Book, Chapter, and Verse Preaching


      The preaching found in the New Testament as well as faithful preaching today is distinct and unique. First Century preachers of the gospel were under the obligation to "…speak as the oracles of God" (I Pet. 4: 11). They were to "prove all things, hold fast that which is good" (I Thes. 5: 21). This was and is because Christianity is an autocracy,  Jesus Christ has all authority (Matt. 28: 18, Eph. 1: 22, 23). Jesus articulates his authority through his word, the New Testament (2 Jn. 9-11, Heb. 9: 15-28).

     The apostle Paul made use of every opportunity to preach the soul saving seed of the Kingdom (Jas. 1: 18-21, Matt. 13: 19). Luke wrote regarding Paul’s activities when he arrived in Thessalonica and came to the synagogue of the Jews, "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging…" (Acts 17: 1-3). Paul’s preaching was authoritative and scripture (Hebrew scriptures) oriented. He confounded the Jews at Damascus, "proving that this is very Christ" (Acts 9: 22). In this vein, it was said of Apollos, "For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ" (Acts 18: 28). We must also remember that God’s treasure was in "earthen vessels," Paul himself was also "creating scripture" in addition to quoting the Hebrew scripture (2 Cor. 4: 7, I Cor. 2: 13 ff).

     Sometimes the argument is advanced that inspired preachers did not literally provide book, chapter, and verse. Of course, we must remember the Bible was not divided into chapters until 1240 AD. The Hebrew scriptures were divided into verses in 1445 AD and the New Testament in 1551 AD. I will grant that the collection of the Psalms was extant. Sometimes inspired preachers did refer to the particular book in the collection of the Psalms, sometimes they did not (Acts 13: 33, 2: 25-28, 30, 31). However, all the preaching was still scripture focused and oriented.

     I once asked a popular preacher in the church why he seldom gave a scripture reference. His reply was, "I do not want to appear legalistic!" This preacher, who is now among the top sought after preachers in the brotherhood, actually plays down scripture and inserts himself instead. He does not even extend the invitation (belief, repentance, confession, and baptism, see "Salvation," accessed from home page) because "such appears legalistic…."

     I do not want to bind where I have no authority, but why would we not want to literally provide book, chapter, and verse, especially since we have the chapters and verses divided for us? It has been my observation that one of the initial signs of apostasy is a de-emphasis of book, chapter, and verse in the pulpit. When we cease preaching the word, we cease preaching Christ (Acts 8: 35, 36). The pulpit establishes the pace and provides direction to the local church (2 Tim. 4: 2-5). As a rule, there must be serious changes in the pulpit before large scale apostasy can occur (ibid.). We should never apologize for book, chapter, and verse preaching!