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Tongues Aflame: Learning to Preach from the Apostles Paperback – November 20, 2004
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"Preachers dissatisfied with archaic, ingrown traditionalism on the one hand and with relativistic contextualization on the other will find in Tongues Aflame a biblical alternative that is faithful to Scripture, personally challenging, and stimulating in its passionate confidence that preaching as Peter, Stephen, and Paul did will advance Christ's reign of grace in the 21st century, as it did in the first." (Dennis E. Johnson ~ Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary in California, Escondido, California)
About the Author
Roger Wagner is Pastor of Bayview Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chula Vista California. He has been there for over 20 years.
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Here he examines the sermons preached by some of the greatest preachers mankind has ever known - Peter, Paul, and Stephen. He draws from the sermons found in the book of Acts to teach other preachers how to preach effectively, boldly, and without apology, in ways that cut to the quick. His insights are significant and worth considering. His mind in these matters is sharp and clearly he is a man speaking from both experience and substantial and contemplative study.
Here's a quote I liked -
"God does not want us to intellectualize sin. He wants to grip us on all levels- emotion and will as well as mind. He uses strong language to accomplish this purpose.
"In the contemporary world, however, a different idea rules. 'Nice' is better than holy. 'Comfortable' is better than dedicated and devoted. Churches have become places for 'support' and flattery, not truth. To be shocked in church is virtually the unpardonable sin. As a consequence, sermons become so bloated with euphemisms that they no longer communicate the truth of God with sharpness and clarity. When many pastors are through with the Word of God it is no longer a 'sharp, double-edged sword' but rather a big foam pillow. Is it any wonder that our preaching is so often ineffective? Pastors even find themselves uncomfortable with the candor and power of Scripture itself! 'Let me see...how can I say this so that it will not offend anyone?'" (Page 315)
This book covers so many aspects and dimensions of preaching that sharing just one quote is like offering just an hors d'oeuvre on a 5 course meal. It can't do it justice.
The only negative issue I had with the book was that he kept harping on the gifts of the Spirit. His Cessationalistic view that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer in operation today was something he kept bringing up in the first half of the book. However, this is a very forgivable failing as all the positive aspects he brings to the table far outweigh this minor negative one. Who can blame him after considering the strong, anti-gifts climate that is so tragically common in many seminaries in the Western world of the 21st century.
Anyway, this is a must read for all preachers, young, and old. Even a Christian not called to professional ministry will find a delightful portion in this study of the sermons found in the books of Acts.
'Preaching is a form of the Word of God. Not only is the content of your sermon to be comprised of Scripture, but preaching as a form constitutes the authoritative, God-appointed method of presenting the message of the Bible to men.' p 209
In dealing with the individual sermons in Acts preaching comes into its full right. In so doing, the time-honored act of preaching is painstakingly researched back to the NT apostolic occurrences by Wagner. He analyzes and questions and answers all in one breath. Understandably, Wagner follows Calvin and avers that the apostles were commissioned by Christ to preach, and as such, their preaching should model all subsequent ministers of the Word's homiletics. 'The apostles had been called by the risen Christ to be witnesses of His resurrection glory, and that calling placed them under the deepest obligation to preach.' p 170
He expounds the theology evident in the apostle's homiletics, thereby laying the foundation for their content to be christocentric. 'Peter was able to draw from the OT prophets a definitive christology.' p 157 Especially evident in post-modern times, the Bible seems to be pre-eminently occupied with our self-fulfilment, and its attendees thus in need of daily self-revelation. 'Faith, hope and love have come to be understood as self-defining and self-perpetuating. No longer is faith understood in relation to the object of faith, Jesus Christ.' p 101 But here we are encouraged to seek growth, guidance, comfort, knowledge and communion through the Holy Spirit so that our hearts may respond in faith to Christ under the preaching of God's Word.
With the resultant increase in biblical illiteracy in the pew, Wagner issues a note of caution to preachers serving the body of Christ: '...preachers too often preach on the assumption that people have a background of understanding that they do not have.' pp. 191-2 Wagner warns that an unintended consequence could be that 'preachers set their flock on a course of pseudo self-sufficiency that often deceives them into thinking they are sufficient interpreters of Scripture, when they are not.' p 210 Wagner furthers that apostolic preaching has a dual purpose in either being a means of grace, or an instrument of conviction (2 Cor 2:15-16). 'That means that the Spirit of God is always sovereignly at work applying the message of the preacher effectively toward one of these two goals.' p 230
One very interesting observation is made by Wagner concerning Pentecost. When the 120 disciples generally spoke in tongues "as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4), they did the same as Peter when he stood up to authoritatively explain the phenomenon: Peter raised his voice and "declared/spoke forth" to them (Acts 2:14). The Greek root word used in both occurrences is the same - 'apophtheggomai' - literally meaning to prophesy (p 122). This word corresponds with the OT usage found in the Septuagint. And so tongues in the age of immediate revelation could only have been divine utterance and inspired prophecy, remembering that there was no Bible as yet to preach from. Could this be credible evidence that, therefore, what is purported by today's prophetic movement to be prophecy & tongues, in fact, is only hyper-pneumatic drivel?