What was Preaching like Before the Internet?
What was Preaching like Before the Internet? LIVE Q&A for September 21, 2023
From Smitha via Facebook:
I would like to know about the experience of Pastor while he studied the word of God in a time period with no social media sermons, Google search, digital notebooks etc.
The whole field of Bible study has been radically changed by the internet. I started teaching and preaching the Bible before personal computers were a thing, and before the internet became a resource for Bible study.
It’s exciting that there are so many resources available, so easily found, so inexpensive, taking up so little space. In some ways, it’s a golden age for Bible study resources. Yet, some of this comes at a price – mainly, the effect that google and modern research habits have on the way we think.
- We have far more resources within reach.
- We are subtly but definitely trained to scan screens for information and make quick generalizations.
- The habits of modern internet research work against deep, thorough reading and thinking. We tend to scan and swipe, and think we know more than we do.
- We can and should work against these habits, and make sure we don’t do Bible study the same way we work through a social media feed.
Old School General Resources
- Topical Bible
- Bible Dictionary
Original Language Resources: Englishman’s Greek Concordance, Little Kittel, Dictionary of New Testament Theology, A.T. Robertson
General Overview Commentaries: Morgan, Meyer
Older Commentators: Poole, Trapp, Clarke
- Modern resources give a lot more access to the commentary work of early Christian writers and their commentaries (such as the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series edited by Thomas Oden)
More Modern Commentators: Meyer, Morgan, Redpath, Maclaren, Barnhouse, Walvoord, Stott, Hiebert, Morris, Kidner, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Barclay, etc.
Background Resources: Legends of the Jews, Major Cities of the Biblical World, Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology
Spurgeon Resources: Sermons, index of sermons
Enduring Word Commentary in print
Bibliography page on the Enduring Word website https://enduringword.com/bibliography/
Good Online Resources:
Enduring Word https://enduringword.com/
Blue Letter Bible https://www.blueletterbible.org/
Precept Austin https://www.preceptaustin.org/
Remember some of the uses of a good Bible commentary:
- To confirm what you have already learned from your study.
- To correct misunderstandings from your study.
- To show you things that you may have missed in the passage.
- To show you connections with other Bible passages you may have missed.
- To show you things from the historical context that you didn’t know.
- To show you things from the Biblical languages that you didn’t know.
- To show you how the passages has been understood through history.
- To give better words to what you have seen in the passage.
- To give good illustrations of what you have seen in the passage.
- To give good applications to what you have seen in the passage.
Do we inherit guilt from Adam? If so, how does that reconcile with Hebrews 2:14-18?
Hebrews 2:14-18 – Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
If we inherited guilt from Adam, and Jesus did not inherit guilt from Adam, then how could it be said that He was made like His brethren in all things? Obviously, that’s a figure of speech. Jesus was not actually a sinner, so in that respect He was not made like His brethren in all things. Whether we inherit guilt from Adam or not, we are all sinners. Jesus was not made like us in that sense, except for the fact that on the cross Jesus was treated as if He was a sinner.
Do you see the difference there? Jesus had some experience of what it was like to be treated as if He was a sinner. That’s what happened on the cross. God the Father treated Jesus Christ His only Son not only as if He was a sinner, but as if He was every sinner. Jesus stood in the place of all sin, and He paid for it at the cross.
Jesus being made like His brethren in all things does not encompass every absolute sin or condition of humanity. Jesus, in His unfallen state, was exactly like Adam in his unfallen state. That’s why Paul in Romans 5-6 can refer to Jesus as the second Adam, the last Adam. Was Jesus completely human? Yes. But He was completely human in His unfallen state, having not received inherited guilt from Adam.
As a believer, how do I enforce rules at work while still showing grace?
I have some authority over customers at my work. Sometimes I want to show grace, but other times I don’t. How do I continue to enforce policy/rules as an employee/steward, but also show grace as a believer?
Great question. This is a very practical question. How do we live out our Christianity at our place of employment? How can I be as gracious as possible to my customers? Well, this is what you should do. Be as gracious as possible without working against the interests of your employer. If the interests of your employer would require you to sin against your customers, then you should probably start looking for another line of work. But you don’t want to sin against your employer either. Within that framework, you should be as gracious, accommodating, and helpful to your customers as possible. That’s what I recommend your policy should be.
You do work for your employer, and you need to honor your employer and submit to your employer, as long as your employer isn’t requiring you to sin. And you want to be as gracious and helpful as possible to your customers, as much as would be allowed by the interests of your employer.
As Christians, we should try to be gracious and helpful to people. That’s good Christian conduct. But we shouldn’t work against our employer to do that. If we feel like we’re in a position where that’s required, it’s probably best to find other employment.
What are your thoughts on the Complete Jewish Study Bible?
I just got the Complete Jewish Study Bible! I love it. Have you looked at it? If so, what are your thoughts?
To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at this. But it can be very helpful for Christians to understand how Jewish interpreters approach the text. I’m not saying that Jewish or rabbinic interpreters of the Bible are always correct; Christians should not think that. We see the Bible differently than traditional Jewish or rabbinic teachers, and that’s okay.
Seeing Jesus as the Messiah is going to change the way that you look at the Bible. Seeing prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ is going to change how you look at the Bible. Understanding the fulfillment of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is going to change how you look at the Bible.
It may be helpful and illustrative to look at what Rabbinic Judaism has to say on the Bible. I do that often, and I’m thankful for it. Sometimes in my teaching, you’ll see me mention the insight of certain rabbis on a topic. It can be helpful. But we don’t just yield our biblical interpretation to rabbinic sources. We look to other sources as well.
I hope you find it helpful. Read it with the intent to weigh and consider what it says. Sometimes Christians give way too much weight to commentaries. Let me be very transparent with you all. Sometimes people give too much weight to my Bible commentary. Look, it’s a commentary. It’s my teaching. It’s my understanding and explanation of the text. Do I think it’s correct? Well, yes – not that there aren’t corrections I make along the way. In general, I think that what I present about the Scriptures is correct. But I don’t think that I’m infallible. I think every Christian should be a Berean. Remember in Acts 17, when Paul visited the believers in Berea. The Bible says that they were of more noble character, because they diligently searched the Scriptures to see if the things that Paul said were so. Friends, if that’s something that people should do with Paul’s teaching, how much more should they do it with my teaching or anybody else’s teaching?
How could the people in Romans 1:21 “know God” without glorifying Him?
Can you please explain, “because although they knew God, they did not glorify God?” in Romans 1:21? How did they “know God”?
Romans 1:21 – Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
In this passage, Paul is exposing some of the darkness of the pagan world and speaking about those who have rejected God as Creator. This is what Paul’s getting it. They knew God. They knew Him in their conscience. In Romans 1, Paul is careful to explain that God has revealed Himself to all of humanity in two ways: in creation and in conscience. All of humanity is accountable to know something about the true living God through creation and through conscience. There are many people reject that knowledge. There are many people who look at the creation and say, “Well, it happened by itself. Well, it just created itself. Well, evolution explains everything. The Big Bang explains everything.”
Friends, I just want to tell you that God has revealed Himself to humanity through creation, and He has revealed Himself to humanity through conscience. But there are many people who have taken that knowledge of God which God has given to humanity, and they have rejected it. They did not glorify God with that knowledge. Therefore, they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.
The other day I was listening to a podcast where Christians and skeptics discuss Christianity. One guest who was an atheist asked the question, “Why hasn’t God made Himself more visible? Why hasn’t God given us more persuasive proof? I’m an atheist so I don’t believe God. But if God were real, why didn’t He give us more persuasive proof?” Various people tried to address the concerns of this man. I’m not saying that the responses were all bad, but none of them addressed the concern in the way that I thought it should be done.
Here’s how I think they should have responded: “Dear sir, the living God added humanity to His deity, and walked among us for 33 years. He lived, He taught, He did miracles which confirmed Himself, and He died on a cross and rose from the dead. God dwelt among us and gave us a written record that we can rely on to demonstrate all this. What do you mean that God hasn’t done enough?”
Forgive me for this, but I don’t have a lot of patience for people who fold their arms and say, “I’m not convinced. God should have done more.” What more can God do than add humanity to His deity, and literally walk among us for 33 years, do miracles and signs, predict prophecy, teach like nobody’s ever taught, live like nobody else has lived, die on a cross, and rise from the dead? You’re saying He should do more than that?
When people reject God, they’re doing it despite the evidence, not because of the evidence. That’s what Paul is putting his finger on in Romans 1. Everybody has some knowledge of God through creation and through their own conscience. To that has been added the glorious revelation that God has given us in and through His Word.
How can I minister Jesus’ love to someone with childhood trauma of sexual abuse?
I could use some guidance. I’m trying to minister to someone about Jesus’ love for them to try to get them to see past their childhood trauma of sexual abuse. Advice?
God bless you for your heart in that. There are so many things to think about when somebody has been the victim of sexual abuse. First of all, if there is any legal recourse, it should be pursued. Friends, people who have sexually abused other people should be brought to justice. This is not complicated. Christians should not try to sweep such things under the rug or handle them “in-house” within the church. People who sexually abuse children should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Maybe there is no legal recourse in the situation you’re talking about. But I would say as a general principle, wherever there is legal recourse to be had, it should be pursued.
Secondly, I think this person may need to speak with a trauma-informed counselor. There are many counselors out there who are skilled in knowing how to deal with people who have experienced trauma and suffered these significant wounds and hurts.
But even in the midst of that, this person needs a living, growing, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ. Please understand me, I’m not saying that a good relationship with Jesus is like a magic wand that makes all your other problems go away. I’m not saying that. I don’t believe it’s true in real life. Just because I know Jesus doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t see a doctor for a broken arm. And just because I know Jesus doesn’t mean that I may not need to go to a counselor for some other good biblical guidance and guidance concerning my health and other things that would be helpful. However, I can get all those other things yet still be lacking in my life without that good foundation of a relationship with Jesus.
I would encourage you to love this person in the name of the Lord and help them to pursue spiritual growth and spiritual depth and help. Perhaps this will be a pathway for them to seek the help they need in other areas of their life. But we can’t neglect the basics of Christian living, relating to God through prayer, worship, the fellowship of the saints, personal Bible reading and Bible study. These things work together to help form a foundation for a healthy Christian life. These things help develop a foundation upon which other things and great healing can be built.
That’s the most direct answer I can give. If legal recourse is possible, it should be pursued, if not for the sake of that particular individual who suffered the abuse, then for other people would suffer abuse from the same person. Legal recourse should be taken if possible. Secondly, seek out appropriate counseling by people who know these fields in greater depth. And thirdly, strengthen the spiritual basics in life. I think that’s very helpful.
How should we have conversations about homosexual conversion therapy?
Hello from Sweden! I recently got extremely angry at my mother’s atheist cousin, when he said he “knew gay conversion therapy is impossible” and he said that “I wanted him to go to hell” (for being gay). What shall I do?
First, it is very important to both homosexuals and their ideological allies to communicate the message that it is impossible for a person to change their sexual orientation. Now, I don’t believe that’s true in every case. I do believe that perhaps it’s true for some people. Maybe there are some people who have only ever been sexually attracted to people of their own sex. Maybe that’s the case, and maybe it’ll remain that way for that person’s entire life.
But that’s not what these people are arguing. They’re saying that it’s impossible for anyone to change their sexual orientation. I do not believe that, because there are people who have changed. There are people who in the past have been absolutely committed male or female homosexuals, and today they are attracted to and content in married relationships with people from the opposite sex. At one time, they were exclusively same sex attracted. Now they are attracted and content with sexual relationships with people of the other sex.
I’m not saying that happens in every case. But there is an agenda among the homosexual community and their allies to say that it’s impossible for anyone to change their orientation. And I would say that’s not universally true.
Secondly, when people say things like, “You want me to go to hell,” this is my response. “Friend, it’s not in my power or in my desire to send you to hell. I have absolutely no control over that. God has not put me in charge of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. But God has given us a book. In His book, God speaks about the eternal destiny of people who reject Jesus Christ and the work He wants to do in the life of the individual. If that means that you or others are going to hell, that’s not in my hands. That’s not under my authority. That’s something you have to deal with. Jesus is in charge of that. Jesus Christ is the judge of all humanity, not me, not you, not anybody else. You shouldn’t care what I think of you, but you should absolutely care about what Jesus Christ thinks. Just make sure you’re going to the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of your imagination, not the hippie Jesus, the ‘flower power’ Jesus, or the conservative Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus we’re going to have to deal with.”
That’s how I would respond to those questions. Jesus Christ has the power to change lives, and Jesus Christ is the judge of all work.
What is your routine before preaching a message?
Hey Pastor David, what is your routine before going to give a message or preach to a congregation? I find myself leading the men’s Bible study a few times, and I was wondering what are the best way to prepare?
Here’s an idea I heard from a friend of mine, though I don’t think this was original to him. You want to read yourself full, and then write yourself empty. And for me, I would say I do that twice. First, I read myself full with the Bible text. It’s just me and my Bible. I break down the passage, organize it, and explain it. I try to make connections with other biblical passages, and figure out how I want to present the thoughts and provide application. Just me and my Bible. That’s where it begins. I read myself full, and I write myself empty.
Then I go to Bible resources and commentaries, and I read myself full, and I write myself empty. I take whatever help I may have received from the commentaries and integrate it with what I’ve already observed about the text, and join the two. I read myself full and write myself empty twice, first with only the Bible text, and secondly with the help of Bible commentaries. Then I integrate all that I have gathered and craft it into a message. That’s the most basic way I can explain how to do that.
Here are some videos I’ve created about this process:
If drunkenness is a sin, why did Jesus make so much wine at His first miracle, knowing that people were going to get drunk?
If drunkenness is a sin, why would Jesus make so much wine at his first miracle, knowing that people were going to get drunk? As a former alcoholic this drives me crazy.
Good question. Jesus made a lot of wine. But what was done with the wine? Well, first of all, please remember this was a wedding, and there were a lot of guests. A lot of wine, but a lot of guests. Secondly, the celebration of the wedding would continue for quite a long time. There were a lot of people to spread the wine out over a long period of time, so that nobody would necessarily get drunk or inebriated by that.
Thirdly, some commentators believe that there was plenty of wine left over which the wedding couple later sold, so it could be viewed as a wedding gift from Jesus to the bridal couple. It good wine, and they could sell it later if there was some left over. Nowhere in John 2 does it mention that they drank all that wine at the wedding party. So, it may very well be that there was wine left over which was sold for the benefit of the bridal couple.
I love it when people ask questions like, “Why did this happen? What did they do with this?” So, I’d give you those reasons. First of all, there was not drunkenness at that wedding party because Jesus was there and was supervising things. There were a lot of guests to spread the wine out, there was a lot of time in which to drink the wine, and there’s nothing in the text that says they drank it all at the wedding.
When leaving a compromised church, should you tell the leadership why you’re leaving?
Would you leave a church before addressing the issues of not screening the leaders, keeping quiet on issues of homosexuality, and having guest pastors that have been known of false teaching, in order to fit into the world?
All I can give you is a general answer because individual situations so often vary. Generally, a person should leave such a church and let the leadership know why. If you are leaving a church because you think that church is in compromise, doctrinally, ethically, or morally, and the compromise is so significant that you should leave, then I think it’s fair for you to let the church know. This can be done in a letter or an email. Of course, you should think it through very carefully.
You should also assume that your email will be shared with other people. Don’t presume on the confidentiality of the leadership. They may feel free to let other people see it. You want to be careful how you phrase things. You want it to be true, accurate, and reflective not only of the truth but of your heart.
Generally speaking, yes, you should let them know that you’re leaving and why. You should say, “Dear Pastor, even though we’ve received some benefit for your church, we’re leaving the church. The reason why is because we believe that you’re in compromise on these specific issues.” I think that’s entirely fair. I would do that. I could also conceive of situations in which that isn’t the right thing to do. So, I’m not giving that as an absolute principle, but in general, I think that’s how it should be done.
How would you handle a friend leaving a church because it doesn’t affirm LGBTQ?
I know a believer looking for church who said she left hers since “it would not have LGBTQ in the church” – I spoke about love, and the importance of not changing the Bible, but that we must not affirm open sin. How would you handle it?
Churches should not be affirming of sinful lifestyles, period. According to the Bible, to practice homosexuality is to practice a sinful lifestyle. If Christians or a church are saying that’s fine and great, they are in error. If this person is looking for a church which will affirm those things, then they’re looking for a church that will affirm sinful conduct. How else do you say it other than that’s bad? This person has a wrong understanding of what they should look for in a church.
You said the right things, that of course we should love but we cannot affirm open sin. Listen, the Bible says that for a man to lie with a man as he would lie with a woman is an abomination. If people can look at something which God calls an abomination, and say that it’s awesome, there’s something wrong. And look, I don’t want to hear someone argue that eating shellfish is also an abomination. That’s a different context entirely. You’re just telling me that you don’t understand the Bible. The conduct of homosexuality is clearly called an abomination and is rejected in both the Old and New Testaments. Period.
But that does not mean we hate the people who practice it. No, not at all. Jesus Christ loves sinners, and calls all to repentance. But for a church to take something that God calls an abomination, and to call it awesome, is not a good place for any church. They’re forfeiting their responsibility as communicators of God’s word and the good news.
Why was Miriam the only one punished with leprosy, when both she and Aaron spoke against Moses marrying the Ethiopian woman? (Numbers 12)
Hello Pastor David – why was Miriam the only one punished with leprosy, when both she and Aaron spoke against Moses marrying the Ethiopian woman?
Good question. I think I discussed that in my commentary. I would give two suggestions.
Number one, this may suggest that Miriam was the leader in this opposition and maybe Aaron played a minor role. That’s one suggestion. The other suggestion is that God spared Aaron because of his role as High Priest. God didn’t want to disqualify Aaron from the priesthood at that time and place. Although Aaron was disciplined, it was not in the same way as Miriam was disciplined.
I think both of those could have been true. Perhaps Miriam was really the ringleader, and she took a leading place in that sin. Or perhaps Aaron’s status as High Priest created a different dynamic, and that’s why God didn’t afflict him with leprosy.
Did Moses go to heaven?
In a recent question on the website Quora, it was said that Moses did not or will not go to heaven – could you clarify this for me?
Moses was unique in that he died and that the Lord buried him on Mount Moab. It is reported later on in Jude that there was some dispute over his body. It’s a little bit mysterious. We don’t have all the information we wish we had on that. But I would very much say that Moses did go to heaven, as is evident from the fact that later on he appears on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Moses seems to have had a blessed existence in the afterlife, indicated by the fact that he appears with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, which is very clearly as reported in all four Gospels. I would say that the person on Quora is wrong on this point. Sometimes people who speak on the Internet are wrong.
God told Noah to build an Ark for himself and his family. Were other people invited?
God told Noah to build an Ark for himself and his family. It’s like other people were not included. So, were other people not supposed or allowed to enter, or did they refuse or decline to enter, as many preachers say?
Noah and the Ark are mentioned in the book of Genesis and in 1-2 Peter. Peter mentions that the world was condemned, because they didn’t want the rescue which was offered to them. They didn’t avail themselves to receive the offer. So, I would say it was because they didn’t want to. Maybe once the rain started falling and the water started rising, they wanted to get on the ark, but by then it was too late.
The Bible nowhere gives the idea that people were trying to swim to the Ark to be rescued or bang on the door for help. Preachers sometimes speculate about that, but the Bible does not speak about it.
I think it’s entirely possible that people just thought Noah was a fool, and they had no space for what he did. It speaks to the corruption of the earth, that they rejected this rescue. I think that anybody who was truly repentant, believing in the coming judgment, and wanting to be rescued, could have been rescued along with Noah, but no one was. They rejected God’s salvation. That’s why God started humanity basically all over again, with Noah and his family.