Preach like Hebrews

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The book of Hebrews is the only letter in the Bible that contains an inspired sermon, and as such pastors should model their sermons after Hebrews more than the styles of communication popular today.

Hebrews is certainly a written letter that contains the content of the author’s sermon. The point of the sermon was to express the pastor’s concern for the congregation’s perseverance. If you open your Bible to Hebrews, the first thing you notice is that it doesn’t begin like any of Paul’s letters or like anything else in New Testament literature. It’s different. It has a stunning start. “The Spirit expressly says…” The opening statement is confessional in character and compels attention. It engages in auditor or reader immediately. The preacher has a sense of urgency. He wants to compel his congregation to perseverance.

He moves from there to the issue of the superiority of Christ. The author writes to warn against drifting and to encourage steadfastness in his recipients. He does this by urging, warning and proving that Jesus is “better” than all that came before. 

This should be our model as well. The ancient, inspired, anonymous preacher provides a paradigm for preaching that transcends his audience and time period and instructs us as communicators in the modern age. This dazzling portrait of Christ ought to motivate an expositor today to ensure that their sermon is fixed and focused on the Son of God, and his glory.

Its not just that Hebrews is fixed on the glory of Christ, but the preacher uses every rhetorical tool in the toolbox to paint a beautiful picture of Christ. Too much of modern preaching is some kind of half-baked, ill-conceived, conversational, off the cuff, shoot-from-the-hip sort of approach, but that’s not the preaching in the Book of Hebrews.

This sermon is full of literary qualities and rhetorical employment. It has structure. While he uses a chiasm, that is the Hebrew equivalent of a clear and compelling outline. For the Hebraic listener, they would have been able to identify by ear the focus that he was drawing when he built something chiastically. Expository preaching should not be like that description of the earth before creation, formless and void. It should have a clear and compelling structure to it, as modeled by Hebrews.

Moreover, the preaching in Hebrews is illustrative. It is vivid and memorable, with turns-of-phrases that penetrate his listener’s ears. “A believer’s hope is like an anchor to the soul.” “Apostasy is like drifting out to sea.” The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword.”

If we care for our people, then we will care for a careful preparation for our sermons. Its not enough to be a faithful exegete, but we must also be faithful craftsmen.

We can learn to preach more like the author to the Hebrews. We can learn to speak about Christ in a more central way. We need to learn how to extol Christ in our preaching and Hebrews wants to teach us. We need to learn how to craft sermons, and Hebrews teaches us. Preachers need to learn how to employ introductions, and Hebrews demonstrates this. Preachers need to learn how to illustrate, and Hebrews describes this for us.

I pray that more pastors would model their preaching off of the only book in the Bible that is both an epistle and a sermon.

from The Cripplegate


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