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Genesis is such a critical book!  I suspect it simply isn’t preached enough.  The rest of the Bible is built on the foundation of Genesis, so preaching it enough and preaching it well are very important.  Here are three mistakes to avoid, although many more could be added:

1. Atomistic Reading

This is where a text is snipped from the flow of the context and becomes a stand-alone.  Typically this leads to a Sunday School type of preaching that treats each narrative as complete in itself, and with its own “moral of the story.”  Cain and Abel has to flow out of Genesis 3 and into the two genealogies of chapters 4 and 5.  Abraham does not offer us a set of stand-alone tales, but a sequence of growing faith, obedience and connection with God.  Joseph’s brothers show consistency among snapshots, making them more than 11 faceless foils in the story of Joseph.  Be careful to study and preach each unit in context.

2. Moralistic Reading

This is where a text is snipped from the artery of life that is God’s involvement in specific history, turning the text into a tale with a moral, a lesson for the day, a suggestion on how we can live better.  So we should try to avoid infidelity like Joseph did, or not give away our wives like Abraham/Isaac did, or not get caught up in tempting conversations like Eve did.  But actually the goal is not our independent successful functioning: that was what the serpent was pushing for.  The goal is surely more God-centered than that.  Eve didn’t trust God’s Word and God’s character, but God himself works the resolution to the sin problem and invites us to trust Him and His Word.  Abraham was on a journey of faith as we are.  Joseph lived as if God were with him, even though he had very little indication that he was!

3. Impositional Reading

This is where a text is seen, but not heard.  It is where a text acts as a trigger to recall sermons heard and points previously stated.  The preacher reads the text and looks for a sermon, instead of studying the text and looking for God.  Impositional reading will always lead to superficial preaching.  Probe, question, examine, query, ponder, mine and wrestle with the text.  Do that with God in conversation and see if the preaching of Genesis suddenly becomes a spring of living water instead of stale old picture book fables.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Mark Drinnenberg

commented on Feb 15, 2013

Very good points, Peter. The horizontally-focused, man-centered preaching that is so popular today often (and sadly so) misses the riches to be mined, not only from Genesis, but from the whole counsel of God's Word. There is plenty just in the few passages you referenced to cause us to fall down and worship our God and thank Him for His immeasurable grace.

Nigel Foster

commented on Feb 15, 2013

Just been studying Genesis at college. I'm sure much of what you have written applies to all biblical text. I have been guilty of much impositional reading over the years. A slow, meditative and reverent sitting before the text hour after hour imbues the preaching of the Word with the Spirit that inspired it. Praise God for His grace!

John E Miller

commented on Feb 26, 2013

These are very testing considerations. They make me stop and think. When I compare this article with some of the fatuous nonsense that appears, I really wonder.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Mar 11, 2013

I would add to Bro. Mead's observations a fourth mistake: Non-Christological Reading: Luke 24:27 reminds us of a time when the risen Jesus was walking with two disciples along the Emmaus Road, "then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." When we fail to look for Christ in Genesis, we're making a mistake.

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