Showing How Reality Shines Through The Words of the Passage

In the section the following quote comes from, Piper is arguing that preachers give rigorous attention to the very words and clauses of the text not just preach a message that is “in the ballpark” of the text (Bible-saturated v. Bible-based). This is a pervasive problem in the church today.

“The preacher has only one definitive access point to the realities that matter infinitely — Christ, grace, righteousness, eternal life — and that is the inspired words of God in Scripture. This is the access our people have as well. The preacher does not take the place of Scripture. The preacher helps the people see the reality the Scripture aims to communicate. The preacher’s job is to help his congregation see and savor the beauty and worth of these realities through Scripture

People find it deeply satisfying when a pastor asks and answers their questions with good reasoning from the very words of the text. And they should. God gave them minds. Their minds think by asking and trying to answer questions. That is largely what thinking is. Unless they have been lulled into mental sleep by hundreds of sermons that don’t ask and answer questions raised by the text, your people are brimming with questions as the text is read. Our job is to discern the most important questions that need to be answered and to show people, by our expositions, how to answer them from the text

The point of these three examples of preaching has been to show how and why preaching should not only find the reality communicated through the text, but should also show the people that it is really there by helping them see it through the wording of the text. Exposition involves rigorous attention to the very words of the biblical text as a means of radically penetrating into the reality the text aims to communicate.

I am pleading against a widespread kind of preaching that is Bible based but not Bible saturated. I am pleading against the reading of a text followed by preaching that makes its points — sometimes very good points actually found in the text — without showing people the very words and phrases from which the points are taken. I am pleading against preaching that fails to help people see how the text actually takes us to the reality that is all important …

‘The source of my authority in this pulpit is not … my wisdom; nor is it a private revelation granted to me beyond the revelation of Scripture. My words have authority only insofar as they are the repetition, unfolding, and proper application of the words of Scripture. I have authority only when I stand under authority … My deep conviction about preaching is that a pastor must show the people that what he is saying was already said or implied in the Bible. If it cannot be shown, it has no special authority.

My heart aches for the pastor who increases his own burden by trying to come up with ideas to preach to his people. As for me, I have nothing of abiding worth to say to you. But God does. And of that word, I hope and pray that I never tire of speaking. The life of the church depends on it.’

The tragedy that happens over time in a church where the preacher does not give rigorous attention to the words of Scripture to help the people penetrate into the reality it communicates is that the word of God ceases to exercise its power, and the people lose their interest in the Scriptures. When this happens, everything in the church shifts away from a joyful orientation on the Scriptures. The people cease to be a Bible-guided people. Without the saturation of Scripture, they become increasingly vulnerable to the winds of false teaching, and more subtly, the conditioning of unbelieving society. Their expectations become worldly, and they pressure the leadership of the church to make more and more concessions to what pleases unspiritual people. The preacher my wonder what the problem is, but he does not have to look far. He has not valued the word of God highly enough to make its glorious realities the content of his message while showing the people from the very words of the text how they can see these realities for themselves — and be thrilled.”

Expository Exultation, John Piper

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