Sunday, April 28, 2013
The Message We Preach
Deuteronomy 27:2-3 "So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime 3 and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you."
The Book of Deuteronomy represents the final month of Moses' life as he preaches his final sermons to the second generation of Israelites that descended from Israel coming out of Egypt.1 Within Deuteronomy 27-29 we find an example of what qualifies as the necessary elements for true Biblical preaching. In other words, what is the message that we ought to preach? Please note the following four elements of Moses' message in Deuteronomy 27-29:
1. PURE WORDS OF GOD. DEUTERONOMY 27:1-4
Moses instructed the people in the opening of his sermon to erect stone monuments with the words of God inscribed on the face. The words that were to be written or inscribed in the large stones were to be none other than God's words.2 The words were to be big enough for people to see who would have gazed across the Jordon River.
What kind of words are God's words? pure words. When we say pure words, we mean at least three things...
Inerrant words. Being that God is pure and without sin (Habakkuk 1:13; 1 John 1:5), it thus stands to reason that everything He speaks is without error.(2 Timothy 3:16) 3
Infallible Words. Because God's Word's are pure, they cannot lead anyone astray, a quality that Bible teachers call infallibility. (John 10:35)
Sufficient Words. Notice what Moses instructs the people to do, to have the words of God alone inscribed on the stones. God's Word by itself is sufficient to provide God's people with everything that pertains to life and Godliness. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
So the message we preach, in terms of its source, is from God's pure words. But notice the second element of what we preach...
PERSON OF CHRIST. DEUTERONOMY 27:5-7
Now the reader at this point may rightly question: where do you see Christ here in Deuteronomy 27? Moses is of course instructing the people to construct an altar following their arrival on the other side of the Jordon. Why an altar? To remind the people that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) The shedding of blood by an innocent substitute was enacted by God in the original covenant of grace established in Genesis 3:20-21.4
But for what purpose were the Old Testament sacrifices? God's people were not saved by the sacrifices, but rather by the Promise pointed to in and through the sacrifices - namely the Person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:11-12 shows what the sacrifices pictured - "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God."
In the Old Testament economy in which Moses wrote, it was fitting for him to focus upon the shed blood of innocent sacrifices, since such activites point to the final sacrifice performed by Jesus on the cross. (Hebrews 9:14-15) The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
So if we can say that Pure Scripture is the source of the message we preach, then Jesus Christ is the Person that we are to preach. With that said, we consider a third trait of Biblical preaching that we can glean from Deuteronomy, namely...
PERSONAL APPLICATION. DEUTERONOMY 27:8-28:68
God's word was revealed to be preached in order to be applied
We read in Deuteronomy 27:8 You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly.” The underlined word translated "distinctly" comes from a Hebrew Word that could be easily translated: "to explain, make clear, make plain." What is assumed in this command to "write down the words" is the fact that the words are going to need explained, announced and preached to the people. In fact that same Hebrew Word is used in Deuteronomy 1:5 "Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying". The phrase "to expound" refers to the sermons Moses was going to preach to the people.
How the preacher encourages the Word to be applied
As Moses preaches in Deuteronomy 27-28, he issues forth warnings (27:8-26; 28:15-68) and promises (28:1-14). Every preacher in every age impresses upon the hearts of their hearers God's Pure Words, about the Person of Christ, through a two-fold method of application - the warnings of the law and the promises of grace. When Jesus spoke to His disciples in His post resurrection appearances, He spoke first from the "Law, Prophets and Psalms" all the things concerning Himself. Why? Because the Law of God is designed to be a school master, pointing me to Jesus. Galatians 3:24 notes - "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."
On the soil of the human heart, the sinner needs to hear the thunder and lightening of God's law in order to receive the fresh rain of the Gospel. (Hebrews 6:7)5
The Holy Spirit takes the message from the head to the heart
Whenever applying God's truth, the preacher starts with the courtroom of the mind but ultimately aims at the heart. It is the Spirit's Attendance in the preaching that ensures that the message will make the journey from the head to the heart. I preach to apply, however only the Spirit can make the necessary application needed in that moment. Once that message is in the heart, the listener must demonstrate they "got it" by acting on the word.
So the Message we preach is from the Pure Words of God, about the Person of Christ, Preaching to be Applied and fourthly...
POWER OF GOD. DEUTERONOMY 29:1-9
The Power of God speaks of the Goal of what we preach. Frankly unless the Power of God is aimed for and empowering the preaching, the sermon will never turn into a message. Without God's power, God's people will be no more effective in lighting the world for Jesus than burned out light bulbs. Moses reminds his listeners in Deuteronomy 29:1-9 of their need for God's Power:
1. It was His power that first saved them out of Egypt. 29:1-4
2. It was His power that sustained their parents and them through the 40 years of wilderness wanderings. 29:5-6
3. It was His power that enabled them to defeat their enemies. 29:7-9
Lest God's Power is the beginning and end of the message we preach, no one will get saved and no one will be able to live the Christian life. This is the the message we preach. My little sermons are like loaves and fish in the hands of the Master. I give them to Him, He blesses the words and through my frailty He feeds His sheep. 6
We have considered the message we preach, as relayed to us by the inspired pen of Moses. We first noted that we preach the Pure words of God: words that are inerrant, infallible and sufficient. Second, we preach the Person of Christ, concealed in the sacrifices and fully revealed in the New Testament. Thirdly, we preach for Personal Application by means of Law and Gospel, exhortations and encouragement. Then finally, we preach for the Power of God to be shown, since God's power is the beginning and ending of true, Biblical preaching.
1. Among other descriptions, we could easily say that Deuteronomy is a book about preaching, by a preach of unparalleled rank - Moses. God had truly gifted this man who upon his initial calling as a prophet and stateman claimed to have no ability to communicate. (Exodus 4:11-17) Throughout Deuteronomy we see three sermons: (chapters 1-4; 5-26 & 27-30) along with final instructions, farewell and death of Moses (chapters 31-34) In Deuteronomy 27 we see Moses beginning his third sermon with what will turn into an unfolding of the future of God's people.
2. These words, though not specified as to their contents, were most likely either the ten commandments or the words that were to follow in Deuteronomy 27-30.
3. Central in the doctrine of scripture is the idea of God's words being pure - or inerrant. Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him." Psalm 19:7 "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." We preach the scriptures that are inerrant in regards to their original composition and which continue to carry forth such authority in the preserved doctrines, details and words of every copy and translation.
4. God killed two animals in the place of Adam and Eve, whereupon their confession of faith they received forgiveness, justification and thus were clothed in the skins of their substitutes. Such a pattern would be repeated in picture and prophetic form throughout the Old Testament. (Isaiah 53:6)
5. In fact at the end of Hebrews 12, we see two mountains compared and contrasted: Mount Sinai, representative of the Law, and Mount Zion, representative of God's saving grace in Christ. Only when the threatenings and curses are used by the Spirit to show me to be lost will I then be ready to be found by the Good Shepherd who is seeking me. When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He started with the Law, however His final instructions to them entailed the Gospel, the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20)
6. Whenever I approach a church service, I often think this thought: the music has been practiced, the sermon has been prepared, the prayers have been said, the people will soon arrive. But unless He, the Spirit of Truth breaths upon it all, not one thing will be accomplished. And don't you know it, whenever I go up to that sacred desk and open the Bible, the Spirit attends the preaching. He shows the sinner the Savior and Lord who died and raised for them, and to the saint he shows the same Savior and Lord who desires to live through them, and He in them. We need His power in the message we preach.