Dynamite Sermon Illustrations

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As the story goes, we get our word dynamite from the Greek word dunamis.  Dunamis means power.  This can be a powerful illustration in a sermon where we read about the power of God in the Bible.

We can actually see the dynamite of God!  Powerful!  Right?  If you’re tracking with me I have some illustrations to offer using the power/dynamite replacement method.  Just take the places where the Greek word dunamis is used and replace it with dynamite.  Voila!

There are more verses, but I’m just taking a few from the NASB.  This would make JJ Walker proud!

  • Matthew 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the dynamite of God.
  • Matthew 24:30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with dynamite and great glory.
  • Mark 5:30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the dynamite proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”
  • Mark 6:14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous dynamites are at work in Him.”
  • Mark 9:1 And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with dynamite.”
  • Acts 1:8 but you will receive dynamite when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Acts 3:12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own dynamite or piety we had made him walk?
  • Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and dynamite, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.
  • Romans 15:19 in the dynamite of signs and wonders, in the dynamite of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of dynamite,
  • 1 Corinthians 15:24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and dynamite.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the dynamite of sin is the law;
  • Ephesians 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His dynamite toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
  • Romans 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with dynamite by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
  • Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal dynamite and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
  • Revelation 3:8 ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little dynamite, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
  • Revelation 19:1 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and dynamite belong to our God;

Awesome, huh?  Now I will let D.A. Carson tell you why you shouldn’t use them.

Our word dynamite is etymologically derived from the Greek word dunamis (dynamis, power, or even miracle.)  I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some such rendering of Romans 1:16 as this: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for every who believes”- often with a knowing tilt of the head, as if something profound or even esoteric has been uttered.  This is not just the old root fallacy revisited.  It is worse: it is an appeal to a kind of reverse etymology, the root fallacy compounded by anachronism.   Did Paul think of dynamite when he penned this word? And in any case, even to mention dynamite as a kind of analogy is singularly inappropriate.  Dynamite blows things up, tears things down, rips out rock, gouges holes, destroys things.  The power of God concerning which Paul speaks he often identifies with the power that raised Jesus from the dead (e.g. , Eph. 1:18-20); and as it operates in us, its goal is (eis soterian, “unto salvation,” Rom. 1:16 KJV),  aiming for the wholeness and perfection implicit in the consummation of our salvation. Quite apart from the semantic anachronism, therefore dynamite appears inadequate as a means of raising Jesus from the dead or as a means of conforming us to the likeness of Christ. Of course, what preachers are trying to do when they talk about dynamite is give some indication of the greatness of the power involved. Even so, Paul’s measure is not dynamite, but the empty tomb. Carson, D.A .. Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed.. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002. 33-34.

So the next time you hear this illustration used kindly email them this blog post.  This is actually the second option.  First, go talk to them with grace and understanding as a brother in Christ.

Bonus!

Carson offers one more illustration which I’m dying to hear someone use.

In exactly the same way, it is sheer semantic anachronism to note that in the text “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7) the Greek word behind “cheerful” is hilaron and conclude that what God really loves is a hilarious giver. Perhaps we should play a laugh-track record while the offering plate is being circulated. Ibid. 34.

Enjoy your weekend!

Mark

Tags: , , , ; Categories: Culture,Sermons,theology
The above article was posted on May 29, 2009 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dr. James Willingham June 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

When one first starts out in the Christian life and service, one makes big bloopers out of eagerness. Eventually, one begins to simmer down, but it takes a while. Enthusiasm has its place, albeit a restrained, sensible, well-behaved one. It takes time to mature a dedicated servant of the Lord. We can be thankful that He is so patient with us.

Dr. James Willingham’s last blog post..The Climax of the Reformation

2 Mark|HereIBlog June 1, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Dr. Willingham,

I agree that we should be thankful that the Lord is patient with us. In fact, I don’t think we realize just how thankful we should be.

I wasn’t making fun. Though I was having a little fun to make a point. It was D.A. Carsons comments about hilarious giving that gave me the idea. Also, it’s not just those starting out in preaching who’ve used the dynamite illustration.

As always, I appreciate you dropping by.

Mark

3 Dr. James Willingham June 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Dear Brother: Thought you would be interested to know that on 5/31 I preached the 10th anniversary service for my son in his pastorate. His sister was amazed to see her brother at a loss for words fo the first time in his life (he got all choked up at what the members of his church were saying and his wife wept and I think our 8 yr. old grandaughter might have gotten misty eyed). Three weeks ago I did not think I would get to peach that sermon as I had a heart attack and was in the hospital from the Sat. before mother’s day unti lthe Weds. after. Lot of people were praying. Now this Sat. 6/6 I am to preach an ordination for a pastor in the Sandy Creek Assn., following the 1816 Confession. Please pray that I might honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. James Willingham’s last blog post..The Climax of the Reformation

4 Mark|HereIBlog June 3, 2009 at 8:17 am

Dr. Willingham,

I will certainly pray for you!

5 Nathan Creitz June 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

That’s funny, I read the first part of this post and was about to go straight to the comments section and say, “We get our word ‘dynamite’ from the root, not the other way around…”

Thankfully, I slowed down long enough to see D.A. Carson’s name mentioned and was fortunate enough to read the rest of the post. I would’ve looked silly debating a point that you had already made :)

Thanks for this post. I think we need to be true to God’s word and people do a lot of silly things with their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Some just know enough to be dangerous.

Nathan Creitz’s last blog post..Checklist Christianity vs. Following Jesus

6 Mark|HereIBlog June 9, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Nathan,

Ha! That was the purpose to keep you reading or to realize how ridiculous some of those illustrations would be.

Thanks for stopping by.

7 GUNNY HARTMAN June 15, 2009 at 6:37 pm

D.A. Carson wrote: “I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some such rendering of Romans 1:16 as this: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for every who believes”- often with a knowing tilt of the head, as if something profound or even esoteric has been uttered.”

I LITERALLY giggled out loud when I read that. ;-)
.-= GUNNY HARTMAN´s last blog ..Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays. =-.

8 Mark|HereIBlog June 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Ha! Good. I’m sure that was the intent. Did you ever think that I was seriously offering “dynamite” illustrations? :)

9 Dr. James Willingham June 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Now I will give a dynamite illustration. Of course, dynamite is an anachronism as any one with a smattering of history should know. However, the idea of something being like dynamite (which I can remember as a child seeing my grandfather use it to blow a stump in the field – exciting), only in the case of the Gospel explosively creative, explosively good, deserves a comment. My grandfather who blew the stumps would have appreciated the gospel dynamite idea as the gospel blew up in hislife once, tearing out of an immoral, hateful, cursing, bitter lifestyle. I saw a home where my grandparents were threatening to murder one another with curses and weapons in hand, and the old dog going off the floor for Grabndpa’s throat.. All of that changed when Grandpa saw the Lord in his hospital room. He retunedhom crying to God for salvation. He began reading his Bible and praying three times a day. the cursing, bitterness, and threats of violence stopped; they ere replaced by the sounds of prayer and Bible reading, and Grandma was going around sayhing, “Well, I can forgive, but I can’t forget..” Later, qfter he died and I had preached his funeral, she said to me, “He asked me to forgive him,” and she had tears in her eyes. Now that is the dynamite of creation, of constructive, edifying Gospel love. Pshaw, I don’t mind using an example like that, and it sure is a dynamite example that brings tears to my eyes as I remember standing there in that kitchen watching the dog lunge off the floord and Grandpa knocked him down with the piece of stovewood that he was getting ready to brain Grandma with who was threatening to stab him with a butcher knife. I would live to preach their funerals many years later. My borther-in-law, also a preacher, never knew them the way they hd been. By the time he knew them they were like a couplf teenagers, laughing, ready to go to town. But I could remember before and after, and just like that dynamite blew that stump 20-30 feet in the air, the Gospel blew away all that evil and brought in a great change for the better. Gospel dynamite. I weep at the thought of the good the explosive love brought to such a miserable sharecropper’s home in the cotton fields of Arkansas, and I praise God for it. As a historian, I am not bothered in the slightest by using such an anachronism. However, we do need to use some wisdom and gentleness in our efforts.

10 Mmorrow February 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Hello brother,
I have read Carson’s book and agree on the idea of dynamite being the way to illustrate the power of the gospel. Problem…what then does illustrate the word in such a way that the people get a picture? How do you visualize power/

11 Mark Lamprecht March 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

Hi brother Mmorrow. I haven’t forgotten about you. I have a few ideas on answering your question. I hope to get them up soon in a new post. Hopefully, we can also get some input from others.

Thanks for stopping by!

12 Pastor David Buffaloe May 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I was looking for sermon illustrations when I ran across this blog. Interestingly, and in opposition to D.A. Carson, Dr Adrian Rogers often used the illustration of “Dunamis/ Dynamite”. From his site: “In the book of Romans, Paul uses another word for power in describing the Word of God. Turn to Romans 1:16.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…”

This time when the apostle Paul wrote “power,” he used the Greek word dunamis, the word we get dynamite from.

The dynamite of God is in this Book. It is powerful. I’ve seen it happen time after time…the “dunamis” of the Word comes into a person’s heart, and that person is powerfully transformed. It is “piercing” (verse 12), able to penetrate and scrutinize the innermost part of your personality.”

The blog makes it seem as if only “immature” servants and preachers would use this illustration. That’s incorrect.

Also Dr John MacArthur in a thought parallel to the passage in 2 Peter explains where we get this dunamis power writing that…

It is the Word of God that infuses us with power, but there’s nothing worse than feeling like an impotent Christian. In Acts 1:8 we read, “But ye shall receive power.” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, which means “miraculous power” or “dynamite.” Now someone might say that you ought to be exploding all over the world with this tremendous power. But you say to yourself, “Exploding! I don’t even fizzle. I feel like a dud.” Someone else might say that you ought to be out there winning people to Jesus Christ. But you say, “Are you kidding? Not me. I’m like Moses, I—I—I—I can’t talk” (cf. Exodus 3:10). Sometimes we get hung up with our impotence because we really don’t know the “power” available to us. Listen, the Word of God will infuse us with “power.” From my own life I’ve realized that the more I know about the Word of God, the less I fear any situation, because the Word is my resource.” (MacArthur, J., Jr. How to Study the Bible. John MacArthur’s Bible Studies. Chicago: Moody Press ).

Dr John MacArthur commenting on Acts 1:8 writes that because of this dunamis power…

All believers have in them spiritual dynamite for use of gifts, service, fellowship, and witness. They need to experience the release of that power in their lives through not grieving the Spirit by sin (see Ephesians 4:30-note), and being continually filled and controlled by the Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18-note). The latter takes place as believers yield moment by moment control of their lives to Him, and is the same as yielding their minds to the Word (see Colossians 3:16-note). (MacArthur, J: Acts 1-12; Acts 13-28 Moody Press)

William Barclay writes that dunamis…

“literally means power; it is the word from which dynamite comes. It can be used of any kind of extraordinary power. It can be used of the power of growth, of the powers of nature, of the power of a drug, of the power of a man’s genius. It always has the meaning of an effective power which does things and which any man can recognize.” (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)

To the preacher who has used the dunamis/dynamite illustration we can conclude that, though you may disagree, there are other well respected men who have used the same illustration.

13 Mark May 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Hi Pastor Buffaloe,

I appreciate you pointing out how others have used dunamis. If I understand correctly though, they are using dunamis as an illustration. They are not speaking to the etymology of the word as Carson points to. So, you’ve shown how others have used the word, but have not said whether or not Carson’s scholarship is incorrect.

My question: Is D.A. Carson correct in stating that these illustrations comment the “root fallacy compounded by anachronism”?

Caron’s proposal makes perfect sense in that dynamite was not around when, for example, Paul wrote Scripture. It just seems that it is not good practice to take our definition today and apply back to the Apostles as if that is what they meant. This does not mean that the illustration isn’t effective but is it accurate?

Today, many conservative Christians have complained about what is called contextualization. Yet, as I pause and consider the dunamis word usage, it almost seems worse than today’s contextualization. I wonder if it fits in a similar category?

I do appreciate you stopping by.

Mark

P.s. As I read my original words above I can see how one might take them as offering a bit of condemnation. Although serious, I was trying to have a bit of fun. I’ll think on it.

14 Scott A Gordon May 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Mark,

Carson is spot on! Rogers and MacArthur are my heroes, but that does not make them infallible :-D

15 Mark May 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Thanks, Scott.

I now feel vindicated!

:)

16 Rich February 23, 2011 at 1:45 am

You make a great point stating that God’s power builds and doesn’t destroy. (Unless He’s tearing down old foundations to build correct ones.) But I think Dunamis is still the correct way to describe God’s power. We created the word dynamite from the root dunamis not the other way around. So maybe we need to come up with a better word for dynamite.

Oh, and a laugh track during the offering plate is an awesome idea since God is never in a bad mood, we shouldn’t be either.

17 Tony August 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I found this blog by searching for the distinction of meanings power/authority to refresh my understanding of them before publishing my next post which touched on this subject.

If I’ve learned nothing for the half century I’ve lived it is that man is fallable. They are usually swept away be the current mood of the present age. The reformation heritage that we enjoy today is largely due the Herculean effort of Martin Luther, who put his life on the block. Much to his credit he is to be commended for courage uncharacteristic. and well beyond those of even courageous men. There is little secret however, that Hitler who killed over six million of them, drew an unhealthy dose of inspiration from Luther’s espoused views on the question of our Jewish Brothers where he succumbed the prevailing anti-Semitic views of his time.

This one thing I have learned, and am sure of. Scripture has a peculiar habit of interpreting scripture. God never simply told us things, he actually demonstrated everything he told to us in plain, show and tell fashion; just so we don’t go about stumbling over the meaning of words. We can see what he meant by what he did.

How often after an explosive storm like Katrina, you hear physicists, draw analysis with the power of that storm, to that of so many comparable megaton explosive grade hydrogen or atomic bombs by it’s sheer effect. Katrina is a monster storm compared to the storm that threatened the lives of the disciples and Jesus. Different source of dynamite power but the principle is the same; potentially lethal, and destructive dynamite power in play, nevertheless Jesus stood up and proceeded to manage that power by the word of his dynamite. God gave us dominion over nature including the dynamite forces of nature. It seem rather clear that he himself reserved the peculiar skill sets to manage them as well.

Fire emits light which is electromagnetic radiation. God said I am light—Literally, then he stepped back and proceeded demonstrate the point by radiating brighter in candledynamite than the sun itself. When he walked with Israel in the wilderness he stood a pillar of fire by night to watch them. That pillar of fire wasn’t unbalanced but more carefully orchestrated than any of the finest concerto performances of the greatest musician. I hope you don’t mean to imply that God in incapable of controlling something over which he gave man authority to control. He spoke out of his great fire on mount Sanai and wrote with great dexterity control by his dynamite, the ten suggestions carved out of stone by the finger of God with great control; Moses didn’t get scorched though he stood there in the presence. When he said he is the Almighty, he is all the known power in the entire universe. Since God is all that there is, then all things that is, are made of him, and without him there is nothing. He controls all, and left that dominion to us but then we got bussy parsing words.

18 Luis December 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

One thing I would say is that if explained correctly I don’t think it’s a problem. In fact, I read one of you say God doesn’t destroy. That’s not true and if you keep reading after 2Corinthians10:4 you will see that it’s referring to destroying the enemies strongholds not people. :) I just thought I would mention that. It seems that sometimes we can be so worried about small words that we fight over them. This isn’t the same as heresy (For example, teaching that God will make every christian a millionaire.)

19 Roger Peterson June 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Brother – The KJV translates dunamis as “virtue” in various places. The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Lexicon acknowledges no such use of meaning for the word. I have an interest in seeing if there is any connection to the word aretas (as in 2 Peter 1:5) “moral excellence, virtue, miraculous power, glory”. I found one on-line lexicon that used “virtue” as a meaning for dunamis, but I suspect that they were not so scholarly, but rather assumed the meaning from the KJV. Maybe there is no connection made from the meaning of the two words, only, perhaps in their application to life.

20 dr. james willingham November 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

We are so impressed with the idea of power in this generation, having so many examples of it in the past hundred years, that we tend to forget the clearly powerful force of gentle tenderness and patience, that such can accomplished much that is almost unbelieveable. I have seen such in that respect, too. So it does not bother me to switch the dunamis idea to a more soft and kindly way, the very opposite of the explosive nature so often stressed by power lovers.

21 Chris for Christ September 28, 2013 at 12:17 am

Depends on how you view dynamite. The prinicpal use of dynamite is to radically change its suroundings. It is only effective if it is released from its original state. As in dynamite still in the package is not being used the way it was created to be used. If you look at dynamite in that light it is not just a distructive force. And we did not get the dunamis from the product of dyamite. We got the word dynamite from the work and use of dunamis. So just because some people use it in a wrong way doesnt mean it is not a powerful illustration of Gods power. We named the most powerful thing of the time after a word that is used to discribe Gods power. And it has radically changed me and my life.
Forgive any typos i am on a tablet.

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