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The following question was posed to our Ministry Communication Skills class. My response follows the question. In the question, Adam refers to Peter Adam the author of one of our texts. In the footnote you'll find the complete info.

Adam seems to distinguish between the spoken (past tense) message of God and the written and preserved (present tense) message. Is this distinction helpful for Christian communicators? Explain why or why not. If the distinction was not as clearly articulated, that is, if one viewed the written and codified words of God as his (current) speech to us, would this make a difference? Is this something with which Adam would agree or disagree?

Adam’s distinction is helpful. Some things were strictly for the culture or people of that time; i.e. the Jewish dietary codes, codes for temple worship. Some were given with the initial listeners/readers in mind, but are also a living word for us today.

John 1 exemplifies both the past and present tense of the Word. He was “In the beginning…Through him all things were made” (John 1:1, 3). He was instrumental in creation being spoken into being. That same Word is also present tense in his incarnation and living with humankind. Today he still speaks to us as the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding of the written Word.

The difference between the past and present message is crucial otherwise, our faith would look like that of the Judaizers Paul dealt with so severely. Adam would completely disagree with those who would not differentiate between them because Christianity would be just another Jewish cult.

Martin Luther referred to the scriptures as the manger that cradled Jesus. The whole purpose of God’s Word was to point to God’s son. That manger consists of wood from which it was made and straw for cushioning and warmth. Jesus is there too. The wood and straw are important support structures for the baby, but it is really all about the baby, the Lord Jesus. Some parts of scripture are like wood or straw: the Levitical codes, some of the stories in Judges, we would not base our lives today on the wood or straw, as helpful as some of it may be. We do base our lives however on faith in Jesus Christ. [1]

“The first great theological foundation for preaching, then, is that God has spoken…The second great foundation for preaching is that It is written.[2] He still speaks.

[1] Rev. Ted Asta, “Lutheran Interpretation of Scripture,’ Rooted for Life: Nurturing Journeys of Faith, New England Synod Workshop Event 2005, 15 October 2005.

[2] Peter Adam, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching (Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 1996), 25, 27.

So, what do you think? How would your respond to God's speaking being past or present? Is there a difference?

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