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EFAC Australia

Preaching

Charles Perry was the first Bishop of Melbourne, consecrated on St Peter’s Day 1847. He arrived in Melbourne on 24 January 1848, the first, and until Barker’s arrival in Sydney, the only evangelical bishop in Australia. Perry delivered his first sermon in the new Diocese in St James’ Church on the 28th.

Perry was a definite and committed evangelical, and this sermon sets out his programme and priorities for ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Today, more than 150 years later, it still resounds with evangelical fervour, biblical clarity and humble devotion to the Lord.

Although based, as sermons typically were in that time, on one verse the entire sermon is steeped in Scripture. There are no less than 20 different scriptures cited from both Old and New Testaments and numerous other allusions besides. Phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are not so much quoted, but woven into his sentences. His verse was 2 Corinthians 5:20 -
‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’

Finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible - Part One


by Peter Adam

 

We should always try to find the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible. The central ministry purpose of the book is its ministry aim, its pastoral intention. It is the answer to the question that we could ask of the author of the book 'In one sentence, why did you write this book?' Or the answer to the question we could ask of God 'Why did you cause this book to be written?' It should include what the readers should do, and why they should do it. It regards the book as an extended speech-act, and seeks to clarify what the author wants to happen as the result of people reading the book. The central ministry purpose is more than the central theme, because it includes what the author wants the readers to do as a result of that central theme. It does not focus on topics, but on actions. It is not the language of analysis, but of action.

Here are some examples of 'central ministry purpose':

Micah is the flavour of the month for Old Testament prophets. His name has been catapulted onto the public stage through the Micah Challenge, and the associated Make Poverty History campaign. But does Micah simply tell us to "make poverty history"? Is this his only message: "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God" (6:8)? Is there more to the prophet Micah?

Micah Then

Micah was writing to the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (1:1) which places him somewhere between 750-686BC. This period was a time of great affluence in Judah and the lure of wealth and power led to sins of corruption and idolatry. We see these sins among the people of God, germinating in the fertile ground of wealth and prosperity, growing up into their day to day dealings, into business, leadership and religion. Micah speaks strong words of judgement against these sins. He denounces the idolaters, the wealthy landowning classes who oppress the poor and marginalised, the civic and spiritual leaders who take the law into their own hands, and informs them of the coming judgement of God.

But the book is not all judgement. The fabric of the book is also woven with a strong message of redemption for the faithful. These signs of hope in the God of the covenant intersperse the messages of condemnation against sin. There is a vision of the renewed Jerusalem as the sign of hope and restoration beyond the exile. There is the promise of the ruler who will be born in Bethlehem of Ephrathah. There is the wonderful note of forgiveness and mercy that rings in the readers' ears as the book draws to a close.

A Sermon
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us

The Bible is full of people needy for forgiveness.

A man and a woman. Rapturously in love. They share some fruit. Disaster.

A king and another man's wife. A moment of passion. A child conceived, a husband despatched. The prophet speaks - a lie exposed.

Two friends. Three years of shared life - of learning, of laughter, of wonder. Denied. Denied. Denied again. A rooster crows - deceit uncovered.

Adam and Eve. King David. The Apostle Peter.

The Bible is full of people needy for forgiveness and, my guess is, so are our churches.

Sometimes we have acted with such deliberateness and calculation and even anticipation that we know we need to be forgiven even before we have sinned. Sometimes we know it as a word slips from our mouth or a thought rises in our heart and we regret it instantly. Sometimes we are completely oblivious of the wrong we have done and it is not until the photograph of our car arrives in the mail that we are aware of our need for forgiveness! Sometimes we are reminded on an annual basis that there is much that remains unforgiven. In many families, everyone knows that there can be no happy anniversaries until someone says 'sorry' and someone else says 'I forgive you'.

Finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible
Part Two – 2 Corinthians

In Part One, I tried to show the general principles and practice of finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible. In Part Two, I will show how this applies to a difficult example, that of 2 Corinthians.

There are two preliminary questions that need to be answered when tackling 2 Corinthians.

a. Are 1 and 2 Corinthians one unit of meaning, and so mutually explanatory?
Traditionally these two letters have been regarded as one unit, in that it has been assumed that they both tackle the same issues, that they refer to each other, and that 2 Corinthians flows on naturally from 1 Corinthians.

by Paul Barker

In 2005 I preached a series of sermons on the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. That focused my thinking to reflect on the nature of preaching to bring about change in people's lives. I looked at the ethical injunctions in the epistles and considered how they indicated a move from sin to virtue can happen.

The doctrine of mortification of sin is not considered much. I don't recall a lecture on it when I trained for ministry. However this article is not so much a theological argument. Read John Owen for that.1 I am addressing preachers. It seems to me this is a crucial doctrine for preachers to grasp if our preaching is to be truly powerful under God.

The issue is, how do we put sin to death? If preaching is, in part, to train in righteousness, where does the power to change come from? Can human beings change themselves to be more righteous? Paul says in Romans in 6:12 "Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies to make you obey their passions". And, in Romans 8:13 "If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live".

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