4 Tools to Hear and Preach the Melody of Scripture
by Guest Author

August 31, 2021

Bold Preaching

4 Tools to Hear and Preach the Melody of Scripture

By Guest Author

August 31, 2021

This article is by David Helm. Helm is the lead pastor of Christ Church in Chicago and Chairman of the Board of the Charles Simeon Trust, an organization dedicated to the sound preaching of God’s Word.

 

All your church planting efforts must emerge from a stated commitment to the regular faithful exposition of God’s word. There shouldn’t be any planting without preaching. And yet we know all types of churches planted around the world never having been watered in God’s word. The primary way we can properly fill our churches with the Bible is by hearing and preaching the melody of Scripture.

You may not be a musician; neither am I. But even us non-musical people can recognize much of what composers do as they develop a piece of music. We can also see that care involved with the biblical writers. Just as composers form unique melodies that resonate with listeners, each book of the Bible has a unique message that contributes to the symphony of Scripture—all of which is focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If the people in your pew are to hear the song that God is singing, it will be from what you say from behind the pulpit. So how do we best hear the melodic line? Using the book of Acts, I want to give you four tools or reading strategies to hear the melody of a particular book in the Bible.

Look at the beginning and end

A composer will lay down the melody early and return to it when he or she concludes. So too often in the Bible, the beginning of a book and the end of the book will perform for you notes in sequence to one another that help you understand what that book is about.

In Acts 1:1-8, you’ll see five recurring notes in Luke’s book. The first note is the name Jesus. He’s listed in verse 1. You’ll also hear the notes of the Holy Spirit, witnesses, the ends of the earth, and the kingdom of God. These are the notes the Author puts down in relationship to one another, as the book begins to sing the song He wants sung.

At the end of the book, look at Acts 28:23-31 and listen for the notes. There again we find Jesus, Holy Spirit, witnesses (or “testifying” in this instance), ends of the earth (or “going to the Gentiles” here), and God’s kingdom. So, when you look at the beginning and the end of Acts, you begin to realize very quickly that the book contains the good news of the kingdom of God about Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is in biblical texts that is proclaimed through witnesses, who will carry that message to the ends of the earth. From the beginning to the end of Acts, the expectation is that churches are planted through the proclamation of a message about Jesus which is already contained in the Scriptures.

Hear the purpose statement

Like an artist introducing their song during a concert, biblical writers will often tell you why they are writing. Some, like John, directly give you their reason for writing. Others, like Luke, allow you to see it differently. Specifically in Acts, you can hear the purpose statement when you read Acts 6:7 (the word of God spread and the disciples increased in number), 12:24 (the word of God spread and multiplied), and 19:20 (the word of the Lord spread and prevailed).

We can see Luke strike this same chord throughout the book of Acts. In his summary of events, he focuses on how the word is being taught, responded to, the object of devotion, fulfilled, spoken with boldness, and preached. Luke wants you to see the continual spread of God’s word as churches are being planted.

As Francis Bovin said, “The Book of Acts does not recount primarily the history of either the church or the Holy Spirit. It situates in the foreground the diffusion of the word of God.” The word of God is what is moving. Every effort to plant churches around the globe must emerge from the faithful regular proclamation of God’s word. The beginning and the end of Acts proves it. The purpose statement demonstrates it.

Listen for repetition

In both of Luke’s works, his gospel and Acts, we see something surprising being repeated throughout—the note of Isaiah. Luke frequently quotes from and alludes to the words of the Old Testament prophet.

In Luke, we can hear the echo of Isaiah’s words from Isaiah 42, 49, 52, and 60 in the stories of Simeon and Anna from Luke 2. You can sound out the note from Isaiah 40 in the ministry of John the Baptist, the first martyr in the Gospel of Luke, in Luke 3. When Jesus begins his ministry in Luke 4, he draws from Isaiah 61. As His bodily ministry was ending in Luke 23, he pointed back to Isaiah 53.

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Moving into Acts, you can see something similar—the fulfillment of Isaiah’s word. In Acts 1, the disciples, like Simeon and Anna, are drawing from Isaiah 43 to search for the consolation of Israel. The first martyr in Acts, Stephen alludes to Isaiah 63. Paul launches his ministry to the Gentiles out of Isaiah 42, 45, and 49. And when he ends his ministry in Acts 28, he lands on Isaiah 6.

The repetition of the word of Isaiah is influencing all of Luke and Acts. It is a prophetic word in Luke that is fulfilled in Jesus. Is a prophetic word in Acts that is forwarded along through those who now witness for Him.

Follow the structure

In Acts, we see Luke structure the book so that Paul serves as a type for Jesus. His ministry of the proclamation of the word and the planting of churches parallels Jesus’ ministry. Normally, we think of typology from the Old Testament. David functioned as a window through which we see the distant figure of Jesus. In Acts, Paul works as a mirror, reflecting the face of Jesus. 

Seven times Jesus is said to be on the way to Jerusalem. Similarly, seven times in the book of Acts, Paul is described as on his way to Jerusalem. When they get to Jerusalem, both are welcomed by the brothers. Both go directly to the temple. Both are immediately opposed by the Sadducees. Both break bread. Both are seized. Both are slapped. Both go through four trials. Both are declared innocent three times. Both face death and come out alive through God’s power. Through the structure of Paul’s ministry, Luke helps us better understand and communicate the message of Acts.

The book of Acts is singing a song about how the proclamation of Jesus goes forward. And it is instrumentally and directly tied to the exposition of the biblical text. If you want to be like Paul and multiply churches to the ends of the earth, then you are going to do it by making messages that sing in tune with the message of the Bible.

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