News Articles

Be original — preach the Bible, Jay Adams tells Southeasterners

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Preaching outside the original purpose of Scripture is a sin of neglect, Jay E. Adams said during a lectureship Feb. 10-12 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Uncovering the original purpose of a biblical text is crucial in preparing and delivering a sermon, said Adams, who taught homiletics, counseling and pastoral work at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, from 1963-83, and is founder of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, Laverock, Pa.
“Purpose is the neglected factor in preaching,” Adams said. “Pastors need look not only for what the passage says, but look for what the passage was intended to do … what the Holy Spirit was really up to … what its purpose might be,” he said during the three-day Theodore F. Adams Lectureship on the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
An ordained Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister and author of more than 60 books dealing with preaching and counseling, Adams explained that after first discovering the original message of a Scripture passage, then it must be preached with that exact purpose. “When you use a passage for the purpose it was intended to teach, then it has power and effect,” Adams said.
“You can drink your soup with a fork if you want to, and you can shoot fish with a rifle if you want, but I don’t know who wants to,” Adams suggested. “Obviously, those are not the purposes for which those utensils were designed.”
He continued: “That’s the need today — to go back to the Word of God. We have not adequately examined the Scriptures themselves to see how the Holy Spirit guided those men who preached. We don’t preach (morality), we preach Jesus Christ.”
A frequent lecturer at ministerial conferences nationally and internationally, Adams cautioned ministers to avoid preaching according to their purposes, but instead preach according to God’s purposes. “When Scripture is used for the purposes which the Holy Spirit originally had in mind, then (it has) force and power. But when used for the preacher’s own purpose, (it) lacks much,” Adams said. He further cautioned preachers and teachers to be clear and simple when presenting the gospel rather than hazy and obscure.
Adams focused his lectures on the premise that preachers should not merely preach about the Bible, but preach the Bible to their people.
“Take a preaching stance rather than a lecture stance. Don’t use the sermon title ‘Corinthian Gifts.’ Instead, say that ‘God has given you gifts.’ Ask yourself, ‘How should people go away from my message knowing something fresh that will change their lives in the weeks to come?'” he challenged.
Adams, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, said preachers must keep their own opinions out of their sermons. “Don’t tack on your own application,” he warned.
“When you preach a message with the purpose for which it was intended, the whole message is application. The entire message, from the beginning, is a message to the congregation in front of you, a message that is contemporary in nature, a message from God to his congregation and a message that is here and now. Your sermon shouldn’t be long ago and far away, but very personal to your congregation as they sit there before God’s messenger bringing truth to them today, where they live.”
Annette Hickman, a master of divinity with church planting student, said she found Adams’ insights instructive for her training as a missionary. “One idea that really stood out to me was being clear in presenting the gospel,” she said. “We need to show people how to study the Bible while making sure they really understand and apply it to their lives.”
Jose Rondon, a master of divinity with church planting student, said preachers everywhere should heed Adams’ admonishments. “Jay Adams’ lectures were a challenge to the shallowness of preachers (who fail) to expose the Word of God in the pulpit,” Rondon said.
Henry Middleton, a master of divinity student, agreed. “I admired and respected his strong stand that we are to preach the Word as is, without compromising it,” Middleton said.
Adams, who titled his lectures “Preaching with Purpose,” has published more than 60 books, some of which include: “Competent to Counsel,” “Preaching with Purpose,” “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible,” “The Biblical View of Self-Esteem” and “Solving Marriage Problems.” Adams is currently writing a series of commentaries called The Christian Counselor’s Commentary on New Testament. His books have been translated into 13 languages.
The Theodore F. Adams Lectureship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is named in honor of a former seminary professor. Theodore Adams served as visiting professor of preaching and director of the counseling center at Southeastern from 1968-78. The largest classroom facility on the Southeastern campus is named Theodore F. Adams Hall.

    About the Author

  • Julianne Kuykendall