Before we can craft and deliver an expository sermon, we must learn how to “correctly teach the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).” John Broadus, in his classic work On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons wrote:
For the Scripture to have value for preaching and for the preacher’s text to become God’s message, the Bible must be interpreted correctly. To interpret and apply his text in accordance with its real meaning is one of the preacher’s most sacred duties. He stands before the people for the very purpose of teaching and exhorting them out of the Word of God. He announces a particular passage of God’s Word as his text with the distinctly implied understanding that from this his sermon will be drawn. By using a text and undertaking to develop and apply its teachings, he is solemnly bound to represent the text as meaning precisely what it does mean. (23-24).
The goal of hermeneutics is to help the pastor-teacher “interpret and apply his text in accordance with its real meaning.”
Hermeneutics can be defined as the proper use of the principles of interpretation to discover the author’s intended meaning of a biblical text, with a goal of applying that meaning to a contemporary audience. Make no mistake-bad hermeneutics leads to bad sermons.
Some Classic “Mistakes”
1) Some go to the Scriptures in an attempt to discover something new. Sadly, the attempt to discover something “new” in the Scriptures is the root of many sects and cults.
2) Some pastor-teachers go to the Scriptures to find support for their own personal interpretations. The inability to apply good hermeneutics to one’s interpretation often leads to the proof-texting found in much topical preaching.
3) Some pastor-teachers work so hard to be relevant to contemporary culture that they either misuse the biblical text or they fail to address it altogether.
4) When pastor-teachers look to discover “new” interpretations to Scripture, or when they look for Scripture verses to support their own personal ideas about the Bible, or when they place relevance over revelation, the people of God are the ones who suffer.
The Benefits of Good Hermeneutics
First, good hermeneutics will keep the pastor-teacher focused on discovering the meaning and significance of a text.
Second, good hermeneutics will assist the pastor-teacher in considering all aspects of a passage’s context while pursuing the author’s intended meaning.
Third, good hermeneutics protects the pastor-teacher from rushing prematurely into the application stage of interpretation.
Good hermeneutics will force us to make the discovery of the author’s intended meaning our first priority, will enable us to examine the context fully so that we can arrive at the intended meaning, and will lead us to the proper application of the text for our listeners.