Preaching is Conformational

July 1st, 2012| Topic: aBeLOG, Definition | 0

Preaching is Conformational

Preaching serves to conform the people of God to the will of God. In the account in Nehemiah, the exposition of God’s word leads to covenant renewal, the realignment of the community to the will of their sovereign: getting right with the King.

“You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, And gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him ….”
Nehemiah 9:6–8

The reading of the law in Neh 7:73b–8:12 was the watershed phenomenon in the life of the postexilic community of Israel: it formed the climax of the Ezra-Nehemiah joint corpus. The missions of the two protagonists, Ezra and Nehemiah, converge precisely within this enterprise, and for the first time they are mentioned together in this section (8:9). Within the larger body of the account (6:1–12:47), the renewal of covenant forms the center of a chiasm.

6:1–7:4           Completion of the city walls
7:5–73a                 B  List of ancestral inhabitants
7:73b–10:39                C  Covenant renewal
11:1–12:26            B’   Repopulation of Jerusalem
12:27–47        A’ Dedication of the city walls

The location of the center point of this structure is significant. This singular event provided both the pivot for the account of rebuilding and the prerequisite for the successful re-emergence and re-founding of the nation after years of having been wrenched into exile. And in the accounting of this drama, the book of the law, rightly, occupied center stage; indeed, covenant renewal is always Scripture-centered and forms the basis of all conformation to God’s will. One might go so far as to assert that Scripture-centering always leads to covenant renewal, in that the priorities and purposes and practices that God desires are realized in the life of the community.

Reminding itself of the responsibilities of the privileged station as children of God, the community, in covenant renewal, commits itself to conform to the will of its divine sovereign. Just as clauses of contemporaneous ancient Near Eastern treaties, repeatedly and publicly spelled out at recurrent intervals, helped preserve relationships between clients and overlords, regular and frequent readings of their foundational text played a critical role in the Israelites’ covenant relationship with Yahweh, the one to whom they owed ultimate allegiance. However, distinct from every other secular enterprise of this sort, Israel’s covenant renewal was Torah-centered, as she pledged loyalty and swore fealty to her Lord. In doing so, the nation placed itself under obligation to conform to the revealed will of God.

Covenant renewal, at the core of communal conformation to the will of God, may be considered the paradigm for the reading and exposition of Scripture undertaken in corporate contexts for the people of God: it is a summons to God’s people to return and renew a Scripture-centered relationship with the one who is truly their sovereign. Thus preaching is conformational, for it serves to conform God’s people to God’s will. In the current age of the church, that means that the goal of preaching is to conform God’s people to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), the only one who perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will.



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