|PRINCIPLES OF EXPOSITION
One of three essential components of a Workshop on Biblical Exposition is what we call the Principles of Exposition, or preaching instructions. During this portion of a workshop, we will teach a handful of lessons on how to interpret and explain the message of the Scriptures in an accurate and accessible way. This page is really meant as a reference to those who have participated in a workshop before and as an introduction to those who are about to participate in a workshop. The following five instructions are brief examples of what a workshop might cover in the Principles of Exposition portion. Additionally, a great debt is owed to Dick Lucas of the Proclamation Trust in London for these principles. Many, if not all, of the ideas come from Lucas and the remainder are certainly inspired by his approach to the text of Scripture.
Download the Principles of Exposition [pdf, 139kb]
|STAYING ON THE LINE
Principle: We must stay on the line of Scripture, never straying above it or below it.
Explanation: We are often tempted to require more than the Scriptures, venturing into religious pietism and expressing a zeal that becomes a kind of legalism. We judge others who do not maintain our extra- Biblical traditions and standards. In so doing, we add to the Scriptures. We can also be tempted to dip below the line into liberalism and pragmatism, ignoring both the content and point of Scripture. In so doing, we subtract from the Scriptures. As teachers of God’s Word, we must commit ourselves to saying nothing more or less than the Scriptures say. It is a matter of obedience (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Strategies: consider the text in light of both extremes, anticipate how those who furthest above and the furthest below might treat the text, test consistency of your reading with the rest of Scripture
Practice Texts: Genesis 3:1-3, Mark 7:6-13, John 3:16-21
Listen: David Helm at the 2011 Chicago Women's Workshop [mp3, 10mb]
|TEXT AND FRAMEWORK
Principle: We must let the Bible shape our frameworks rather than letting our frameworks shape our ‘interpretations’ of the Bible.
Explanation: Whether Calvinism or Arminianism, politically left or right, therapeutic or propserity-driven, cultural and social, we all have frameworks—ideas and frames of mind that we bring to the text. Our experiences and training and own desires bring them to the foreground every time we open the Bible. Some frameworks can even be helpful. But, in order to get at the meaning of a text, we must let the text be sovereign. We must adjust the framework rather than fall into the trap of ignoring or bending the text until it says “what we want it to say.” We must hear it for “what it says.”
Strategies: identify your own frameworks (ideological, political, theological, etc.), constantly approach the text with fresh eyes, consult many different translations of the Bible (e.g. dynamic, literal, paraphrase)
Practice Texts: Mark 2:1-12, Hebrews 6:1-8, James 2:14-26, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Listen: David Helm at the 2011 Portland Workshop [mp3, 27mb]
Principle: We must understand how the original audience understood a text in order to know how it applies today. We must understand the context (historical, literary, canonical, etc.) of our text.
Explanation: In handling God’s Word, there is great pressure to be relevant. This pressure means that we are tempted to read what is written and then apply it immediately. In other words, we go straight from the text to application. But, by understanding the text in its context or how it would have been understood by the original audience (them then), we can better understand the right application of the text (us now).
Strategies: read the chapter on both sides of your text, read the entire book, if paired with another then read both books (e.g. 1 and 2 Corinthians)
Practice Texts: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, Mark 8:22-30
Listen: David Helm at the 2011 Boston Workshop [mp3, 36mb]
Principle: We will handle a specific text better if we understand what the whole book is about.
Explanation: Books of the Bible and the Bible (as a whole) have a coherent, sustained message—or big idea—similar to the unique melody of a song. It is waiting to be heard. It unites the whole book, big theme and big aim, concisely stating what the whole book is about. Every passage will, in some way, be related (directly or indirectly, as support or even contrast) to the melodic line. Our task is to listen well enough and long enough to hear the melody.
Strategies: read and reread, identify a top and tail (e.g. Romans 1:5 and 15:26), find a purpose statement (e.g. Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30-31) or thesis statement, find repeated words and phrases and ideas (e.g. “joy” and “fellowship” in Philippians), follow the Old Testament quotations
Practice Texts: John 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, 1 Samuel 8
Listen: Kent Hughes teaches at the 2012 Bay Area Workshop [mp3, 35mb]
|BONE AND MARROW
Principle: We must teach the emphasis of our text well by first apprehending the structure.
Explanation: Every text has a structure. This structure will reveal an emphasis. The emphasis must shape our message. We must find the organizing principle of the author and let it dictate the shape and emphasis of our talk. This is the skeleton. We must get the ‘bones’ straight in order for the body of our message to be healthy. We will must teach the emphasis that the author—the Holy Spirit—put into the text. Only then will we see the “life” of the passage. We must look at the text with x-ray eyes in order to see its skeletal structure.
Strategies: use a literal English translation of the Bible, read and reread and read out loud, look for repetitions or clear thesis statements (sometimes in the form of a rhetorical question), identify your text type as discourse (look for grammar, key words, transitional words, chiasmus, verbs), narrative (look for plot, surprises, setting, characters, comparisons and contrast), or poetry (look for grammar, comparisons and contrasts, imagery, changes in who is speaking, parallelism)
Practice Texts: Genesis 11:1-9, Amos 1:3-2:4, Mark 5, Luke 15, Ephesians 5
Listen: David Helm at the 2011 Boston Workshop [mp3, 31mb]
|TRAVELING THROUGH THE CROSS
Principle: If we are to teach the Bible as Christians, we must show the gospel (the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means) at every point. Otherwise, we resort to frameworks.
Explanation: After the resurrection, in Luke 24, Jesus shows the disciples how the Old Testament Scriptures point to him and his work on the cross. He also declares that they will be (apostolic) witnesses of this gospel to the end of the earth. And the content of those Scriptures and that witness has to do with four things: his suffering and resurrection, repentance and forgiveness. In other words, the text of the Old and New Testaments center on the cross of Jesus Christ. If we are to faithfully teach God’s Word in light of the gospel, we must find the relationship between our text and the cross.
Strategies: develop a good sense of Biblical Theology, consider plot lines and theological themes, typology,and analogy (including contrast and irony), New Testament references
Practice Texts: Mark 4:35-41, Colossians 1:15-23, Psalm 2, John 13:1-15, 1 Samuel 2:1-11
Listen: David Helm at the 2010 Lookout Mountain Workshop [mp3, 38mb]