Jul 30, 2013

Five Questions with Dr. David L. Allen on 1-3 John

Dr. David L. Allen graciously agreed to answer five questions about his new book on 1–3 John in the Preaching the Word series edited by R. Kent Hughes. Dr. Allen is professor of preaching, director of expository preaching, George W. Truett Chair of ministry, and dean of the school of theology at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has pastored for 21 years and written or edited a number of books and articles related to specific books of the Bible and preaching.

Question: I find it interesting that you call describe your book as a “sermontary,” “more than a sermon but less than a commentary.” Can you unpack that a bit?

Well, each chapter is indeed a sermon, but I have heavily footnoted the sermon to allow the reader to delve deeper into certain grammatical/syntactical issues that informed the way I chose to write the sermon as I did. Additionally, the footnotes provide readers a chance to see other sources (commentaries, sermon books, etc.) that I have used in the preparation of the sermon. This gives some insight into the broad reading I attempted to do in preparation of each of these sermons.

Question: I know that you believe that all Scripture is relevant, but what do you see in the message of 1–3 John as particularly relevant for our day? 

I do indeed! The notion of assurance of salvation is especially critical today. As a pastor for 21 years, I dealt with that issue in the lives of many Christians. 1 John speaks directly to that problem and teaches us we can have a “know so” salvation. Another issue today that is hotly debated in culture is just who is Jesus anyway? Is he divine? Is he merely a good moral teacher? Is he indeed the God-man as the Bible teaches? The issue of the incarnation is a vital part of Christology which then touches everything else. These are two important issues relevant for today!

Question: What are the most significant challenges in preaching 1–3 John?

Perhaps the most difficult is the structure. It is notoriously difficult to disentangle. I have attempted to segment the letter into its constituent paragraphs from a linguistic perspective based on the Greek New Testament. I believe in preaching through books of the Bible paragraph by paragraph. I also believe in making each sermon a stand-alone sermon. Once you get the paragraph structure down, it is relatively easy to construct sermons that move through the book sequentially, unpacking John’s main points.

Question: What other must-have resources on 1–3 John that you would recommend for the average preacher or Sunday school teacher?  

Robert Yarborough’s commentary 1–3 John in the Baker Exegetical series is a must. I would probably say it is the best commentary on 1–3 John on the market. Danny Akin’s commentary 1, 2, 3 John in the NAC series is also an important volume that is very helpful for preachers/teachers. Ruth Edwards' The Johannine Epistles in the New Testament Guides series published by Sheffield Academic press provides excellent summaries of background, style and theological issues. Martin Culy’s I, II, III John: a Handbook on the Greek Text provides pastors with practical linguistic help in a non-technical format.

Question: This “sermontary” is a reflection of your preaching philosophy and methodology. What could someone read to get a better sense of this philosophy and methodology?

I co-edited a book with Danny Akin and Ned Mathews entitled Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon. I wrote the introduction and the chapter on “Preparing a Text-Driven Sermon.” In that chapter, I outline

my philosophy of preaching and then provide my 12 step method of sermon preparation using 1 John 2:15-17 as a test case. (You can read an interview with Dr. Allen related to this Text-Driven Preaching here.)

A PDF excerpt of Dr. Allen's 1–3 John is available here.

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