And the hardest text to preach is…

by Jesse Johnson

This week I attended the Expositor’s Summit at Southern Seminary. It’s a conference for pastors who love expository preaching, and the messages have been very powerful. John MacArthur preached on parables, HB Charles on the doxology at the end of Ephesians 3, and Al Mohler on Genesis 22 (in the next few days, the audio will be posted here).

There was also a panel discussion where each of the speakers was asked what the hardest passage of scripture is that they have ever preaching. Here is what they said:

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John MacArthur identified three. He mentioned how difficult it was to prepare his sermon on the table of nations (Gen 10; I actually was there when he preached that message). He also said how hard it was to preach Zechariah verse-by-verse (the series is here, and my favorite of those messages is this one, on chapter 12).

But I was surprised to hear MacArthur say that his series through 1 John was particularly hard on him spiritually. He said that because John was so black-white, is-isn’t, will-won’t, that he found himself trying to soften 1 John’s edges by filling out his messages with Paul’s writings. The result though was that he often had a knot in his stomach, feeling like he was somehow being less than faithful to the full weight of what John had intended. I’d never heard MacArthur say anything like that before.

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HB Charles said that the most difficult passage he ever preached was the war in Daniel 11. He said his intent was to only preach the first six chapters of Daniel, but one of his elders encouraged him to finish the book, and he joked that the book almost finished him. He said Daniel 11 was so complicated that he did his best to sort out the battle, and then simply declared to his congregation that the point is: GOD WINS, and then he just left it there (if anyone knows where to find that message, let m know in the comment thread).

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Al Mohler said that for him, the hardest passages to preach are the Psalms, because the emotion and suffering in the Psalter is so intense and corporate that it is outside the experience of most American Christians. In other words, the suffering he has experienced in his life does not match the pathos of Psalms. But Mohler did add that the increase in persecution in the world is going to have the effect of making the true emotions of the Psalms more relatable to contemporary Christians. While the Psalms may have been difficult before, they likely won’t stay that way for long.

[An interesting side-note: Mohler said that the increase in persecution in the world has made him more strongly premillennial than ever].

What about you? If you preach, what has been the most difficult passage for you to exposit for your people? Let us know below:


Über Jesaja 66:2

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