Recently I wrote an Open Letter to Andy Stanley concerning the virgin birth of Jesus Christ in response to comments he presented in a sermon series over Christmas. Brother Stanley responded with a direct link to his sermon series, “Who Needs Christmas”, in which I agreed to listen to and respond publicly on this ministry site with an honest evaluation of and response to his sermon series after listening to the sermons in their entirety.
I have had the opportunity to both listen to the audios and watch the videos of Brother Stanley’s sermon series in their entirety, and I will present my evaluation of and response to the series in this article.
Before I begin, I wanted to make a technical comment that Brother Stanley’s church website’s videos had issues loading on an iPad due to the fact that they are streamed using a Flash video player. If Brother Stanley’s church could offer an HTML5 video streaming option in the future, it would allow visitors on tablets to stream Brother Stanley’s videos without resorting to audio-only listening and be an excellent addition. I was able to successfully watch the videos on my Surface Book.
I also want to make the statement that my goal in this article is to offer a biblical, scholarly, respectful, loving response to Brother Stanley’s sermon series. My role as a seminary student and biblical scholar has always been to affirm and uphold the fundamental and foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, not to serve as one who seeks out methods to destructively criticize fellow ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As one who is entering into the biblical academic field of training the next generation of ministers in the doctrines of the Christian faith, my goal is always to lovingly teach ministers how to effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world in need of the Savior.
Brother Stanley’s Sermon Delivery Method
One aspect of Brother Stanley’s sermons that has received criticism, both in the past and during this latest sermon series, is Brother Stanley’s “preaching style” which I will refer to in this article as his sermon delivery method. I noticed throughout the entirety of the sermon series his use of the more contemporary, inductive approach to sermon delivery, versus the traditional, deductive approach to sermon delivery used in biblical exposition. This is not to be confused with deductive versus inductive methods of Bible study.
A deductive method of Bible study involves coming to the biblical text with a pre-conceived thesis-belief (such as “money is evil”), then searching the Scriptures to find a proof-text (generally out-of-context) to affirm one’s thesis-belief (such as using 1 Timothy 6:10 as a means to validate that “money is evil” when the passage in its context actually states “For the love of money is the root of all evil”).
Contrast this with the inductive method of Bible study which involves coming to the biblical text, reading the Bible on its terms, in its proper context, making general observations of a biblical passage, leading to solid exegesis and interpretation of the passage in its original context, concluding by deriving practical, modern-day applications from the biblical text. This is not what I am referring to when discussing deductive versus inductive methods of sermon delivery.
The inductive method of sermon delivery is more typical of modern, contemporary preaching in which the minister saves the main idea of the biblical text toward the end of his message (or in some cases, toward the end of his sermon series). The goal in inductive delivery of sermons is to keep the congregation actively listening as the sermon series continues to leave listeners on the edge of their seats and offers a little suspense to listeners, similar to story-telling.<note:Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, Third (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014).>
Contrast this with the traditional deductive method of sermon delivery that has been utilized through the centuries but has begun to wane in modern biblical exposition where the minister reads the text of Scripture, offers the main idea of the text (a summary of the biblical text’s interpretation in its original context), proceeds with offering the intent of the text (a summary of the biblical text’s application to a modern day audience), and continues with the unfolding of the sermon through the anatomy of the text (a biblical text’s outline of its interpretation) and the goal of the text (an outline of a biblical text’s modern-day application).<note:Michael D. Woods, Transformational Preaching: A Guide to Developing and Delivering Expository Sermons (Cumming, GA: Heartworks Publications, 2009).>
Brother Stanley’s use of a more modern, inductive method of sermon delivery, while keeping listeners on the edge of their seats and actively listening through the series, resulted in him dropping a couple of startling statements at the onset of his sermon series concerning the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (The comments made by Brother Stanley at the onset of his sermon series were accurately quoted in the CBN News article I referenced in my Open Letter to Brother Stanley, so my original defense of the Virgin Birth in that Open Letter remains biblically sound), although it took Brother Stanley until the third sermon in the series to offer additional context concerning his discussion on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (Brother Stanley does briefly touch on the virgin birth at the end of both the first and second sermons, but the discussion was brisk and not as detailed of a treatment as given in the third sermon, and both of those treatments came across a little weak in defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ). The interval between the initial comments made at the onset of the sermon series and the follow up context in the third sermon led listeners to initially question Brother Stanley’s affirmation of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and its importance as a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.
How Brother Stanley could have formed a stronger purpose statement for his sermon series at the onset of his series and avoided the critical backlash to his sermon series would have been something along the lines of the following:
Some of you who are listening to this sermon series may not fully understand or grasp the significance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ in terms of the Christmas event. In our third sermon in this series, I will examine the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, answer some of your questions you may be asking, and show you the significance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and why you and I need Christmas. Before I do that, however, allow me to take you on a journey through the history of the nation of Israel and show you why the world, and especially the nation of Israel, needed Christmas. While the nation of Israel did not always respond correctly to the promises made by God (and they even rebelled against God at times), God never forgot His promises to the nation of Israel, and He delivered the Messiah to the nation of Israel and to the world on His perfect timing.
One other side note I will make to listeners of Brother Stanley’s sermon series. I do recommend listeners watch Brother Stanley’s videos (in addition to listening to the audio-only versions of his sermon series) to determine when Brother Stanley is directly quoting Scripture in his sermon series. Brother Stanley does frequently quote Scripture throughout his sermon series (he uses the NIV translation), although at times he does not audibly state the reference since he is visually displaying the Scripture passage on a video screen. For those who are listening to the audio-only versions of his sermon series, being able to watch the videos and see the Scripture references are beneficial to follow along with the Scriptures he is directly quoting (and if he were to audibly include Scripture references in his sermons in the future, it would be an excellent addition for clarity for audio-only listeners).
Brother Stanley’s History of Israel
Brother Stanley’s first sermon in the series (“The World Did”) primarily takes listeners through the history of the nation of Israel, setting the background for the Christmas event. I have not heard a pastor survey the history of the nation of Israel during a sermon series on Christmas before, so I was intrigued by Brother Stanley’s utilization of the historical background of the nation of Israel and the Christmas event and listened attentively to his historical survey. (If one wishes to be overly technical, one could actually go back a little farther to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15 as the beginning of the background of the Christmas event, although Brother Stanley’s starting point with the nation of Israel as the historical background does suffice, and he would have likely needed a separate sermon and more technical of a discussion than needed should he have gone back to the Garden of Eden to begin the background to the Christmas event).
Overall, Brother Stanley’s tour through the history of Israel was a generally effective overview of the history of Israel and background to the Christmas event, especially considering how much information Brother Stanley was able to include in the time frame of his sermon. There were a few areas that I would have liked to have seen stronger. In his discussion of Esau and Jacob, he primarily touched on Jacob’s deception of usurping Esau’s blessing from Isaac (which is covered in Genesis 27), although Jacob did not fully steal the birthright from Esau, Esau did sell his birthright to Jacob (see Genesis 25:29-34). Additionally, God was responsible for guiding the Israelites over the Red Sea by parting the Red Sea for the Israelites (see Exodus 14:13-14) whereas Brother Stanley mainly touched on the Israelites crossing the Red Sea without including the miraculous guidance of God. Brother Stanley does touch on the Egyptians being cursed, other nations being cursed, and the Israelites’ rebellion against God. It could have been slightly stronger by including a reference to Egypt and other nations being cursed by God because the other nations violated the Abrahamic Covenant (Brother Stanley does touch directly on the Abrahamic Covenant in general, although applying it to Egypt and other nations’ treatment of the Israelites would have been an excellent addition, see Genesis 12:1-2 which was quoted by Brother Stanley, as well as see also Exodus 3:16-22 and Exodus 6:1-9).
Where Brother Stanley was effective in his treatment of the history of Israel was in his explanation at the end of the sermon concerning how God kept His promise to the nation of Israel. While the Israelites rebelled against God at times throughout the history of Israel, God always kept His promises to the nation of Israel (see 1 Kings 8:56), culminating in the promise of sending the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to earth during the Christmas event. This was effectively communicated at the conclusion of his sermon.
One area I would caution Brother Stanley that could have caused some additional controversy for Brother Stanley’s sermon was his referring to the book of Genesis as a “document” versus Scripture in general, then attempting to explain how the document of Genesis was folded into Jewish literature which eventually comprised the Bible. While Brother Stanley inductively concluded with Genesis being part of Scripture, his initial comments at the onset of this discussion could have led to another controversy of Brother Stanley sounding as if he were weakening the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. A more effective discussion on the subject would have been to inform listeners that because all Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for instruction in righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:16), we need to understand the Scriptural and historical context of the Christmas event beginning in Genesis in how Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. After reading other articles written by Brother Stanley concerning the inspiration of Scripture, I honestly believe that Brother Stanley affirms the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture and its profitableness for instruction in righteousness, although it is an area in which Brother Stanley could have more effectively communicated this to ensure listeners were not interpreting his sermon as being weak on his defense on the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.
Brother Stanley’s Discussion of Salvation
In Brother Stanley’s second sermon in the series (“God Did”), his discussion of the Christmas event mainly focuses on its application in terms of salvation. One Scripture passage quoted and expounded upon by Brother Stanley was Romans 5:8. Brother Stanley’s exposition of the verse is that Christ died for our sins while we were still sinning (I recommend readers listen to the sermon for the entire exposition from Brother Stanley). After examining this exposition with biblical research, this is an accurate exposition of the verse when examined in light of other commentators on Romans 5, with MacArthur affirming the exposition by his exegesis on the passage:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That sort of self-less, undeserved love is completely beyond human comprehension. Yet that is the love that the just and infinitely holy God had toward us even while we were yet sinners. The God who hates every sinful thought and every sinful deed nevertheless loves the sinners who think and do those things, even while they are still hopelessly enmeshed in their sin. Even when men openly hate God and do not have the least desire to give up their sin, they are still the objects of God’s redeeming love as long as they live.<note:John F. MacArthur, Jr., Romans, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1991), 285–86.>
While Brother Stanley’s exposition on Romans 5:8 was accurate, one portion of his sermon that could have been stronger and more effective was his discussion concerning the question “Why did Jesus have to die?”. Brother Stanley’s answers to this question were twofold: first, Jesus had to die in order for individuals to believe His (referring to Jesus) sayings, as without His dying, individuals would not have believed His Messianic claims; and second, because “God is the author of life. To dishonor the source of life is an expression of ingratitude deserving the forfeiture of life. Jesus death demonstrated the magnitude of our ingratitude. You cannot demonstrate love without a sacrifice.”<note:Stanley, “Who Needs Christmas”, Part 2 “God Did”.>
While His answers to the question on why Jesus had to die are not entirely inaccurate, (God did demonstrate His love toward us by Jesus Christ dying for us), the answer to the question is deeper. Hebrews 9:22(b) states “without shedding of blood is no remission” (the verse is speaking with regard to sin). God’s command to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden proclaims: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Roman 6:23 also states: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Why did Jesus have to die? It is not only because God demonstrated His love toward us with a sacrifice of sending His Son Jesus Christ to die (which is certainly true), but also because our very sins deserve the punishment of death. We deserve death, eternal separation from holy God, in order to atone for the sins we have committed. The shedding of blood and death is a requirement for the remission of and atonement for sins. Yet the beautiful event of Christmas points us to the beautiful event of Jesus Christ coming as the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29[b]). Jesus Christ had to die in order to be the substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. In order for God to be both righteous and merciful, Jesus Christ died on our behalf offed as a sacrifice through the grace of God. Grace is the intersection where the righteousness of God and the mercy of God intersect. This intersection takes place at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Brother Stanley does become stronger and more effective in his discussion of Jesus Christ dying for the sins of the world toward the end of his sermon during his invitation, and his invitation to salvation is effective and biblically accurate in terms of accepting Jesus Christ as the payment for one’s sins who places their faith in Jesus Christ. Including some of this discussion earlier during his discussion on the question “Why did Jesus have to die?” would have led to an even stronger invitation.
Brother Stanley’s Discussion on the Virgin Birth
In his third sermon in the series (“We Do”), Brother Stanley goes into a full-fledged discussion of the Christmas event itself, as well as begins to flesh out the context of his discussion concerning the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
Brother Stanley begins with a discussion concerning both the title (Christ) and the name (Jesus) of Jesus Christ. His comparison between the Old Testament title for Messiah and the New Testament title for Christ is accurate. The Old Testament title for Messiah, mashiah, is translated as Christos, Christ, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) in most instances, as well as it is the title used in reference to Jesus Christ as the Messiah in the New Testament. Both terms literally mean the “anointed one”, with the Greek term extending to being ascribed to the personal name of Jesus Christ as His Messianic title.<note:HALOT and BDAG.>
Brother Stanley also refers to the name of Jesus as a Latin translation for the Hebrew name Yeshua, comparing the name of Jesus to Joshua (including the Joshua of the Old Testament). He also mentions (in a humorous context I hope) that Christians are mispronouncing the name of Jesus in their prayers and Christmas carols. His comparison to the name of Jesus in Latin is partially accurate, although the Greek sheds some additional light on this discussion I would have liked to have seen in Brother Stanley’s discussion. The Latin name for Jesus in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Scriptures used by the Roman Catholic Church) is Jesu, and the Latin name for Joshua is Josue. The Greek term for both Jesus in the New Testament and Joshua in the Old Testament is Iēsous, which in the Old Testament is a translation of the Hebrew name yehoshua (Yeshua).<note:HALOT and BDAG.> Therefore, one can actually get close to our English name of Jesus even through a translation of the Greek name of Jesus (before one even examines the Latin name of Jesus), and while the Hebrew name of Jesus is indeed Yeshua, when examining His Hebrew name in light of its Greek translation, Christians should not fear that they are somehow mispronouncing the name of Jesus in their prayers and Christmas carols.
Now onto the heart of the discussion which concerns Brother Stanley and the virgin birth of Jesus Christ which has led to the controversy and criticism concerning Brother Stanley in the news. Overall, Brother Stanley does allude to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ as being an accurate, truthful event in his third sermon in the series. After listening to his entire sermon series, I honestly believe that Brother Stanley affirms the truthfulness of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ as a historical event and does not deny the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. With that said, Brother Stanley’s defense of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and especially its importance as a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith and its importance of the Christmas event, was weaker than I wished for it to be, and it could certainly have used some additional strengthening to more clearly communicate the importance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ with regard to the Christmas event and the Christian faith. The passages and discussion I originally outlined in my Open Letter would have provided a solid defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ Brother Stanley could have utilized in his third sermon, and I invite readers to refer to my Open Letter for my original discussion and defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
In his discussion of Isaiah 7:14, Brother Stanley refers to the Hebrew term for virgin as a young woman who may or may not necessarily be a virgin. The Hebrew term for virgin (almah) used in Isaiah 7:14, can refer to either a virgin or a young woman in general, therefore Hebrew lexicons would agree with Brother Stanley’s assessment of the Hebrew term for virgin.<note:HALOT and NIDOTTE.>
Where Brother Stanley should have taken this discussion farther in terms of his defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, however, is through an examination of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used during the time of Christ by Jews and later by early Christians) and Matthew’s quotation of the Septuagint’s translation of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23. The term for virgin used in the Septuagint in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew’s quotation in Matthew 1:23 is parthenos, which Greek lexicons are quick to distinguish this as specifically referring to a virgin (not merely a young woman), and some even include a discussion about the translator’s choice of parthenos for the meaning of virgin in the Septuagint (the Septuagint being in circulation prior to the event between the angel Gabriel and Joseph).<note:BDAG and NIDNTTE.> Therefore, the angel Gabriel, and even the translator of the Septuagint before this event occurred, rightfully translated Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin birth of Jesus Christ who would be “Emmanuel, God with us.”
Additionally, the same term for virgin is used in Luke 1:27, this time being in the accusative case versus the nominative case (the term is parthenon, used as an object of the preposition versus the subject in Matthew 1:23). The immediate context in Luke 1:28-38 clearly discusses the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and the supernatural event that is to occur with Mary. This parallel passage would have been an excellent defense on the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ that Brother Stanley could have incorporated into his sermon to strengthen his defense on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
Brother Stanley’s discussion of Jewish expectations of the Messiah coming from the lineage of David, as well as the Messiah primarily being a political Messiah, were generally accurate in terms of Jewish belief (from the research I conducted for this article). There are a few nuances within Jewish discussion concerning the Messiah that mention a Messiah that delivers the world from sin, as well as an eternally pre-existing Messiah, although by the time of first-century Jewish thinking, Jews primarily were looking for a political Messiah who would come from the lineage of David with the anointing of God. It would take greater in-depth research and would be beyond the scope of this article to flesh out the various nuances concerning Jewish expectations of the Messiah, although the nuances exist and finding a consensus among Jewish expectations of the Messiah involve in-depth research I discovered when researching for this article.
In terms of Brother Stanley’s reference to the concept of the divine joining with humans stemming from Greek mythology of the mythological Greek gods mating with humans, while this is the case in Greek mythology, there are actually parallels of human beings mating with “divine beings” (or what Christians would generally refer to as “angels”) in Old Testament Jewish thinking. Jewish thinking also, while may or may not have always been fully trinitarian in belief, did believe in a two-person Godhead consisting of an “Invisible Yahweh” (which Christians would refer to as God the Father) and a “Visible Yahweh” (which Christians would refer to as God the Son or Jesus Christ; this belief in Jewish thinking does not unseat their belief in monotheism as quoted in the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4; see Michael Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm or Supernatural, for a discussion on these two topics).
Brother Stanley was correct in stating that Matthew did not manufacture the story of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, as well as he was generally correct in his statement concerning first century Jews expecting a political Messiah from the lineage of David. With that said, including a discussion on the Septuagint and showing that by the time the translator of Isaiah 7:14 translated the passage, the translator felt a need to specify the term virgin in the passage, as well as the Angel Gabriel quoted the passage to Joseph referencing Mary as the fulfillment of the prophecy, would have added strength to his defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Additionally, a discussion of the parallel passage of Luke 1:27-38 would have added an additional strong defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ by comparing both Gospel accounts on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Lastly, the concept of the “divine” (in Christian’s case, “angels”) joining with humans, as well as a concept of a “Visible Yahweh”, were acceptable to Old Testament Jewish thinking that would have continued on into first century Jewish belief. Brother Stanley would not need to have communicated these concepts in the message and could have remained with the Septuagint and Luke discussions exclusively, although if Brother Stanley found a way to communicate these concepts in his defense on the virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, it certainly would have been an interesting addition to the discussion.
Brother Stanley also goes into a discussion concerning biblical marriage customs (which was a generally effective discussion, although for those interested in my discussion on biblical marriage customs can refer to my article on remarriage and the Bible). His final point in the sermon touches on Jesus going beyond forgiveness to Jesus delivering people from their sins and saving people from the power of their sins, offering them freedom from sin. He uses John 8:1-11 to illustrate this point, which was effectively communicated. He concludes his sermon series by stating that anyone who needs to be saved from their sins needs Christmas, which was effectively communicated and lines up with the conclusion I presented in my Open Letter.
Summary and Evaluation
After listening to Brother Stanley’s entire sermon series, “Who Needs Christmas”, I believe that Brother Stanley affirms the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ as a truthful doctrine and event. With that said, Brother Stanley’s defense of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, especially with regard to its importance as a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith, was weaker than I wished for it to be, and it could have been strengthened during his sermon in the areas I mentioned above. There were also a few additional areas of weakness in his sermon series I have lovingly and biblically mentioned above, as well as some areas of strength and effectiveness in his sermon series I have affirmed above.
My recommendations and evaluation for Brother Stanley and his sermon series are as follows:
First of all, I find it excellent that Brother Stanley wishes to engage in preaching apologetics and defending the Christian faith in his ministry, especially to unbelievers and the unchurched. It is an area of ministry I particularly believe he has been called by the Lord to engage in and pursue.
With that said, when preaching apologetics to unbelievers and the unchurched, Brother Stanley needs to ensure he has a rock-solid defense of the doctrines of the Christian faith he is defending to unbelievers and the unchurched, and present his defense in a way that shows his strength and firm footing in the doctrines of the Christian faith to unbelievers and the unchurched, as well as ensure his defense is not coming across weak to the Christians and evangelicals who are also listening to his sermons (as he is essentially preaching pre-evangelistically, evangelistically, and edifying at the same time, a momentous task to undertake!). The unbelievers and unchurched people I have personally encountered are bold and rather argumentative in their belief systems, and they expect Christians to show strength in their defense of the fundamental doctrines and beliefs of the Christian faith.
One area I particularly try to look for when engaging in unbelievers and the unchurched is what is the missing element or contradictory argument concerning either their belief system or their refutation of the Christian’s belief system. I was reading an online discussion of a group of unbelievers who could not accept the Christian’s belief of God as being both righteous and just. They could not mentally comprehend and accept such a belief. I responded that the missing element to their picture of belief was grace, coining the phrase which I have continued to use in other writing: “grace is the intersection where the righteousness of God and the mercy of God intersect”. I then proceeded to show them where this intersection takes place at the cross of Jesus Christ.
In terms of a contradictory argument concerning unbeliever’s belief systems, a contradictory argument I have witnessed from some atheists are that they deny the existence of God, yet in the same breath also proclaim hatred toward God. My response to such atheists is that they cannot hate God unless God truly exists. If one truly believes that a particular being is non-existent, therefore they cannot offer any form of feelings toward the non-existent being, whether a feeling of love or hatred. One cannot feel any feelings toward the non-existent being since the portrayal of feelings toward a being logically validates and assumes the existence of such a being. It is a question I now ask atheists when engaging in a discussion with them what feelings surface in their hearts and emotions when they think of the concept or hear the term “God”. Their answer to that question helps me determine whether their unbelief in God is intellectual (in which I can proceed with taking them through various evidences for the existence of God) or emotional (they harbor a hostility toward the Christian faith or a particular church or element of the Christian faith because of an event in their life, or a sin they wish to remain in, etc.).
Additionally, while I am a seminary student, and I have certainly not have had years of experience in biblical exposition and homiletics, and I am certainly not the expert when it comes to biblical exposition and hermeneutics, I also want to recommend three (or four) resources. The first one is Dr. Michael Woods’ book, Transformational Preaching. Dr. Woods’ work on expository preaching is simpler than the more in-depth and academic volumes from Dr. Jerry Vines (Power in the Pulpit) and Dr. Haddon Robinson (Biblical Preaching). While both of the in-depth and academic volumes are excellent reads and classics in the field of homiletics, Dr. Woods’ work transformed my life, and I would not be as effective of a biblical expositor and communicator I am today if it were not for the principles I learned in Dr. Woods’ work. He reminds biblical expositors that our goal in biblical exposition is not merely motivational speaking, but our goal is to transform lives and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to communicate the truth of the Word of God to the world. I have also had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Woods’ teaching in Bible college (and I wish to sit again under Dr. Woods’ teaching for another course on biblical communication in my lifetime), and for those have the opportunity to sit under Dr. Woods’ teaching at some point (Dr. Woods is in Atlanta), it will be a blessing and will be life-transforming I can promise.
I also want to recommend H.B. Charles’ book On Preaching. I have read that Brother Stanley has received criticism from those who have stated that he does not utilize notes in his preaching. While I personally would utilize notes in any preaching setting I participate in due to the fact that I have not had years of weekly experience of homiletical delivery to prepare myself for notes-free preaching, H.B. Charles effectively utilizes notes-free preaching in his sermons, and his messages come across as extraordinarily effective in their delivery. This is due to H.B. Charles marinating himself in his study of the Scripture and the message and allowing it to shine forth in his preaching. H.B. Charles’ book offers some solid, practical advice for any biblical expositor to read, especially in how to sharpen one’s effectiveness in notes-free preaching, and his warm, conversational, practical tone throughout the work reads as though I went over to his family’s home and sat around a table dining on fried chicken while enjoying the wisdom this brother in the Lord presented. Notes-free preaching can be effective when implemented with a solidly biblical strategy, and H.B. Charles’ discussion on notes-free preaching, as well as the rest of his book in general, was a blessing to my soul.
Lastly, I want to recommend Dr. Michael Heiser’s book on The Unseen Realm, as well as its abridged edition Supernatural (one may wish to start with Supernatural and gradually build into The Unseen Realm as his discussions are deep, challenging, and exhaustive on the subjects he presents). While I do not agree with all of the conclusions presented in Dr. Heiser‘s two books, his discussion on the unseen realm, the supernatural, and how it fits into Jewish thinking and into Jesus as the Messiah is an interesting discussion, one that will seriously challenge pastors and Christians and force Christians to fully evaluate hermeneutics (as it did for me) and shed some light on Jewish thinking of the Scriptures which leads to a solid apologetic for helping Jewish people come to a saving relationship in the Messiah. While his books had their own set of weaknesses in a few areas, the areas in which he specializes in his research show the most strength, and many (although I would not say all) of his interpretations line up and connect very well with Scripture.
I want to thank everyone for reading this (rather lengthy and “journal article format”) evaluation of Brother Stanley’s sermon series “Who Needs Christmas”, and I especially want to thank Brother Stanley and North Point Ministries for offering me the ability to listen to, watch, and publicly respond to his sermon series in response to my Open Letter. Again, my goal in this article and response is to provide a loving, biblical, defense of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and Brother Stanley’s sermon series, and I pray that the Lord will use this article not as a destructive criticism of Brother Stanley and his sermon series but as a means to strengthen his effectiveness of defending the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith in his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.