Preachers are finite human beings—albeit sometimes I think many of us forget this reality. We feel like we have to have all the answers, but in truth, we need to recognize that God’s omniscience humbles us as gospel communicators and students of God’s Word. A belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture ought to remind preachers that we need to be life long learners of the Bible because we will be judged every time we stand before God’s people and proclaim, “Thus says the Lord” (see James 3:1).
The Bible is both deep and wide theologically. Scripture exists as God’s revelation of himself and what he has done, but our sin has infected every aspect of our lives–including our minds. Therefore, we may be absolutely sure on the essential doctrines of Scripture–i.e., the exclusivity of the gospel, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, the Trinity, the hypostatic union, and others, but there are additional theological issues that might have various views from Bible believing Christians. Many godly people have different beliefs on topics like: divorce and remarriage, eschatology, the Lord’s Supper, ecclesiology, law and gospel, etc.
One might ask, “How does a preacher handle a text of Scripture that might have various theological and orthodox views associated with it?” What happens if you come to a passage in Scripture that talks about divorce and remarriage or ecclesiological matters like elders, senior pastors, and deacons that could have multiple and biblically faithful interpretations? Here is a step-by-step approach to preach through a text that could have multiple theological positions.
- Announce Your Intention. Let your audience know that this text has multiple views from other godly scholars. Share that the views you are about to explain are not heretical or unbiblical, but are still open to debate since we are trying to understand an infinite God. Various views are nothing to divide over, but rather opportunities for us to show Christian charity to one another and collaborate to grow in our love and knowledge of God.
- Be Aware of Unbiblical Views. Not all views are equal. You need to know about interpretations that are promoted by people who do not affirm the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture or hold to heretical theologies. I don’t think you need to announce these publicly, but you do need to be ready to talk to people in your congregation who may be influenced by false doctrines after your sermon. They might wonder why you didn’t mention their view, and you will need to explain the reasoning at an appropriate time.
- Present Biblical Views Fairly. Tell your people that you are going to present views that are orthodox beliefs. Share the view, the weaknesses, and the strengths of each position–I learned this tactic from my theology professor. You will have succeeded when you complete your instruction and the audience does not know what view you personally hold. This will be your instant feedback to show that you remained fair in your presentation of each position.
- Ask Your People to Study for Themselves. We should always preach in a way that asks for people to respond. Explain that you have provided them with a general overview, and that they should study their Bible and other resources (you can provide some in your sermon or a handout) to come to their own conviction on this theological subject. You should make yourself available to discuss further with anyone wanting to learn more.
- Share Your View. You are free to share your current view either in the sermon or if asked at a later date. Hopefully, you have done your due diligence on your position that others can use as a baseline during their own prayerful study of the topic. You decide the appropriate time to share your view, but I wouldn’t hesitate to share it with the people the Lord has allowed me to serve–especially if they ask.
Preaching is one of the ways in which we teach the Word of God to God’s people. We must be first and foremost dedicated to handling the Bible appropriately as God intended. We should not shy away from texts that could have a variety of theologically appropriate interpretations. I have provided for you a step-by-step method to preach a sermon that might have multiple views that are biblically and theologically faithful.
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