

In appealing to them as their pastor, he stresses his love for them - “our heart has been opened wide” (6:11). But love must be reciprocal. While “we are not withholding our affection from you,” he says, “you are withholding yours from us” (6:12). Thus, Paul further appeals to them to reciprocate his love – “open your hearts to us” (6:13). The fervency and genuineness of his affection for them had not wavered; whereas their love for him had dissipated, or at least was not evident. This is not unusual for someone who has been severely rebuked and who is living a lifestyle that is the polar opposite of the one who has rebuked them.

It is instructive how Paul communicates this rebuke to them. He does so in the context of expressing and assuring them of his love for them (6:11-13; 7:2-4). This is a timely reminder to us, that in order for rebuke to be accepted and effective, it must be done in the spirit of love. When dealing with believers who are sinning, while we must discipline them if there is no repentance (cf. 1 Cor. 5), nonetheless we must balance discipline with Christian affection lest we engage in some sort of legalistic chastisement, effectively making them stand in the corner until they repent, or cutting them off until they change. In all cases, we must “speak the truth in love.”

Paul appeals to them as a father to his “children” (6:13) that they reciprocate his love. It is natural and normal for children to love their parents. They were his spiritual children. To them, he had preached the message of reconciliation and they had received it. They were the beneficiaries of Paul’s ministry, both in terms of their salvation and their on-going church ministry. Now they were in danger of throwing back in his face this great blessing as having been in vain. Hence, this pastoral appeal of love is followed by…

2. A Pastoral Appeal of Admonition (6:14-18). “14 Do not be yoked together with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: ‘I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God,
and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

This appeal of admonition seems to spring out of nowhere in the flow of thought of this passage. And yet, as I mentioned earlier, it seems from the context to be directly related to (a) the preceding verses (6:11-13) concerning the withdrawing of the Corinthians from Paul (and their coincident drawing near to the false apostles or, at least, coming under their influence - cf. chapters 10 and 11); and (b) the issues that had been raised in the first epistle that were marked by worldliness. For, if anyone needed to heed this admonition for holiness it was the Corinthians, who were dividing into parties (1 Cor. 1), boasting about sexual immorality in the church (1 Cor. 5), suing one another in court (1 Cor. 6), practising sexual immorality with prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:15-20), engaging with idolatry (1 Cor. 8 and 10), and abusing the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34). These issues and what they needed to do about them were the substance of his first letter and this exhortation in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is another iteration of those instructions concerning their sinful, worldly lifestyle and practices.

In order for the relationship of the Corinthians with Paul to be fully restored, they would need to demonstrate that they had separated themselves completely from evil. Their love for Paul could only be fully expressed by them if they demonstrated it by their obedience to him, specifically, by their separation from the world (6:14-7:1), for love and holiness go together; love can never overlook sin. The most genuine expression of their love for him would be to do what he instructs them, for as Jesus said, “the one who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me” (Jn. 14:21).

It is quite reasonable, then, to assert (and indeed it fits with the whole tenor and subject of both epistles) that 6:11-7:16 is Paul’s final pastoral appeal to these people to now be reconciled to him, especially since they had evidently taken at least some of the steps necessary to separate themselves from evil (e.g. disciplining the man guilty of incest in 1 Cor. 5). And it makes sense that this kind of appeal would come at the end of his entire argument, which is concerned with the reconciliatory nature of pastoral ministry.

The problem is that the Corinthians were “yoked together with those who do not believe” (6:14), an association from which they must separate (6:15-18). Perhaps, and quite probably, this whole issue of unequal yoke was at the root of the problems in Corinth, causing such division and ungodliness. To be “yoked together” with a non-Christian is to be mismatched (lit. mis-mated) – to be joined with an unsuitable partner, as when oxen or horses in harness are mismatched and, therefore, do not (indeed, cannot) pull together in the same direction. They cannot work together, for how can two walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3)? The yoke of the believer is Christ’s yoke, which is easy and light for those who are united with him (Matt. 11:30).

This admonition is not specifically alluding to marriage, although that would certainly be included. This is talking about any inappropriate association between believers and unbelievers. A “yoke” is a relationship or agreement that binds people together in close association with one another, a relationship that can only be harmonious and lasting if the parties are in agreement. Obviously, this is speaking specifically of agreement on spiritual things, but the principle surely applies in any relationship – it will not be happy and productive if the parties are not agreed (philosophically, spiritually, economically etc.). And typically, if one of the parties is a believer and the other an unbeliever, the influence of the unbeliever in the “yoke” overpowers that of the believer. As David Garland poetically puts it, “Those who harness themselves together with unbelievers will soon find themselves plowing Satan’s fields” (Garland, 331).

In this context, to be yoked to an unbeliever means an alliance - hence, the choice of words:

(a) “partnership” (14a) - sharing, participation (μετοξη)

(b) “fellowship” (14b) – communion (κοινωνια)

(c) “accord” (15a) - harmony, lit. “symphony” (συμφωνησις)

(d) “have in common” (15b) - share, part, portion (μερις)

(e) “agreement” (16a) – union (συγκαταθεσις)

For a Christian to be “yoked” together with a non-Christian is to form an intimate alliance between someone on the one hand who professes to be righteous in Christ, and someone on the other hand who lives in opposition to and in violation of the righteous law of God - i.e. “lawlessness” (6:14b). It is like trying to merge “light and darkness” (6:14c) into a common entity – impossible. It is like trying to force an accord between polar opposites, between “Christ and Belial / Satan”(6:15a), between a “believer” and an “unbeliever” (6:15b), between “the temple of God and the temple of “idols” (6:16).

The rhetorical question in the text is: “How can a believer enter into a relationship that pretends to be a united, equal, common agreement with someone whose basic worldview and practice militate against it?” And the implicit answer is: “You can’t do it!” – at least you can’t do it and maintain a consistent Christian testimony or live a happy, productive Christian life. No, surely…

(a) We “share” in the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4) and, as God’s children, we “participate” in God’s chastening (Heb. 12:8).

(b) Our “fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 1:3b; cf. 1:6), not with law breakers. Our “fellowship” is with “Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9) and with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13), not with darkness or demons (1 Cor. 10:20).

(c) Our “agreement” is with the word of God (Acts 15:15) and with the church of God (1 Cor. 1:10-11; Matt. 18:19-20).

(d) Our “part” (share) is in “the saints’ inheritance” (Col. 1:12), not with unbelievers whose part is in the lake of fire.

(e) Our “agreement” (lit. union, common cause) is with the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:14), not the temple of dead demons (2 Cor. 6:16b).

While Paul does not explicitly say what he is referring to here, an analysis of the contrasts that he draws (the fellowship of righteousness with lawlessness; the communion of light with darkness; the agreement of Christ with Satan; the commonality between a believer with an unbeliever; the agreement of the temple of God with the temple of idols) would seem to indicate that he has in mind primarily any association of Christians with pagan idolatry and sacrifices (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:14-33).

The whole imagery of a “yoke” eliminates applying this teaching to casual relationships, or else Christians would have to go out of the world altogether, which, as Paul says elsewhere, we do not have to do (1 Cor. 5:9-10). We are not to live in isolated communities separate from any contact with the world. Indeed, to do so would run counter to all Christ’s teaching regarding being salt and light in the world. What Paul is insisting on here is that Christians keep their Christianity (their spiritual values, ethical standards, relationships, practices, beliefs) separate and apart from worldly values, standards, relationships, practices, and beliefs. Indeed, to be yoked to an unbeliever is to form the closest and most permanent of relationships with someone who is, in fact, an enemy of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18).

The back-up support to Paul’s argument (6:16-18) comes in the form of miscellaneous, pieced-together quotations from the O.T. (Lev. 26:11-12; Ezek. 37:26, 27; Isa. 52:11; 2 Sam. 7:14; cf. also Deut. 32:18-19), which reinforce…

(a) The unity and exclusive relationship of God with his people: “I will dwell and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people” (6:16), which unity and relationship excludes anyone else.

(b) The call for separation from those among whom God does not dwell or walk: “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (6:17-18).

These O.T. quotations have to do with the worship of God, which must be done in complete separation from any “unclean thing” (Rev. 17:4; Lev. 5:2; 10:10). In other words, the worship of God and the worship of idols cannot under any circumstances be joined together. Since believers are “the temple of God”(1 Cor. 3:16) we cannot be joined to the temple of idols (2 Cor. 6:16). Only when we separate ourselves from such things and persons can and will “I welcome / receive you. And (then) I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Final Remarks. There is a delicate balance between separating from the world for the purpose of maintaining holiness to the Lord, and connecting with the world for the purpose of evangelization. Evidently, the Corinthians were well integrated into the world and not separate from it. Perhaps that is why we read nothing of persecution against the Corinthians. Instead, they were accepted as participants in pagan temple worship (1 Cor. 8:10) and engaged in sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5). Believers have no place in idol worship nor in any immoral or impure behavior, which, as Paul says, should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints” (Eph. 5:3).

The balance seems to be that, on the one hand, we must separate ourselves so that we are neither “yoked” to unbelievers (i.e. do not come under their influence; not obligated to them; not indistinct from them; not corrupted by them; do not adopt their immoral practices), and yet, on the other hand, we must endeavour to develop relationships with them based on Christian kindness, honesty, love, purity, and grace such that they are receptive to our witness of Christ and the Gospel.

III. Sermon Outlines

Title: Learning from Jesus, Being Influential Christians, Pt. 2 (Matt. 5:14-16)

Subject: Living effectively for God in the world

Theme: Influential Christians are those who make a difference for God in the world

I. Only Jesus’ disciples transmit the light of God throughout a spiritually dark world (5:14-15)

A. Only Christians transmit the light of God throughout the world... by virtue of who we are (14a)

1. We alone are His disciples (cf. Jn. 1:9; Jn. 8:12)

2. We alone are his representatives in the world (cf. 1 Jn. 4:17)

B. Only Christians transmit the light of God throughout the world... by virtue of what we know (14a)

1. We alone know what is hidden in the darkness (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 5:13)

2. We alone know the cause of the darkness

a) We know that we are living in the last days (cf. 2 Tim. 6:1-5)

b) We know that this is the time of deceiving spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1)

c) We know that any false prophets are in the world (1 Jn. 4:1-3)

d) We know that “all have sinned...” (Rom. 3:23; Jn. 3:19)

3. We alone know the solution to the darkness

a) The solution to the darkness is the truth of God (cf. 1 Jn. 1:5-10; 1 Jn. 4:6; Jn. 1:17; Jn. 8:32)

b) Only Christians can answer the ultimate questions of life – who we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we are going

C. Only Christians transmit the light of God throughout the world… by virtue of why we exist (14b-15)

1. We exist to fill a specific position (5:14b)

2. We exist to fulfill a specific purpose (5:15)

Point 2: Only Jesus’ disciples transmit the glory of God throughout a spiritually dark world (5:16)

2a. By obeying Jesus’ command to let our light shone (5:16a)

2b. Bu doing good deeds that point to God as the source (5:16b)

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