Hans’ note: I had the privilege of learning from Barry when I was at Moore College. I can still remember some of the things he said in those lectures because they were profound, biblical and helped me see the beauty of the gospel more clearly. Barry is a warm, generous and beautiful man of God. If you have never read any of his work I would suggest going over to Amazon and buying anything that he has written. You will not be disappointed. These are the handout that Barry gave out when he helped my wife and the other girls who would be preaching at Moore college’s womens chapel. They were preaching on Isaiah and who better to get to talk about preaching on Isaiah than Barry Webb! I hope you enjoy today’s and tomorrows posts as much as I did.
- 1. Assumptions about the nature of Christian preaching
My starting assumption is that the essential task of the Christian preacher is to preach Jesus Christ, and that the two basic resources for doing this are the Bible and the Holy Spirit. This needs to be elaborated via a theology of the Word of God and of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Word.
My second assumption is that preaching (as opposed to lecturing) entails application as an essential element. Given what I have just said under 1.1, I take it that the application will have an essentially Christocentric, gospel focus.
I understand the role of the Spirit in preaching to consist essentially of (1) enabling both the preacher and the hearers to understand the Bible, (2) empowering the preacher to proclaim its message effectively, and (3) bringing conviction and appropriate response from the hearers. A corollary of this is that I understand good preaching to have a prophetic dimension to it.
- 2. Assumptions about the Bible
2.1 The Bible as the Word of God
I understand the Word of God to be essentially Jesus Christ himself, and secondly the gospel, which is the announcement of what God has accomplished for us in him. I understand the Bible to be the word of God in two senses. First, in that it is inspired by God and is therefore revelation given by God. Second, I understand it to be the word of God in that it is the gospel writ large, so to speak – all of it in one way or another part of a total revelation which has Jesus Christ as its focal point.
2.2 The diversity of the Bible
I understand the diversity of Scripture in terms of its connection with history. The revelation it contains was given through many particular people in many particular situations over a long period of time. The Bible is truly human, just as Christ was and is truly human. This means that, at one level at least, understanding the Bible requires the same attention to the particulars of time, place and style that is required for understanding any piece of human communication.
2.3 The unity of the Bible
I understand the unity of Scripture in terms of (1) its divine origin, and (2) its connection with Jesus Christ and the gospel. As the word of God Scripture expresses the mind of God, and must therefore be coherent. The gospel describes that unity essentially in terms of promise and fulfilment. In literary terms the unity of the Bible is manifested in its basic plot line.
2.4 The inerrancy of the Bible
My assumption here is that the genuine humanity of Scripture does not necessarily entail error, and that the divine inspiration of Scripture actually excludes this. There is a real analogy between the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ and the humanity and divinity of Scripture. My basic reason for accepting the OT in particular as inerrant is that this is evidently how Jesus himself accepted it. This means that no part of the text may be dismissed as irrelevant to a proper interpretation of it on the grounds of alleged error. A commitment to inerrancy entails a commitment to a holistic interpretation of the text.
- 3. Assumptions about the book of Isaiah
As part of the Old Testament canon, I assume that the book of Isaiah has all the characteristics of Scripture I have just listed.