Verse by Verse or Topical?
Lighthouse Bible Church believes in “Verse by Verse, exegetical preaching.” Pastor Ted Dudak believes that “Topical preaching” is wrong. While I agree with him, we need to understand the difference between the two methods. As I explained in a previous Bible Study, “Know What You Believe,” as you study the Bible verse by verse, it sets up its own Topic, but is that Topical Preaching?
Most modern-day Bibles, although not in Scripture, add a topical heading for the verses that follow.
Topical preaching is often dangerous, especially when the Pastor uses various commentaries. Do not get me wrong but get me right on this – commentators vary in their understandings of Scriptures and (sorry) have biases in their opinions. Scripture offers no such bias.
A Pastor, or Bible Study teacher, who focuses on such topics as above, is likely to choose topics that due to his/her own personal bias, may leave out certain topics, or chose topics to increase numbers, or increase tithes, etc. He is likely to skip passages, and/or topics that prove difficult or have the opposite effect, i.e. decrease his numbers, or decrease the number of tithes, etc.
Lighthouse Bible Church is a mission-oriented church. As such, a Pastor (not ours), may be inclined to drive home a point of God’s calling, using verses that are calling a person to missions. We find one such verse among many in Isaiah.
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV)
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
However, that same Pastor, not wanting to discourage missions, may neglect the following passages, that point out the much suffering that will follow. Nor does it discuss previous verses, that show Isaiah to be a humble man, recognizing his sinfulness before the Lord.
I believe a perfect example I heard from a famous Health and Wealth Pastor is this illustration. He quotes only part of James 4:2, carefully leaving out the first part, and of course, the preceding and following verses.
James 4:2 (ESV)
. . . You do not have, because you do not ask.
He uses that as part of his sermon (?) and states that God is waiting for you to ask to give you the blessings that he has withheld from previous generations (sins of the fathers), that are so overflowing that He cannot hold them all. All you need to do is ask and He will pour them out on you. Let’s look at the entire verse. Even leaving out the other surrounding text and only the one following verse, James is quite blunt (emphasis added to show what he leaves out).
James 4:2–3 (ESV)
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Reading this entire passage, wherein the ESV heading is Warning Against Worldliness (yes sort of a topic), should cause us to search our hearts, that should bring a humbling look at the inner sinful desires of the heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Now that is the Bible’s self-topic I mentioned earlier. Not the pulling out of a part of a verse and parts of others to fit one’s self-serving topic. Not a topic to make a pastor politically correct, famous, rich, etc.
Paul teaches the full counsel of God, testifying to the Ephesian elders:
Acts 20:20–21 (ESV)
how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although some disagree, many commentators ascribe Paul to writing some thirteen out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Paul never swayed, never left out or added to the gospel teachings. He covered all the good, but never left out the bad. He covered the many times Christians would receive persecution and covered the blessings they would receive, if they persevere.
So then, “verse by verse” preaching and/or Bible Studies (even when covering a topic) is the way to go. Jesus Himself said it best (emphasis added).
Matthew 4:4 (ESV)
But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
The Bible is the entire Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Romans 10:17 (ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Whether we Preach or Teach, let us stay true to His Words!