With a focus on preaching narrative texts, Don Carson delivered Midwestern Seminary’s seventh annual Spurgeon Lectures on Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary on Oct. 22-23.
Carson, who is emeritus professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and president of the Gospel Coalition, was also inducted by President Jason Allen as the school’s seventh Spurgeon Fellow.
During the two-day lecture series, Carson provided seven priorities for preachers to adhere to as they preached from narrative texts. He then modeled these points practically as he preached from Genesis 39 and John 20:24-31.
“The Spurgeon Lectures have become a staple at Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “Now in its seventh year, we’ve experienced God’s favor through the pastors and scholars who have delivered these lectures and modeled for our seminary community what it means to preach biblical, expository messages from God’s word.
“We have been thrilled to host Don Carson for this year’s lectures. To sit under the teaching of a man who is among the most respected biblical scholars in the world, if only for these two days, is an inspiration to our seminary community. Dr. Carson’s breadth of knowledge, yet humility in teaching, as well as his commitment to expositional preaching emulates all we desire our students, faculty, and staff to understand about biblical preaching—which is our overarching goal in hosting the Spurgeon Lectures.”
Conferring Carson as a Spurgeon Fellow, Allen recognized him “for his ongoing leadership in equipping church leaders, for his commitment to the expository preaching of God’s Word, and for his service to the broader evangelical community.”
“Some Priorities in Preaching Narrative Texts”
In his lectures, Carson preached sermons from Genesis 39 and John 20:24-31 and then explained seven priorities that are necessary when preaching narrative texts.
These priorities include: making sure to tell the story; making sure to tell more than the story; making sure the narrative text is tied to the surrounding passage, book, and overall canon; making sure people see what would be lost if the passage/chapter of the book was gone; understanding that the sermon outline may, but doesn’t necessarily, need to follow the narrative flow of the text; understanding that introductions to the narrative text may begin by playing into the narrative; and never forgetting you’re preaching a sermon and that people need to hear God’s word.
From Genesis 39, Carson’s message dealt with Joseph’s temptation, how he dealt with it and, thus, truths for how believers today can deal with temptation.
Carson noted that Joseph endured multiple temptations from Potiphar’s wife by being of godly character and living a life of integrity. He also was prepared to call sin wicked, knew not to “play with fire,” was more concerned about his purity than for his prospects and, above all, feared God.
Despite Joseph’s best intentions and purity in actions, he wound up in jail. Difficulties, too, can happen to modern-day believers. Carson noted timeless truths from the passage that “God often chooses to bless us in difficult circumstances rather than to place us in happier ones” and that “God’s providence was working behind the scenes to bring about the creation of a nation, and toward preservation of the messianic line.”
To the last point, Carson noted that if Joseph hadn’t been sent to prison, ultimately, he wouldn’t have wound up as Pharaoh’s prime minister. He also wouldn’t have been placed in a position to spare his family and, thus, the nation of Israel during the famine. This, in turn, led to Joseph’s family being secured in Egypt, and a promise of the Messiah to arise from the line of Judah.
“That brings about the promised seed of Abraham,” Carson said. “And, thus, the reason you’re sitting in chapel today in Kansas City, the reason you’ve been redeemed. Oh, I know, it’s the plan of God.
“God wasn’t going to let his plan fall to the ground, but humanly speaking, the reason why you’re here is because Joseph kept his zipper up.”
Carson’s second address focused on doubt, particularly that of the disciple Thomas as seen in John 20.
He noted that doubt in people can have many causes as well as many solutions when being addressed. This particular case of doubt in Thomas’ life arose from his desiring to have faith and belief in Christ’s resurrection, but yet he didn’t want to be gullible.
Thomas had heard the stories of Christ’s resurrection and appearances, but he was skeptical until receiving unequivocal proof of Jesus’ being alive. Once Jesus appeared and provided that truth, Thomas was astonished and confessed Jesus’ deity saying, “My Lord and My God.” Finally, the result of Thomas’ belief was a lifetime of service and proclamation of Jesus being the risen Lord.
The timeless message Carson derived from the passage is that because of Thomas’ belief that Jesus’ promises and resurrection are really true, he now has become part of the apostolic link of the first witnesses passing on their testimony to a new generation of men and women all around the world that they may see and believe. This result has ultimately led to the current generation of believers and will be passed along to future generations of believers.
“If we have fellowship with the apostles, who have fellowship with the Father and the Son, then we join in this worldwide community of redeemed people who have fellowship with the Father and the Son because of the mediatorial work of the apostles in this regard,” Carson said.
Past guest presenters for the Spurgeon Lectures and, thus, Spurgeon Fellows inductees include John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler, H.B. Charles, Jr., Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan.
To view the Spurgeon Lectures, visit http://www.mbts.edu/news-resources/.