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July 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 3 · pp. 98–100 

The Preaching Lab

John Regehr

Again the realization has come to me that the preacher cannot remain detached from the Word he proclaims if he wishes to be effective in his ministry.

With dismay and remorse I recall preparing sermons to “hit” at certain problems—and at people too.

Today I believe I am somewhat more sensitive and pastoral. I often find the text to speak a) to issues which trouble the church and cause me concern, and b) to people whose hurt I share, or regarding whom I suffer pain.

Yet I cannot prepare a sermon with these issues and people in mind and not come under the judgment of the Word myself.


A young man who had a dynamic testimony and a magnetic zeal for Jesus Christ just a few months ago, has gotten himself tangled up, and is messing up his life. His values have shifted. True, the shift has not set (as in concrete), and he looks wistfully at what he might lose if he allows it to set.

In my preparation of Sunday School questions I came across a text which speaks forcefully to this young man, and to others like him. I felt a constraint to preach from that text. I could feel myself getting warmed up to “hitting” at an issue—perhaps at people too.

Then I did what I have tended to do of late—I looked at the text in its larger setting. The discovery: when I am too narrow in my selection of a text, I tend to use it to strike at people who, in my estimation, need it. When, however, I enlarge the text, I find myself very personally and directly addressed. Therefore, I stand in judgment under the Word alongside the one for whom I had selected the text.

The Original Text Selection: 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Even though the major portion of the text is good news, and speaks of the very intimate relationship which God wants to have with his people, his family, the mood is imperative. The possibility for a blistering harangue is just outside the door, waiting to slip in.

The Enlarged Text Selection: 2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1

The first part of the chapter is a self-portrait of Paul. If I do not wish to identify with those who are “mismated,” then I should be able to identify with one who is yoked to Christ. I want to identify with Paul, and I do. At the same time I join him in saying “not that I have already attained!” The Word addresses itself to me and brings to light my service and dedication. I, too, stand in judgment.

The entire chapter now falls into two parts. It describes one who serves Christ with entire devotion, and it addresses itself to those who do not. Thus the text speaks to the entire congregation. No one group can derive enjoyment from the fact that the sermon lashes out at another group. {99}


Text: 2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1

Introduction; It is a tragedy when a Christian life is being messed up.

A. Living for the Purpose for Which Christ Died (6:1-10)

  1. We have a Sense of Urgency. (vs. 1,2)
    1. We are Working with Him,
      • Sharing His cross.
    2. We Suffer with him when grace remains ineffective.
      • Not only the rejection of grace is sin, but receiving it without being changed.
    3. We keep entreating others.
      • Coming alongside to say that the time is now.
  2. We Practice an Intense Self-discipline. (vs. 3-10)
    1. We avoid putting obstacles in people’s way. (3a)
    2. We do not allow the ministry to be ill-spoken of. (vs. 3b-4a)
      • There is to be no discrepancy between word and deed.
      • A clear servant image is to be maintained.
    3. We make our manner of life such that in every situation it is a commendation: (4b-10)
      • In catastrophic circumstances, (4b)
      • In persecutions and mob uprisings, (5a)
      • In sacrificial service, (5b)
      • In personal holiness, (6-7)
      • In personal relationships with an ungrateful and imperfect church. (8-10)
  3. The urgency keeps the hardship, opposition, and misunderstanding from causing us to become muted.

B. The Other Alternative for the Christian: Living for the Goals for Which the World Lives (6:14-18)

  1. We can become mismated.
    1. The image: being yoked together,
      • i.e., Pulling toward the same goals, sharing life’s values.
    2. The primary reference in Rabbinic writings is to marriage and to teaching partners.
    3. What are the possibilities of such an arrangement?
      • We could insist on maintaining our Christian goals, or
      • He could insist on his non-Christian goals. (In each case you might suggest the outcome of the relationship.)
    4. The danger exists in very ordinary things.
      (like a movie, a date, a summer job)
    5. The danger is very real in bigger things.
      (in marriage, in education, in government, in the legal system, in labor unions, teachers’ societies, business partnerships, professional societies, assignments on the job)
      (Describe real-life situations in each or some of the above.){100}
  2. Probing Questions Keep Haunting Us. (vs. 14b-16a)
    1. What point of agreement is there between utter opposites?
    2. What intimate fellowship can there be between light and darkness?
    3. What harmony can exist between arch enemies?
    4. What common ground can there be between the Christian and the non-Christian?
    5. How can idols and God share the same temple?
      (Can we still shrug off God’s probing? “Come on, it’s not so serious, God; what do you think this is? You treat one match burning as though it were a forest fire. Okay, so it’s a bonfire! Alright, alright, so it’s a big bonfire. You needn’t make such a fuss.”)
  3. But the Probing Questions Persist and With Them Comes God’s Radical Requirement. (v. 17)
    1. Come out!
      • Once for all, make a decision; set the record straight.
    2. Be separate!
      • Once for all, tear yourself away, and establish a distance.
    3. Stop touching the unclean thing!
      • No fondling of things you said “no” to!
      • No whining about the cost of letting go!
      • No caressing of the things you might have had!
      • Stop turning around and touching again, lovingly, the things you have left behind!
  4. What an Incentive! (vs. 16b, 18)
    1. God will relate to us as his people.
      • This guarantees nearness, possession and powerful intervention.
    2. More than that, we shall be his children.
      • He will be a caring father and we will have open access to him.
      • He will make possible an investment of life that makes life rich and fulfilling.
    3. Do you need more? or will you prefer God at a distance and be yoked with one who is against him?


  1. Back to Verses 11-13
    • There is a rift between those who live for the purpose for which Christ died and those who live for the goals for which the world lives.
  2. The plea to bridge the gap (7:1)
    • What have you got to lose?
    • What have you got to gain?
    (Read again verses 16b-18)

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