The Challenge of the Ministry
Harold John Ockenga
Volume X -- Number 3
All Rights Reserved
The Cincinnati Bible Seminary
Today we would like to talk in the realm of Homiletics. It is appropriate for us to discuss practical theology because all of you will be in some phase of Christian work. I have already been asked this question: How do you divide your week in preparation for your sermons? Perhaps this would be a good place to start. I have to preach on Sunday morning and on Sunday evening. I have to preach on Friday night. We call it a lecture, but it is no different from any other sermon that I preach except that it is a little bit longer and is more in the form of study than the Sunday morning or Sunday evening sermons. I also have an exposition of the Sunday School lesson, the International Uniform Sunday School Lesson, each week which I give on the radio. That lesson is recorded on Thursday morning, but it is played over a 50,000 watt station on Sunday morning at 7:35.
A very large listening audience is served, because there are many people who want a last minute touch for their Sunday School lesson on Sunday morning. We get responses from people of all kinds; in fact, I have a Jewish friend who tells me that every year when he starts playing golf in the spring until the time that he quits in the fall he leaves at 7:30, turns on the radio, and listens to my Sunday School lesson. He gets at the Belmont Springs Country Club at 8 and so he has a Sunday School lesson every Sunday morning. And he has expressed his appreciation many times. We do not know how far the broadcast goes; we know it goes a very long distance, but how many are listening is unknown. Then on Thursday morning I have a telecast which is live. We speak for a very short message of about six or seven minutes. It has to be a unified message. We invite, at the beginning of that message, people to pick up their phones and call in and express their questions. These questions are then taken right at the desk before the cameras by my wife. She writes them out and lays them down, and then after I finish my six-minute or seven-minute message, whatever it is, I sit down at that desk and begin to answer ad lib those questions on the Bible, Christ, Christianity, and related subjects of all kinds.
I have done this now for six and a half years every Thursday morning, so that this is the program. Formerly, before I took the telecast, in the evening school of the Bible I had a lesson every Tuesday night. Because we offer ten courses, people can take any three of the ten; and we have run this school for twenty-one years on Tuesday evenings for twenty weeks of the winter season. We start in October and finish one session before Christmas, start another one the second week of January and run through about the end of March. People pay $10 for that. We have had as high as 585 studying in the school. We average now about two hundred in the school, and I have taught in that every week for many years.
How do we do this kind of thing? Well, I always work in the inverse order of unloading my subjects. I preach without notes, and if you are going to preach without notes you cannot be confused in what you are doing. I begin to prepare in the inverse order of which I will dellver these matters. The first thing I prepare is my Sunday night sermon. And hypothetically I am supposed to take a day a week off according to the Scripture, and if I take it at all, that is on Monday. Now there is a very good reason for that. When you get in the ministry you will find out very few men can take Saturday off. You find that you rise in your preparation and tensions and so on to a certain peak, and that comes on Sunday. Naturally you start here with your thinking and praying and your preparation and, as everything begins to move, the pressure begins to mount. You are unloading your various things as you move along, and Sunday is the peak. Now, if you were going to take Saturday off and totally relax, you would be down again; then you would have to come back up and pick that up again on Sunday morning. For me that is practically impossible, because I have everything in tension built so that I come to Sunday and.finish off my Sunday. Then I drop to relaxation point on Monday, then start again on Tuesday morning.
Circumstances are such that it is impossible sometimes to take a Monday off. We have many things that interfere, and when they do, there is nothing I can do about it but submit and carry through on that matter; but I do like to do it in this order. So what do I do? Tuesday morning I begin immediately the preparation of the evening sermon, and if I am to keep on schedule, this should be done on Tuesday. Before I get done with my work on Tuesday, it should be done. There are the things that interfere: you have your church calendar, it has to be gotten out; the things that only the minister can do like choosing hymns, getting the Scripture lesson, the topics for your sermons, the particular phases in which you want emphasis in the write-ups in your church calendar--all this has to be done on Tuesday, and it must be done because it has to go to the printer. And I advise a man always to keep his hand on his church calendar, because this integrates the matters of the church activity and emphasis. So this must be done. Then there is always the gap from Friday night when the secretaries go home; they are not there until Monday; of course, I am not there till Tuesday morning. There is a large amount of mail that comes in. Much of that mail has to be answered by me, so I do that type of thing on Thesday as well. But I also get to work upon my sermon and will try to get it done by Tuesday night. Then, when I finish the Sunday night sermon, I will begin on Wednesday and move into the Friday night message.
Wednesday afternoons we have a great many interviews. That is the day I meet people with problems, and sometimes the whole afternoon is consumed. Counseling is exhausting. I have now Wednesday morning. One morning is not very long in order to prepare a message, if you are going to have any thing that is very valuable for your Friday night. Thursday morning is completely gone. I have there my telecast; I have my recordings for the Sunday School lesson; I have to prepare the telecast before I give it at 10; and then I go right from there into the recording and record two Sunday School lessons always, because, just like today, I am away and or, at least yesterday, I could not do any recording or have been on telecast because I was away. So I have to build these up in advance and do two of them. This means that on Wednesday night and Thursday morning early I am up studying my Sunday School lesson I am going to give on the radio and the message I am going to give on the telecast. I get through with that and go back to the office, and I am there perhaps till right after lunch at 1 p.m. Then I have Thursday afternoon again for study. So I pick up the remnants now that are involved of such things as the Sunday night sermon if it is not finished. I try to get that done. Then I move in to finish whatever is necessary on my Friday night message and to the Sunday morning message. I attempt always to get that done by Saturday noon.
I always go to the office on Saturday early in the morning and work through till I get my sermon. Now I work until I get through. It does not make any difference whether it is 12, 1, 2, 3; whatever it is, I work until I finish that sermon, because we must be on the air; we must preach the next morning, and this has to be a finished product. Therefore, I work in the inverse order. Now why? Friday night I present the one that has been prepared last. Saturday morning I have worked on Sunday morning's sermon. So I present that on Sunday morning. Then I go back and pick up the one from the first of the week, get it in mind on Sunday afternoon and give it on Sunday night. Now, if you are going to preach without notes, you have to have an order something like this, or you will get into great trouble. That means that every Saturday night has to be inviolate. We have to keep it for prayer and for getting in mind the Sunday messages. I find that to get a message which I have prepared in mind takes approximately two hours; that is, if I am going to get my outline so that I can see it so that I can stand up there and forget it (I just forget my outline, forget everything I have done) and just preach on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. But this must be in mind and if you dissipate your Saturday night with youth meetings or picnics or social affairs or any other thing, then it is impossible to do this adequately and effectively on Sunday. Sometimes something will interfere, but when it does, I go home after I get through with whatever this is.
I had to give a speech two weeks ago on Saturday night at an Armenian Conference, and people came from all over; and I attended and gave that speech. Then I went home at 10, and I worked until about 11:30. I was up again the next morning before 6 and was working on this again in order that I might be able to maintain the standards of preaching without notes. So much for the division of work.
Now somebody says, when does your study come in on this--of other things besides your sermons? Well, I seize every moment I can take for reading. I have a brief case here. I carry that brief case with me, and I wear these brief cases out rapidly, because every place I go I have a brief case. Now, in that brief case I keep books: books that are long-range books, books that are short-range books, books that deal with my sermons, books that are on other subjects. I happen to be one of the editors of Evangelical books. They send me manuscripts constantly, and I have got to keep up on those. Some I have to read in detail; some I scan; some I can tell immediately are not the kind that we want, but it necessitates quite a lot of reading, too. So I attempt constantly to read. Take the subway-get a book, sit down and read or stand and read in the subway going into Boston or in the bus. I leave home usually around 8:30 in the morning. I drop my boy off at school often at 8: 15, and immediately after that I go to the church. Anywhere from three to five nights a week I am in the church until 10:30 at night from that time in the morning. Our home is in the suburbs, and this means that it is a long, long day for many days during the week. But you must seize every moment for studying. Take and mark your book so that you will know where things are (so that they are fastened in your memory), and then you know where you are going to go and get the particular thing to which you are going to refer when you do your preparation. So much for study habits.
When I first get in my office, if I have not awakened early enough in the morning to take time for my devotions at home, the very first thing I do is to get into devotions. Now that means the prayer list which I referred to yesterday. This goes first in the morning. I cover that, or at least, if I do not cover it, I take at least a half hour in prayer going over this in order to keep this matter before me. This starts the day down at the office.
In reading it has been my good fortune to have a secretary as long as I have been in the ministry. This happened way back; when I was 25 years of age I had one, and I have had one ever since. In fact, before, when I was an assistant minister, I spent part of my salary hiring a secretary for two days a week. I think this is very, very valuable, because if you mark your books you do not have time to index all this. But if you have a secretary, you tell her what she is to do. You have a Wilson file for your topics and texts of your sermons; you have a Bible with a wide margin; you have your sermons numbered, and according to the text you put that number down in the Bible as you go along. You will find that when you want to talk upon a particular text or upon a particular subject, if you refer to the subject file of the Wilson index you can immediately have maybe a dozen things that you have preached on that particular subject in one angle or another. If you want to talk on a passage of Scripture, and you refer to the text in your Bible that is of that type, you will find that you have perhaps a dozen sermons on that one text, in the course of twenty-five years. I have now a large collection of sermons (the last sermon I recorded was somewhere around 2,560). Now we have all of these sermons; so all I would have to do in a moment's time is to look at the text or that passage of Scripture, and I will find four or five different sermons on that passage of Scripure. I go to my file right there at home; I put these things out of the notebook as they are filed accordmg to numbers which are in accordance with the text. If I have an International Sunday School Lesson on that text, sometimes I do not have to do any preparation at all, because I have an exposition of that passage of Scripture already done very much in detail. I will show you how we prepare it in a moment. All I have to do is to take that to the radio station, and in ten minutes time I can give that over the radio for a twenty-five minute lesson. Now many times I have had to do it that way because of the pressure of time. So filing is very important.
It will be very important also for what we may call Theology, Philosophy, and Illustrations. I have card files in which the topics are put down and the books underneath them for what I have marked in the margins of these books. So out of a library of about 6,000 books which are in my own library, I have the oportunity of going immediately to these various areas of books and finding those references either to Theology, Philosophy, or History, or whatever it may happen to be, as illustrations of exactly what I want to say. This can be done very quickly, but you have to build that kind of thing up. Now as to the method: If I am going to preach (largely my preaching on Sunday morning is expository preaching) I take a book of the Bible in which the text occurs and read that book.
Just now I am preaching through the book of Matthew. The first thing I did was to read the book of Matthew a number of times until I was saturated with it. And I continue doing that the whole time that I am preaching through the book of Matthew. I have been reading the Gospel of Matthew now for a long time. I started the series two years ago this coming December 1, and we are now finishing the twelfth chapter. I have read this book many, many times during that period. The next thing I do is go and and read it through in the Greek (the whole book through in the Greek) in order that I may be conversant with all the aspects of the Greek. There are lights that are given to you in the original that you do not get any other way. The next thing I do is outline that book.
Matthew is the treatment of Christ from the viewpoint of being the King. So you have the descent of the King; the birth of the King; the first sermon that starts the series can be called "The Descent of the King," if you please. Then "The Birth of the King"; then "The Herald of the King"; "The Inauguration of the King" (at the time of His baptism); "The Temptation of the King"; "The Subjects of the King"; "The Charter of the Kingdom"; "The Certification of His Kingly Authority"; "The Beginning of the Rejection of the Kingship" (in its incipient form); "The Controversy Between the King and the Kingly People" (the Israelites and their rejection of Him). This becomes an outline that is in your mind. No matter what you deal with along this book, you fasten it within the whole outline itself, and you know exactly where you are at any moment.
Now to illustrate that, I take as a result of this method a particular passage of Scripture. I use a complete unit in the Scripture, never just a running comment that is an exposition or just commenting on the Scripture. Exposition is taking a block of truth which would ordinarily be a paragraph. It could be one single verse, one sentence, or it could be one word, if you wish so to do in detail. I usually take a block and preach on that whole thing at once, so much so that I could pick that up this morning on any of those particular topics and use it as a message here. It would be apropos; it would be complete; it would be an absolute unit; it would be independent of any other part of the exposition of the book of Matthew. This is a complete independent unit. But if you are sitting under this ministry over a period of time, you will find that it adds precept upon precept and line upon line. The concept grows, and it gives you a full exposition of Scripture; and you will have a much deeper understanding thereof as a result of it. Now in taking such an individual passage, the first thing is to find a unit in the Scripture which is a total unit, a complete thought (a paragraph or whatever it happens to be), and this means inductive Bible study.
You do not take what somebody else has voiced upon the Scripture. You study the Scripture itself, ascertain where that paragraph, that unit of thought is, what the content of that is as the main thrust of it. You form your topic from the main thrust of what that particular unit of thought is. Some other expositor might do it a different way, but for me the greatest amount of time is now spent on understanding this particular unit of divine revelation. And I may spend hours just working on the outline of that, getting the expression of exactly what this thought is because in my opinion this is what God gives to me. This is that which is to be mediated through the prism of my personality, before I consult with anybody else to find out what he has to say. When I get through with my own outline of this then I am willing to go beyond and get other things. But let us pause a moment on just that matter of an outline.
An outline is extremely important in preaching, if you are going to preach without notes. Let us take the text (the last one we had in our own exposition in Matthew) in Matthew 12 and just use it as an illustration. The Lord Jesus there in the twelfth chapter said this (let us take this passage from the thirty-third to the thirty-seventh verses, that is a unit). In 12:33 "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit. 0 generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
This is a complete unit of thought. What is the central thing there? I used as the text the thirty-fifth verse, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." Now what would I call that? The word treasure is the word Thesauros. What is Thesauros? You have a Thesaurus on your desk. It is a repository of words, synonyms, antonyms and so on of words. The Lord says you have a Thesauros. This whole thing deals with words, deals with judgment by words, deals with all the things that come out of the mouth, as out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. This is everything now about words. The Lord says you have a Thesauros. I have my topic from that. I called it "The Treasury", the Christian treasury; and this is what it is. Now, in a way of introduction, shall we look at this a moment.
Here we have this word treasury, Thesauros, and there are immediately several things involved here. When you want to take the word treasury or Thesauros it can mean two things: it can mean the repository itself, the treasury into which you put precious things, or it can mean the treasure that you put into the treasury. So in your introduction, what do you do? You take it first that the word treasury is a repository. This repository is the human nature. Repositdry of the human nature is what? Freud calls it the Id, and down into the Id, he says, you have as much as the nine tenths of an iceberg that does not show. Only one-tenth is seen; the rest is here within and all this has been pressed down and suppressed and pushed into this Id. The psychiatrist has to reach down in here to get these, because out of this volcano come the tensions and all the things that express themselves outside. So Freud would say it is the Id; Calvin would say the depraved human rature; David Hume would say that it is simply a blank tablet. There was nothing there except what you put in from the outside. William Kilpatric and John Dewey, of the expressionist school of Columbia University, would say that it's entirely good here and that the only kind of corruption comes from without. Whatever you think about it, the treasury is this business which we call ourselves. The whole sum total and what we put into there goes into the treasury of ourself.
The Lord says you have this Thesauros. There is also a treasure that goes into it; and this might be violent experiences, disappointing, frustrating experiences, hates; then, on the other hand, it might be delightful, beautiful, lovely things that we put within. They all go within the treasury. Everything of our past goes in there. They tell us we forget nothing--absolutely nothing--and there can be brought forth from the earliest years of life the influence of these things that have gone into the treasury of a human nature. The Lord says you have this treasury, and you have been putting things into it all of your life, and you are putting into it now. So here is your introduction. Then you get the particular theme that He is talking about here, and that theme is words. You go next into the analogy of Scripture on this; take, for instance, in Matthew 7 where he says so much about words-by your fruits ye shall know. "Beware of false prophets for they are wolves in sheep's clothing." They speak to you nice things, but, after all, they are trying to deceive you.
There is an analogy. When James speaks about the things that come out from the human heart, some things good and some bad, he compares it to a fountain out of which come both bitter and sweet water. So you take the analogous Scripture in here. Now you have your introduction; that is necessary. By that time you have your people with you; you have the college students there, and they are thinking about Freudianism, about John Calvin, about the Expressionists and the Naturalists of the Columbia School of Education. They are thinking about all these things, but they are also thinking about their own hearts at the moment. Then what do you do? You take this passage of Scripture and you ask, "Now what is the thing that is being talked about here?" It is the principle of Christian ethics applied to words. This is the subject on which I am going to talk: "Out of the abundance of the heart man speaketh." This immediately rings a bell in my mind that says in references to Proverbs, for instance, that out of the heart are the issues of life. "Keep thy heart with all diligence."
What do we have first of all? We have the heart as the potential repository of man's life. It is like a reservoir, a great reservoir out of which comes everything. I compared it to the Quaben Reservoir of Boston. If you contaminate the Quaben Reservoir all through the conduits and the pipes and the faucets, then all through our buildings and homes and everything we would have contaminated water. What happens if we have a contaminated heart? Everything we do with our feet, our hands, our eyes, our ears, and everything we have, are contaminated because the source is contaminated. And then with this discussion of contamination of the heart I leaped over to Zurich, Switzerland. You remember the event last year in Zurich, Switzerland. They allowed the water supply to become contaminated (in this wonderful resort), and some four hundred people took typhus and several died. It brought a question mark over all of the things in Switzerland, because they allowed this source to become contaminated. The Scripture says our hearts are contaminated. In all the things the Scripture says and the analogy of the Scripture, you have a vast area.
Then I moved into another territory which spoke about the product of the heart. If you go over two chapters of Scripture into the fifteenth chapter, what do you find? The Lord says, "that which goeth into the mouth does not defile a man, it is that which goeth out of a man's mouth." He said out of the heart come adulteries, fornications, thefts, violence and all these things that He mentions. So the product of your mouth is the product of the heart. Now what are you bringing forth out of your heart? That is the deep thing. "Out of the abundance of the heart a man speaketh." (1) Out of the heart are the issues of life. (2) Out of the heart come either the things that defile or make a man clean. (3) Because the heart is going to be filled with something, you never have an empty heart. The very next thing goes on to say that a man reformed his heart, and the spirit went out; and it was empty and garnished and clean, but it was empty. Then he brought back seven spirits more wicked than himself and filled that heart. You are never going to have an empty heart; something is going to be in there. If it is not filled with the Spirit, filled with God's Word, filled with the truth, if it is not the treasury of God, it is going to be something else. So you have here, first of all, a principle of Christian ethics.
I go from that into the next thing of the text: "By their fruits ye shall know them, for a tree is known by its fruits." This is number two: the perception of Christian experience. You have had the principle that Christian ethics comes from the heart; then you have the perception of Christian experiences. Does a man have such an experience or not? "By the fruit ye shall know them, a tree is known by its fruits." You do not pick grapes from thistles and figs from vines, and so by the heart. You have consistency versus hypocrisy. There is a consistency here. Out of a good heart man produces good things; out of an evil heart man produces evil things. But what about the ones in which you have an inconsistency which is hypocrisy? There is such a thing as stimulation, and some people do stimulate Christian virtues for a false testimony.
But what about the one who is startled when he is a Christian because evil comes out of his heart or shocked with some of the things he says and thinks and does? This will happen to a Christian. Here you get a situation of bondage in a Christian life that ought not to be, for the Scripture says that a man shall be known by his fruit. A Christian should be known by the words that he speaks. That brings you automatically into the third point, the prospect of Christian extrication from such a condition of conflict. You have the principle of Christian ethics; you have the perspective of Christian experience; you have then the prospect of Christian extrication or deliverance. When you say to yourself, "Well, why? why?" This is because a man who is involved in this conflicting experience of carnality is a miserable Christian. You could have happiness if you are all out for the devil (Now I am not going into this, but this is Biblical.); you can have happiness if you are all out for God. But the most miserable person in the world is the person who is half and half and cannot do what he wants to do because he does not have the sanction or desire and duty coinciding within his own life. He is in conflict all the time. So why? why? Because we need to be delivered from this; we need to be extricated from that condition. How are we going to be extricated? Go to the sixth chapter of Romans. What do you find there? By identification with Jesus Christ in death by burial, by identification with Jesus Christ in resurrection life, by a release of the Holy Sprit inhabiting one's individual life producing the fruit of the Spirit. Here is the means of extrication. If you go back into the last passage, you will find that the Lord has been talking about unpardonable sin; and the unpardonable sin begins within our own words, and it moves on into our attitude. It goes on from a deed to a destiny. If we reject the ministry and witness of the Holy Spirit as to the person and work of Jesus Christ, this becomes the unpardonable sin for an individual.
We have the possibility constantly of grace in order for the Lord to deliver us, but we have the guilt which comes from the present work of our sin and the evidence of this in our life. The gravity of this is that it can lead to the unpardonable sin. And so, what do we have? We have the great teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ that we should in turn keep our hearts with all diligence, that out of the heart comes the depth of life, the issues of life.
This is what we call an expository sermon. All through here when I talk about Freud and these different things, where do those things come from? They either came out of memory or they came when I consulted my file by way of illustrative material within certain phases of life along this line. Last Sunday I preached on "The Sign of the Messiah", which was from verses 38-42; the next one will be 43-45, which will be on the fact of either reformation or regeneration. That will be the subject, the natural, the only subject you could have, if you preach on that text. I will be working on that this afternoon. I must get my own outline first of all. I work on that most diligently to have alliteration. You can remember your outline readily because of all these things that are alliterative. Now, if you get that in your mind once, and you stand up and preach this before a people, you do not have to worry about having notes and be constantly looking at them; you will be constantly looking at the eyes of the people; you will be getting the response of men, you will know exactly how they are feeling, and the Lord will be leading you in different channels because of your own reaction to the people as you preach. There will be an infinite area that will open up to your own mind that will flash across your mind from your past experience because you are free from notes.
The first thing is alliteration; the second thing is logic. Perhaps you did not notice that this outline as far as its logical development was: (1) the principle of Christian ethics, (2) the perception of Christian experience, (3) the possibility of Christian extrication. On that Sunday morning I went to the door to stand in the back and was shaking hands with these people. There came a student from Harvard; he said to me, "I just want to thank you for one I thing." I said, "What's that?" He said, "For your use of logic." Now maybe nothing else had appealed to him in that whole sermon, but here was a student at Harvard, and logic caught his eye. He will come back because he thinks at least his preacher is logical. "I may not believe what he says, but what he says is logical; I have to listen to him." So you use logic. And you use this development of a theme. When you develop a theme you cannot go anywhere else, when you get through with the first, but to the second. It is impossible to go to the third one because you would have a gap. The most natural thing in the world, when I finish with this one on Christian ethics, is to reach under the perception of Christian experiences; a man has this or he does not have it. What is he producing? What is coming forth from your life?
After I get this outline, I go to the critical commentaries which deal with the subject in the original language. You should always have these in your library, because you have made a mistake. You may make a mistake in a subjective or objective genitive; you may make a mistake in many ways and it may affect the whole content of your sermon. So you should go to the critical commentaries to see if you are right. If there is anything you have wrong or anything you have missed, you will find it there. When you finish with the critical commentaries, if you still need help, go to the practical commentaries (we get whole scads of them being published today, and then old ones of Maclaren, Robertson, Parker, and so on down the list). You have all kinds of these practical commentaries. Then get your illustrations. Now when I am all done with that, then I re-outline the whole thing. I re-outline it because usually it is not in the order that I want it exactly, and it has to be changed.
The last thing I do, if there is time, is to dictate that. Now for fifteen years I have dictated all of my messages, Sunday morning and Sunday night. They are still in the file-I never use them any more but they are there. And it developed a style after fifteen years. Today I do not dictate because I do not have time. Today everything is recorded on a tape machine so that if we need to publish it, or somebody calls in a question over the radio, we have a tape; and it can be typed up within a couple of hours just as we have it. We have a whole library of the sermons in the Book of Matthew on tape now. This keeps a background of the whole thing. It gives you the methodology that is involved. Now time is running out; just let me say this--this is only one method of sermonizing. This is expository preaching, and this is what the brother asked me to specifically emphasize this morning. I use all kinds of messages. Now when I went into "The Herald of the King," which is a passage in the third chapter of Matthew, I used a biographical sermon.
Biographical sermons are really very wonderful sermons to preach. I enjoy them to the full. So this was John the Baptist, "The Herald of the King." You may study his life geographically if you want to; you may study it topically, and so on. I studied it from taking the third chapter, the eleventh chapter, and the thirteenth chapter of Matthew--the three chapters which deal with John's life--together. And so I called it "The Herald of the King". (1) There was the apex of his career; that would be chapter three where he is preaching the great message, where he is preparing the people, bringing them to baptism, pronouncing the coming of the Lord, the message of the Messiah, the change of dispensation, the divine love, justice and all these things involved. It was a tremendous time like Billy Graham's meetings that he is holding now, like in Los Angeles, where he had 150,000 people. John had them come from everywhere--see the apex of his career.
Then we have (2) the apex of his character. That came when he said "he must increase and I must decrease." If ever there was a dirty dig that anybody ever gave anybody, the disciples of the Pharisees gave it to John when they said, "Rabbi, He to whom thou bearest witness with beyond Jordan now baptizest and all men go unto him-" just like saying to a man who used to be popular, "Look, doctor so-and-so across the street is getting all the crowds today. What happened to you?" What did John say? "He must increase, I must decrease." Oh, you spend some time on that. Here are some of the greatest spiritual laws in the whole Bible: spiritual law of inverse proportion, spiritual law of gravitation.
There is the third one which is (3) the apex of his courage. When did that come? Why, he upbraided the lion in his own den. To Herod he said, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." And her anger was in motion, and she fumed, and Herod put him in prison. He would have killed him, but he feared the people till the day came when Salome danced and he said she could have anything, even the half of the kingdom; and they beheaded John the Baptist. What do you have? You have a comet that sweeps across the sky. You have the morning star disappearing before the rising sun. You have the greatest that was born of woman, but He that is in the Kingdom of God is greater than he. It is biographical, but it is still expository as a whole. Now you come to the sixth chapter or the fifth chapter, and what do you have? Chapters five, six and seven in Matthew are "The Charter of the Kingdom," and here you will come into a topical sermon. When you take a topical sermon like "The Charter of the Kingdom," what do you have? You have chapter five. If time permitted this morning, we would show you a whole scene: Jesus on the Horns of Hattin with the disciples close above him. Outside of them were the multitudes that came from Judea and Samaria and beyond Jordan. Everywhere they had come to hear him-tremendous multitudes out into the mountains-the mountain where the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin. He broke the power of the kingdom of the Crusaders so that they had to give up the kingdom they had held and depart from Palastine. It all happened in that same place. And whom was he teaching? He was teaching the disciples, it says. Not the multitude, the disciples. When He was set the disciples came and He talked to them. What did He teach? He taught about the law, the Old Testament law. The whole Sermon on the Mount was there. And He opens it up and He shows them how the Pharisees and their teaching were wrong and that the teaching of the law had an inner meaning that was totally different from anything they had brought out about it before. In chapter five you have the attitude. Now I am not going to be able to give you all this, but let me go over it quickly.
If you analyze the fifth chapter of Matthew, you find first of all that there is a spiritual phase of it, the entrance into the kingdom. Then there is the social relationship between man as the light of the world and the salt of the earth. And this is what we are today. Then there is the legal--that their righteousness had to be greater than the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Then there was the personal--that if an individual had anything against another he had to make it right. Then there was the moral--driving it into the heart--in which he said if you look upon a woman to lust after her you have committed adultery in your heart. Then there was the cultural--that dealt with the language, "Let your communication be yea, yea, and nay, nay and whatsoever is more . . . " Then there was the ethical--go the second mile. Then there was the filial--ye are the sons of God; therefore, "be ye perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." All this comes in here, the seven things, in the attitude of an individual--that which is internal, that which is the experience that a Christian ought to have in the charter of the kingdom. And you never come into the kingdom unless you come by way of spiritual teaching of the beatitudes. This is the door by which we come into the kingdom. Then you come here and you have the action. And when you deal with action in the sixth chapter, it is action of life in God's presence. A man is living in the presence of God, his fasting, his alms, his prayers, these are not to be for the view of men; these are to be seen of God, that is all. "And he that seeth you in secret will reward you openiy," says the Scripture. And then it goes on and speaks about anxiety of the heart, and it speaks about the possession of material things.
Two other things in that chapter are to be dealt with: (1) "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." (2) "You can not serve God and Mammon;" you must make a choice. Their anxieties are to be removed from the heart. Internal anxieties and external relationships are there. All this comes under action that is lived underneath the aegis of God.
In the seventh chapter you have admonition. What does he say in the admonitions? "Beware of those who are wolves in sheep's clothing." He says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." He says, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven," and so I might go on these admonitions that are given to you there. Now here is the way to remember the Sermon on the Mount. This should be one sermon, on a Sunday morning, and then go back and take each one of these things one by one--the spiritual, the personal, the social, the legal, the personal, the cultural, the ethical, the filial, each one of these along the line--preach a message on each one of them.
If you want another topical one that is combined exposition, take the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew. There you have Jesus' discourse on last things: magnificent preaching, sermons that I love to preach on the Second Coming. There are the terrifying things which do not signify the end (we live in an age in which people are terrified) and then the things that do signify the age, and He gives you four of them: (1) The return of Israel to Palestine, the restoration of Jerusalem to the Jews; (2) The reign of fear in the hearts of people; (3) A revolution among the nations; (4) Recognizable signs in the sun, moon, and the stars. He says when you see these you know the time is at hand. We see the revolution in the nations while we have fifty-three new nations in the United Nations in the last two or three years. We see all these things taking place, the reign of fear taking place in the hearts of men today; but we have not seen yet the signs in the sun, moon, stars. But it could happen now with space travel and with atomic fission and with our explosion of these things off in space. These things could take place, and He says when that takes place there is going to be a generation living, when you see these things come to pass. Then He says when that generation is living, look out, look up, lift up your heads, prepare yourself, keep yourself. And here you have a great expository study which becomes prophetic preaching, and yet it is out of the exposition of a book.
This illustrates the fact that you can take one particular book of Scripture and out of that book, if you study it, work on it, you have just about every kind of preaching. You have doctrinal preaching, biographical preaching, chapter preaching, you can have book preaching, you can have subject preaching and so on and on. Let a chapter show how you can do chapter preaching. The eighth chapter of Romans, freedom chapter--freedom from condemnation, freedom from physical temptations, freedom from insecurity, freedom from suffering, and so on down the line in the eighth chapter of Romans. Take the twenty-third chapter of Isaiah. You have seven areas in which it speaks about how our Lord has delivered us--the great deliverance chapter. Take the second chapter of Ephesians, which gives us the magnificent reaches of restoration of the individual soul in regeneration unto God: how he is no longer an alien, how that by grace he has been reconciled. No longer dead, now he is quickened, now he is in the covenant family of God. He was an alien, now he is a member of the household of faith. He is inhabited by the Holy Spirit. You take those tremendous chapters and each one can be a great message and unit in itself.
One last word because time is gone. I learned a lesson when I was a student in college. I had a much older man who was with us in an evangelistic team. He used to come to me and just about drive me crazy sometimes. I would work hard on a sermon and preach and he would tell me afterward: "Ockenga, You don't know how to preach." He would say, "You didn't give a message, you gave a Bible reading." And I never knew what he meant. And then one day I had a deep spiritual experience. I took passages of Scripture that related this and worked it out in accordance with the truth that was involved and presented it. He came to me afterward and said, "That is the first time I have ever heard you have a message." And there is a difference. There is a difference between having a Bible reading, getting up and just telling people a few things that are pretty and beautiful and true and all the rest of it; and having a message in which you drive something home to them that they can make their own and a spiritual life that becomes their own. And if a sermon does not have that, it is no sermon.
Remember what Jesus did at Nazareth. It says he opened the Scripture. He said, "This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears." They said: "Is not this the son of Joseph? Are not his sisters and brothers here? Whence then hath he these words of wisdom?" They caught their breath in holy awe when Jesus preached to them in Nazareth. That is the way we ought to preach. We should preach with the Spirit of the Lord upon us. We should preach, communicating unto the people the message that God has given for their salvation, for their security, their deliverance, their freedom, their sonship, their heirship with God, their eternal destiny. We must communicate every time we preach a message for their soul. And if we do well, this is preaching by an Evangelistes who is a hearid of the Evangelion, which is the content of the Gospel committed by God to His ambassadors to proclaim throughout the world.
Scanned: Michael Riggs
Edited: Shelley Wozniak