Tongues Aflame: Learning to Preach from the Apostles Review

Tongues Aflame: Learning to Preach from the Apostles
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Tongues Aflame: Learning to Preach from the Apostles Review'The Spirit of God is both the revealer of truth in Scripture, and the One who makes us receivers of the truth inwardly.' p 213
The operation of the Holy Spirit in the primary means of grace, preaching, is a fundamental prerequisite for any saving knowledge of God. Roger Wagner is consistent and penetrating in his observation on the dearth of preaching in the post-modern era. Unshackled of human interest, the means of grace of preaching has flourished in the most testing of times. 'Students of church history know that the church's understanding of biblical doctrine has often taken great steps forward through controversy.' p 189 He takes pride in the fact that the Reformers recovered the ministry of preaching, only to discover that the apostolic preaching model is largely under-applied.
'Preaching is a form of the Word of God. Not only is the content of your sermon to be comprised of Scripture, but preaching as a form constitutes the authoritative, God-appointed method of presenting the message of the Bible to men.' p 209
'Christ puts forth His own power in the ministry which He instituted, in such a way that it is evident that it was not instituted in vain...For He is not separated from the minister, but rather His power is made known as efficacious in the minister.' John Calvin, commenting on 1 Corinthians 3, New Testament Commentaries p 70
In dealing with the individual sermons in Acts preaching comes into its full right. In so doing, the time-honored act of preaching is painfully researched back to the NT apostolic occurrences by Wagner. He analyzes and questions and answers all in one breath. Understandably, Wagner follows Calvin and avers that the apostles were commissioned by Christ to preach, and as such, their preaching should model all subsequent ministers of the Word's homiletics. 'The apostles had been called by the risen Christ to be witnesses of His resurrection glory, and that calling placed them under the deepest obligation to preach.' p 170 He expounds the theology evident in the apostle's homiletics, thereby laying the foundation for their content to be christocentric. 'Peter was able to draw from the OT prophets a definitive christology.' p 157 But a good point is made when Wagner unexpectedly changes tack:
'Scripture says more about the listener's responsibility to hear, understand, apply, and obey God's message than about the pastor's responsibility to preach it. While God holds His ministers accountable for their preaching, He also expects His people to admit and deal with their own deficiencies in listening and responding to God's Word.' p 209 Spiritual instruction and practical advice for living has increased exponentially and revolutionised the way we live before the face of God. Especially evident in evangelical dominations, the Bible seems to be pre-eminently occupied with self-fulfilment, and their attendees in need of self-revelation. 'Faith, hope and love have come to be understood as self-defining and self-perpetuating. No longer is faith understood in relation to the object of faith, Jesus Christ.' p 101 But here we are encouraged to seek growth, guidance, comfort, knowledge and communion through the Holy Spirit passively so that our hearts may respond in faith under the preaching of God's Word. Wagner expects sermons to 'challenge your people to take the time and put forth the effort necessary to become more skilful and proficient listeners.' p 210
With the resultant increase in biblical illiteracy, Wagner issues a note of caution useful for preachers in serving the body of Christ: 'The real problem arises when pastors operate on the assumption that their hearers know the Bible...preachers too often preach on the assumption that people have a background of understanding that they do not have.' pp. 191-192 An unintended consequence could be that 'preachers set their flock on a course of pseudo self-sufficiency that often deceives them into thinking they are sufficient interpreters of Scripture, when they are not.' p 210
Wagner furthers that apostolic preaching has a dual purpose in either being a means of grace or an instrument of conviction (2 Cor 2:15-16). 'That means that the Spirit of God is always sovereignly at work applying the message of the preacher effectively toward one of these two goals.' p 230 Wagner includes an apologetical aspect in his appraisal of Paul's sermons: 'The defenses he was called upon to offer could be both informal (1 Cor 9:3) and formal (2 Tim 4:16).' p 300 Referring to the occasions when the apostle 'reasoned' (Acts 17:2-3, 18:4, 19; 19:8-9; 20:7,9) with his audience, Wagner derives that his apologetic often was 'dialogical', p 249.
One very interesting observation is made by Wagner in stating that when Peter stood up and 'spoke with a loud voice' in Acts 2, the Greek word used is 'apophtheggomai' - literally meaning to prophesy. This word corresponds to the OT usage in the Septuagint. And so preaching, in the age of immediate revelation, originally could only have been divine utterance and inspired prophecy, remembering that there was no Bible as yet to preach from. Could this be credible evidence that, therefore, what is purported by today's prophetic movement to be prophecy & tongues, in fact constitutes hyper-pneumatic drivel?
'Acts, then, displays an association between prophecy and tongues like that found in Paul. Not only does Acts closely associate prophecy with tongues. In chapter 2 tongues are prophecy.' Professor Richard B Gaffin Jr, Perspectives on Pentecost p 83Tongues Aflame: Learning to Preach from the Apostles OverviewWhen you left seminary or took up your present pastorate you were going to set the church aflame with your sound Biblical exposition, your sweeping theological insights and your homiletical eloquence. To do so you have to preach like Paul - or Peter - or Stephen!Roger Wagner sets out to give you the insights you need to preach like those closest to Jesus. He first looks at the characteristics of New Testament preaching and then looks in more detail at 10 sermons preached in Acts by Peter (3), Paul (6) and Stephen. An appendix deals with how to preach to the modern, pluralist, materialist, pagan society we live in. Dissatisfied with your sermons? You too can preach like an Apostle!From the introduction by Roger Wagner:"As a Bible believing minister you are already accustomed to using the scriptures for the content of your messages. Now I am calling you to examine the way the sermons in Acts can also give you insights into how to shape the form of your messages, and let the apostolic preachers become your examples of how to deliver sermons that will be powerful and effective."

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