Montgomery Boice on Ephesians 1January 11, 2007
Last week’s Workman Watch (Tim Keller on Luke 15) stimulated a lot of profitable discussion. Today I hope turning to James Montgomery Boice might be just as productive. As with last week: listen to the talk, compare notes, and if you’ve heard Boice before, share what you found helpful in his preaching.
What was the opening sentence to the sermon? “I’m especially glad to be here to teach Ephesians this year because it seems to me that there’s probably never been a better time in the history of the church to pay attention to the teachings of this book; because this book of Ephesians – this letter of Paul’s – is a miniature theology of the church.”
What was the introduction about? The need to get back to the biblical view of how the church is built. Boice suggested that the problem with the modern church is that we are too man-centred in our ecclesiology. Ephesians, on the other hand, is about how the church functions to please and glorify God.
What was the main point? Salvation is all the work of the sovereign God: Father, Son and Spirit.
What was the sermon structure?
Literary Context – the book of Ephesians
Historical Context – brief description of Ephesus (a capital, commercial and corrupt)
1. Election (God the Father)
– election eliminates boasting
– election leads to holiness
– election encourages evangelism
2. Redemption (Christ, the Son)
-a definition of redemption
-an illustration of redemption from Hosea
3. Application (The Spirit)
– the Spirit works through the Word
– pointing to Christ
What illustrations were used? There weren’t many. An illustration of BB Warfield leafing through a hymn book and pointing out those which reference “redemption” – such is the prevalence of the concept. The Hosea redemption illustration was used at length and was ultimately applied to Christ, who bid above the world with the price of his own blood.
What were the applications?
One main application was to respond like Paul to these great truths in prayer: “Why does he pray if God works through it all? Because God works through means. And one of those means is our prayers….You know, some of us who are wrapped up in the great doctrines of grace, I’m not sure always pray as we ought. And here Paul is an example. And its challenge to us because Paul certainly understood these things (and looked to God for salvation from beginning to end) yet he prays, and prays fervently.”
Boice’s pre-eminent challenge is that we embrace a God-centred theology of the church: “Unless we have a kind of theology that says it is from God from beginning to end, until we have that, we really are not going to see the fulness of God’s blessing on our churches, and the kind of blessing we need. Nor are we going to have the strength in our theology and convictions to stand against a hostile world.”
What aspects of the preacher’s style did you find helpful? Perhaps most striking was the way that Boice drummed home the main point. This came out in the introduction, throughout the sermon, and strongly at the end. Helpfully, this was not vain repitition, but carefully crafted restatements of the central thought. Further, I appreciated Boice’s plain, unadorned style. He had no catchy introduction and illustrations were spare. It was a reminder to me that great preaching can be devoid of these things, providing the explanations are clear, vivid and full of conviction.
What was the final sentence? “We need a revival, a new reformation, but we’re not going to see it until we understand these things and can say from the bottom of our heart that only God receives the glory – and He certainly will!”
How long was the sermon? 51 mins, 22 seconds
What one aspect from Boice will I try to take over into my own preaching? Boice modelled for me how I might preach on a bigger section – especially one loaded with vast ideas (Ephesians 1!). The basic approach seems to be: isolate the dominant thought and furnish the sermon by selecting suitable supporting material from the passage. In this way, Boice still left us satisfied, without exhausting the passage in all its detail.