This past Sunday I wrapped up a five-week sermon series on the Book of Job. This was my second attempt at preaching through Job and I must say that it went far better than the first. The first attempt that I made at preaching this book occurred during the second year of my ministry. I was new to expository preaching and believed that good preaching meant dealing with a book verse by verse. With this noble but ill-conceived notion in my brain, I set out to take my congregation on an enlightening journey through the book of Job. Over the next 40 weeks I laboriously plunged into the book and was still only half-way through the book. This is when my wife wisely and graciously told me not to preach another message from Job because I was “killing” the congregation. Instead of an enlightening journey, I ended up getting my congregation lost in a homiletical forest of despair.
Over the years, I have thought a lot about that early foray into expository preaching and have tried to make adjustments to balance the need for Biblical accuracy and maintaining the interest of the audience. In addition, I have carefully avoided preaching the book of Job, that is until this past month. As I was planning my preaching for this quarter God began to lay the book of Job heavily upon my heart and I determined that it was His will to give this book a second chance. Here are some thoughts that I would like to share about preaching the Book of Job.
- The message of Job is relevant – Job deals with the age old questions of, “why do the righteous suffer?” There is no doubt that Job was a righteous man, God Himself affirms this in the first chapter. But Job still suffers. There are people in our congregations who are going through a similar experience and who are asking the same questions that Job raises. We need to deal Biblically with this issue. There is also good evidence that Job was going through a time of deep depression as a result of his suffering. Every Sunday there are people in your congregation dealing with depression. They need you to address this issue, Biblically, carefully and compassionately.
- Job does not need verse-by-verse exposition– I have come to the conclusion that Job is meant to be digested in larger portions than are possible in verse-by-verse exposition. People need to get the big picture of Job rather than struggling with the minutiae. I made an arbitrary decision to limit the length of my series to five weeks. Some preachers may prefer to lengthen this to six or even eight weeks, but I urge you not to make the series so long that you lose people’s interest. The truth of the matter is that Job deals with difficult subject matter. Be very careful not to labor the points too much and wear your congregation out. It is better to leave them with a desire to do further, deeper study, than to hope they never hear the name Job again.
- Your preaching needs to be transparent– there are some people in the church who don’t want their Pastor to be transparent or to admit any struggle, but these people are few and far between. As the messenger, the people need to see that you have struggles, that you are aware of what it is like to suffer and to question God. They need to see matters of life and faith fleshed out in the form of your life. Over the past few weeks I have had one or two people who have told me they wished I wouldn’t have shared my personal struggle. But I have had dozens more tell me that they found it helpful to see how God was working in my life and my struggles. So don’t be afraid of being open with them.
- Make sure that you tell them that Job is not the final word and point them to Jesus- If we miss the fact that Job raises the questions but doesn’t give all of the answers we miss the big picture. We must place Job in the right context and show how the grand narrative of Scripture fills in the blanks left by this book. Rightly understood, every book of the Bible points us to Jesus. If your preaching of Job does not point people to the cross of Christ, you’ve preached it wrong.
In this chapter Paul turns his attention to the issue of spiritual gifts within the church. Apparently in Corinth some of the people began equating spirituality with some of the more spectacular and attention grabbing gifts. We need to remember that Paul was dealing here with immature believers. They had been converted but brought some of their old habits into the church with them. So the jealousies and self-ambitions that are part of the human nature became evident within the church.
We suffer from the same problems in the church in America but the problem has been amplified by a great deal of unbiblical teaching concerning the issues of spiritual gifts. Some in the church have emphasized a more experiential form of the Christian life that is not grounded or derived from the Scriptures.
But on the opposite extreme we’ve had those who simply decided to ignore the issue all together. When I was growing up in the church, we hardly ever heard any teaching about the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit. Over the next few weeks I want to unfold some of the Biblical teaching concerning spiritual gifts.
You will not in v.1 that Paul says he does not want the Corinthians to be “uninformed” about the issue of spiritual gifts. This might have been mildly offensive to some in the Corinthian church because, as you will see in the coming weeks, there was a group within the church who thought they were experts in the issue. What Paul wants to show them in these chapters is that although they placed a great deal of emphasis on the spiritual gifts, the Corinthians were in fact rather uneducated or uninformed about the truth concerning spiritual gifts. So in this chapter he lays out several key issues to help us understand how to identify and employ spiritual gifts in the service of Jesus.
- Identifying the work of the Holy Spirit (v.1-3)
- Paul reminds the Corinthians of their pagan past
- Paganism was rampant in Roman empire and their were idols on nearly every street
- Every year citizens of the Roman empire were required to appear before an altar and declare the “Caesar is Lord.”
- Basic principle here is that the Holy Spirit always glorifies and points towards Jesus
- John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
- John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
- When the primary emphasis is on the Holy Spirit or any other spirit and the attention is taken away from Jesus, you are probably dealing with something false.
- Diversity of gifts, (v.4-6)
- The Corinthians were giving too much attention to a handful of spiritual gifts and making the gifts of tongues out to be the preeminent gift.
- This is a human trait, driven by our sinful pride
- It was causing great strife in the church
- Unity in diversity (v.4-6)
- Same Spirit empowers a variety of gifts
- Paul uses several interesting words here to describe the spiritual gifts:
- gifts- charismata, emphasis on the fact that they have been freely given by God’s grace.
- service– diakonia (same root word from which we get deacon) emphasis here on the fact that we don’t employ spiritual gifts for our own person gain, they are to be used in the service of the church
- activities- energema – focus here on the energy, enablement of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are the result of God’s powerful work in our lives.
- These three facts alone should help to correct a lot of the problems involved with spiritual gifts:
- They are not something we seek or develop – they are given to us.
- They are not to be used for personal gain or attention but rather to serve the Lord.
- They are not a matter of human effort or ability but rather are something supernatural.
- List of spiritual gifts (v.7-11)
- Verse 7 is the key here – gifts are given for the common good of the church. They should never divide but rather unify and build the church.
- List of gifts:
- Interpretation of tongues
- Each empowered by the Holy Spirit
- The point that Paul is making here is that the Holy Spirit is just as much work in the gift of wisdom or knowledge as He is in miracles or tongues.
- The same spirit that gifts one person with the ability to speak in tongues and another to interpret also enable other members of the church to be able to have greater than usual faith or discernment.
- The truth of the matter is that the church needs many different gifts and the Holy Spirit specifically places certain people in certain churches at certain times to perform certain ministries.
- The Body of Christ (v.12-26)
- One body with many different parts (v.12-13)
- All of the members are important (v.14-20)
- All of the members are interdependent (v.21-26)
- Every believer is part of the body of Christ (v.27)