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TitleThe living voice of the gospel
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Table of Contents
                            Preface
Chapter 1 - Does preaching (still) have a future?
Chapter 2 - The mystery of preaching: A blending of voices on the 
pulpit
Chapter 3 - The living voice of the gospel: When God, the present One, 
speaks
Sermon example 1: Jesus Only
Chapter 4 - The living voice of the gospel: 
When the Biblical text speaks
Sermon example 2: Take, Read!
Chapter 5 - The living voice of the gospel: When the congregation 
speaks
Sermon example 3: Can the Church kneel?
Chapter 6 - The living voice of the gospel: When the preacher speaks
Sermon example 4: There is the lamb of God...!
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

The living voice
of the gospel

The living voice
of the gospel

Revisiting the basic
principles of preaching

Revisiting the basic
principles of preaching

JOHAN CILLIERSJOHAN CILLIERS

Preaching − described here in Johan Cilliers’ groundbreaking
new book as the heart and soul of the church − requires both
constant revision and fidelity to principles. Hence this book’s
subtitle: “Revisiting the basic principles”.
As for its title, the book deals incisively and imaginatively
with the phenomenon of the Living in the homiletic dynamic:
the living voice of God, of the Word, of the congregation, and,
finally, of the preacher.
From various theoretical and practical viewpoints Cilliers
critically examines the state and future of preaching and deals
boldly with contentious issues such as the validity of legalistic
and moralistic preaching. He develops a communicative model
which he explains in a surprising manner using works of art.
Four sermon examples serve to demonstrate his approach to
the matter.
The living voice of the gospel is an authoritative textbook
for all students of theology and a challenging inspiration for
preachers.

Johan Cilliers is the author of several
books and numerous articles in the
field of Homiletics. He is a senior
lecturer in the Department of
Practical Theology and Missiology
at the Theological Seminary
of Stellenbosch University.

T
he living voice of the gospel

JO
H

A
N

C
IL

L
IE

R
S

9800657819199


ISBN 978-1-919980-06-7

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Page 123

Now is the time of the Pentecost. Today we celebrate the feast of the pour-
ing out of the Holy Spirit. This was the beginning of the church of the Lord
Jesus and what a glorious beginning it was! If we could turn the hands of
time back tonight and we all were there at the church approximately 2000
years ago, then I think we would have been very excited … Now, the Lord
is still the same and, in these days, I am certain God wants to do the same
this evening.

The aim of the preacher is clear: he indeed wants to turn back the clock,
wipe out the 2000 years of church history since Pentecost, and allow the
time of Pentecost and that of “today,” “this evening,” “these days” to shift
into the void to be precisely the same as then. The first Pentecost becomes
the model for the church of all times, its unrepeatable character (ephapax,
once and for all) precisely reconstructed in the present time, so that, in a
certain sense, it could become a timeless feast. The theological conse-
quence of this presumed and compelling analogue is fatal, and the legalis-
tic turn that it adopts virtually unavoidable, as appears from the closing
sentence of the above quotation: “God wishes to do the same ….”

During Pentecost God acted, but apparently not anymore. Now, it is
but a prospect (like a refrain the word wants or wishes appears 18 times
throughout the sermon!). Why? What is He waiting for? The answer to
this, which the preacher presumes, as already seen in 3.7.2, is classically
legalistic, and here reads: To see whether the present generation of
Christians can act like that first generation, whether they can make the
analogue true and the times precisely the same, and allow them to overlap
exactly! What previously was theologically a specific situation (God acted
and the first believers reacted and became witnesses), becomes an anthro-
pological determined situation (the present generation acts, become wit-
nesses – and God reacts by allowing it again to be Pentecost, exactly like
the first time). Therefore, it is quite consistent when, further in his ser-
mon, the preacher reveals his hermeneutics in a (somewhat disconnected)
sentence such as the following: “So His church started. No different, but just
so …. The Lord wants us too to change and his church must be so. Then we become
his witnesses.”

This sharply contrasts a biblical text such as Acts 1:8: But you will receive
power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses …. Take
note of what happens here: the theological order (code) of the text has
been precisely reversed. What, in the text, reads: God did and we can/shall,
becomes God will and we must. Therefore, it is so ironic when, in the
introductory paragraph, the preacher says: “…the Lord is still the same
and I am certain that He wants ….” In the sermon, God is not really the
same (what He did, changes into what He will do), and all certainty is

115

WHEN THE BIBLICAL TEXT SPEAKS

Page 124

placed onto the loose screws of human actions. The historical indicative
becomes a futuristic imperative – which is fulfilled by “us” who have the
task to allow Pentecost to realise once more.

4.7.2 ANTHROPOLOGICAL ANALOGUES

An especially popular way to cross the bridge between the history that the
text relates to and the present, and a variant of the above, is by way of an
anthropological analogue, with the typical concomitant allegorizing, atom-
izing, psychologizing, spiritualizing and typologizing of the biblical text (cf
Greidanus 1970:85 ff). Biblical figures are presented that must be imitated
(the so-called imitatio-philosophy), they become a law by which the spir-
itual quality of the listeners is tested. Needless to say, there are thousands
of victims of this specific type of legalism.

For example, in this way the example of Peter is turned into a moralis-
tic law in a sermon on Matthew 24:30. Firstly we hear: “… the central char-
acter of the story is none other than Jesus. The secondary character is Peter.”
Then a dehistorization of the text follows when the storm at sea is present-
ed as “… the waves of humanity and … the billows of the chaos of everyday life.”
The psychologizing of the text accompanies this when we hear: “I think
that this is because Peter speaks so silently yet so magnificently into our hearts and
into our lives.”

This again leads to the unavoidable moralizing: “What Jesus has started
in a person’s life, He has the power to continue. If we only keep our eyes on Him
… but also that we persist in steadily looking at Jesus, continuously, every moment
of every living day of our lives, that we never take our eyes off Jesus ….” In this,
Peter is the (negative!) role-model for us – he did not look at Jesus enough.
We must trump him. We must not fail, but must always be strong.
Eventually, Peter is placed só at the centre of attention, that it is no won-
der the preacher contradicts himself: “As I said earlier on, the two central
characters within this story are the characters firstly of Jesus and secondly of
Peter.” The one central character now indeed has become two! The ser-
mon ends with a subtle reversal of the biblical text: now it no longer is
Jesus that puts his hand out to grab Peter, but “let this be a turning point in
your life where you stretch out your hand in prayer …. And Jesus Himself will
touch you again with His love ….”

The woman who suffered from bleeding also followed the same moral-
istic path (Mk 5:25-34). Her special faith, her “spark of hope” becomes the
mirror in which we must measure the quality of our faith. Her “problem
… her faith … her fear” serve as an existential analogue to allow the lis-
teners with their weak faith to come up to standard: “You must believe just
like this woman …. This morning you must seek more. You must not only seek

116

THE LIVING VOICE OF THE GOSPEL

Page 246

Velema, WH 1979. De liefde is de vervulling van de Wet. (In Uw Knecht hoort, red
J Kruis). Amsterdam.

Velema, WH 1989. Ethische vragen in prediking en pastoraat. Kampen: Kok.
Verhey, A 1984. The great reversal. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.
Villa-Vicensio, C; de Gruchy, J (eds.) 1994. Doing ethics in Context: South African

Perspectives. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books; Cape Town: David Philip.
Vos, CJA 1996. Homiletiese flitse in die hermeneutiese spieël van Paul Ricoeur, 1

en 2. PTSA 11/1: 58-78.
Vosloo, RR 1995. Etiek en die deugde: ’n kritiese ondersoek na aanleiding van die her-

waardering van die deugde in morele besinning. NGTT 36/2, Junie 1995, pp 272-
282.

Wallace, JA 1995. Imaginal preaching. An archetypal perspective. New York: Paulist
Press.

Ward, RF 1992. Speaking from the heart. Preaching with passion. Nashville: Abing-
don Press.

Wardlaw, DM 1983. Preaching Biblically. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Webb, J M 1998. Preaching and the challenge of Pluralism. St Louis: Chalice.
Welsch, W 1988. Unsere postmoderne Moderne. Weinheim: VCH Verlagsgesell-

schaft mbH.
Wepener, CJ; Müller, BA 2001. Liturgiese kitsch? – ’n Liturgiewetenskaplike ver-

kenning van ’n Gereformeerde ritueel. NGTT 42/3 en 4, 480-493.
Willson, PS; Gaventa BR 1998. Preaching as the Re-reading of Scripture. In

Interpretation 52 (4), 392-404.
Wilson, PS 1988. Imagination of the heart: New understandings in preaching.

Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Wilson, PS 1995. The practice of preaching. Nashville: Abingdon.
Wolf, AGB 1968. Vensters in de preek: een pleidooi voor het gebruik van illustraties in

de prediking. Franeker: Wever.
Yancey, P 1997. What’s so amazing about grace? Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Zondervan.

238

THE LIVING VOICE OF THE GOSPEL

Page 247

The living voice
of the gospel

The living voice
of the gospel

Revisiting the basic
principles of preaching

Revisiting the basic
principles of preaching

JOHAN CILLIERSJOHAN CILLIERS

Preaching − described here in Johan Cilliers’ groundbreaking
new book as the heart and soul of the church − requires both
constant revision and fidelity to principles. Hence this book’s
subtitle: “Revisiting the basic principles”.
As for its title, the book deals incisively and imaginatively
with the phenomenon of the Living in the homiletic dynamic:
the living voice of God, of the Word, of the congregation, and,
finally, of the preacher.
From various theoretical and practical viewpoints Cilliers
critically examines the state and future of preaching and deals
boldly with contentious issues such as the validity of legalistic
and moralistic preaching. He develops a communicative model
which he explains in a surprising manner using works of art.
Four sermon examples serve to demonstrate his approach to
the matter.
The living voice of the gospel is an authoritative textbook
for all students of theology and a challenging inspiration for
preachers.

Johan Cilliers is the author of several
books and numerous articles in the
field of Homiletics. He is a senior
lecturer in the Department of
Practical Theology and Missiology
at the Theological Seminary
of Stellenbosch University.

T
he living voice of the gospel

JO
H

A
N

C
IL

L
IE

R
S

���������

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