Rhetoric & Homiletics: The Use Of The “Defeasible” In Exposition . . . .

weeds defeasible  If you are not familiar with Steven Smith, who pastors in Little Rock, Arkansas, this would be a good opportunity to listen to him.  He really is one of the best.  I am always reminded how different good-to-great preachers are, yet they are alike in one respect — they work at being effective!

In this sermon, #1- Steven Smith exemplifies how TO APPROACH a sermon WITH your audience.  He also illustrates #2 – the nature of “feasible” and “defeasible” sermonic content (I may be getting into the “weeds” with some.).

This video clip should help.

FIRST, as Steven Smith explains to his audience how he is going to approach the passage, he is also disclosing his understanding of how to handle different kinds of Scriptural material.

In this clip, Smith is not only examining the content of the passage, but his approach to the passage.  Technically, his approach to the passage is not expository — yet it is.  While “his approach” is not part of the content or the context of the passage (that is, what he is saying is not specifically found stated in the passage), Smith is still “exposing” to the audience the nature of the passage.  He is also “exposing” what Jesus was attempting to do, which is also unstated, but is still fairly and rightfully part of biblical exposition!

Transcript With Identifiers That Categories The Flow

What Jesus Is trying to do: 

and this is exactly what Jesus is trying to do . . . . he’s trying to disassociate in their minds food as something that was just given to them as individual sustenance — to sustain their lives and food that is given to them from God
so in john chapter 6 verses 22 all the way down to verse 59 . . . . we have one of the most daunting passages in all the bible Jesus is unpacking what it means that he is the bread of life — he’s the food
What is the nature of this passage:
and a question comes when you have such a large passive scripture how are we going to structure this time how are we going to structure the sermon how are we going to think about this passage of scripture
√  it’s not a story  — that would be natural you could talk about the different scenes inside the story it moves from the setting to the scene one and the scene two and these type of things
√  if it were a letter an epistle like . . . . galatians ephesians philippians colossians . . .  you would look at the
argument the way that the apostle paul is structuring an argument inside there but it’s not that
√  it’s it’s a conversation so the structure is is that they ask Jesus this question
Now the conversation:
here’s the question they asked jesus — look at verse 25
when they found him on the other side of the sea they said to him rabbi when did
you come here
Now some passage context:
so remember  . . . Jesus snuck away to the mountains the disciples took the boat
the previous context tells us they saw the disciples leave the boat they didn’t see jesus get into the boat because jesus got there by walking on the water
so they asked him when did you get here
Personal observation:
It would be a better question a funnier question if they would ask him how did you get here and he could have said you know I walked but they didn’t ask him that . . . they said when did you get here
Back to the nature of the passage and the actual conversation:  
we learned from verse 59 that actually they’re in the synagogue
when all this conversation is
taking place and they’re still pursuing him to think about this
and so it’s a conversation
he responds back twice
it says . . . he says to them  . . . “He said to them”
and then the jews there in the synagogue . . . . the jewish leaders they confront him so twice they say back to him
so it’s a conversation of back and forth — verses 22-59
What Jesus is doing in the passage, in this conversation:
but Jesus is controlling this conversation
and in controlling the conversation he drives it back to four themes
as you read this a few times you realize these four themes become buoyant they keep coming up to the surface
four things Jesus is driving them back to
Now the content setting up the four points:
so let’s talk about the four themes it’s not about the food it’s not about the bread then what it’s about it’s about these four themes here’s the first one if you want to write these down the first theme that jesus is talking about it’s not about the bread here’s what it’s about
First of all jesus wants them to understand that he came from heaven — Jesus was sent from heaven
As I state  . . . . some of Smith’s “exposition” is not about the actual content of the passage, but . . . .
1 – WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE PASSAGE
It is a conversation, not a story or a letter.
2 – WHAT JESUS IS DOING
He is controlling the conversation.
He is driving these ideas with those who followed Him
He wants them to understand that He came from heaven
Neither “1 or 2” is found stated in the passage.
The passage does not state . . . . “Then Jesus engaged in a conversation with those who followed . . . .”
The passage does not state . . . . “Jesus was controlling the conversation, and as Jesus sought to drive the first truth, which is not about the food . . . .”

Nevertheless . . .

Smith is “exposing” the nature of the passage (as well as teaching those listening that there are different kinds of passages, and different ways to work with those passages!).
Smith is “exposing” what Jesus was attempting to do, which is also unstated, but is still rightfully part of biblical exposition!
SECOND, as Steven Smith “exposes” the biblical truths of the passage, he also illustrates the nature of “feasible” and “defeasible” content and “argument” when he says that Jesus was controlling the conversation as he sought to drive these ideas — not that I disagree!
Nevertheless, there is a potential danger in stating “what Jesus was attempting to do” because Jesus may not have been attempting to do this-or-that.  Such “exposition” does not come from the text but is “presumptive,” “conjecture,” “interpretive, “speculative,” “probable,” “plausible,” “a legitimate or illegitimate inference.”
If it is an “accurate inference,” it is rightfully and valuably part of the biblical exposition.  It is not that I disagree with Steven Smith’s statement.  In fact, I believe it to be accurate, part of exposition, and valuable.
“Presumptive,” “conjecture,” “interpretive, “speculative,” “inferences” are part of any and all sermons, though not always clearly identified —  nor understood.  Sermons contain many “feasible” and/or “defeasible” comments and arguments.  That is the nature of communication and biblical exposition.
Identifying, and therefore understanding the nature of such content,  . . . . .
Cautions: The failure to recognize that we have stepped outside of the text’s actual words leaves one open to making potentially inaccurate statements.   That does not mean such statements are not part of legitimate exposition.
Such comments about this-or-that passage may (or may not) be accurate and expository.  Such comments are naturally part of sermonic exposition . . . . i.e.
* “Peter is / the disciples are confused.”
* “Jesus is going to shut the mouth of the religious leaders by saying . . . .”
* “The disciples would be surprised that when they return, they find Jesus talking to this woman.”
* “Paul, who was Saul, is going to shame those who have gone after these false teachers, and therefore he says . . . .”
* “I think what Jesus is doing here is that He is . . . .
* et al.
Facilitates: Identifying and understanding such “feasible” or “defeasible” comments / “arguments” aids in developing the sermonic content.  What Steven Smith said promotes a proper understanding of the passage.  Such content is expository and valuable
Preachers/teachers can learn from this example as they themselves expose the biblical truths of a passage.
Think about some of these kinds of statements in sermon preparation:
* What Jesus is doing here is . . .
* When Jesus says that, He knows that they will think . . .
* Jesus decides to talk to His disciples before going into Jerusalem for His last time on Passover because . . . .
* When you hear the name “Saul,” as a new believer, your thoughts are . . . .
* David was skeptical, but was willing to listen to Jonathan, his forever friend, and . . . .
* Esther thought that she could avoid this crisis by . . . .
* When Samson was sitting in prison, he was thinking about how he could still be useful, and when . . . .
* Most of us would might not ask that question, but Peter never has any reluctance.
* They asked Jesus “when,” not “how,” because . . . .
Such statements are helpful, in fact, valuable in expository preaching.  They give clarity, reality, and even precision in understanding a passage; they are a legitimate part of exposition.


“Feasible”:  It is considered probable by most listeners.
“Defeasible”: It can be argued or questioned.  Some statements can be argued, and will be by some listeners.

2 thoughts on “Rhetoric & Homiletics: The Use Of The “Defeasible” In Exposition . . . .

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