Where has the power preaching gone?

Many things have changed since Walter Kaiser published Toward an Exegetical Theology. Mainly, thirty years have ticked off the calendar, and his is a “syntactical-theological” method of exegesis and sermon preparation, while the current view is a grammatical-historical method of interpretation (or redemptive-historical, or other variations).

Even so, there is in Toward an Exegetical Theology a wealth of insight to a method of approaching Bible study and sermon preparation based upon a Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, God-honoring and Spirit-welcoming hermeneutic.

Kaiser observed that “One of the most depressing spectacles in the Church today is her lack of power” (p235), and the culprit is an “impotent pulpit” that has stopped walking in the Spirit.

As I was reading the book where he describes this phenomenon I was also doing a survey of the book of Acts and the Epistles for evidence of what the early disciples believed the Gospel was, what they said to unbelievers about it, and any methods they employed to deliver it. What is dramatic in Acts especially is the power with which the Word went forth. After all, Christ had said that they would receive just that.

In Acts, the “method” of the early witnesses can be summarized as: tell people they crucified Jesus, but God raised him from the dead for forgiveness of sins, live communally, do mighty works, be persecuted and even killed. As a result “the word continued to increase mightily.”

The weakness of the messengers was contrasted with the power of God working through his Word. A typical theme is found in Acts 9:27-31, where Paul spoke bold apologetics against the Hellenists, who tried to kill him. The effect? “The church…was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31, ESV).

Where has, in the words of Kaiser, the power in preaching gone?

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