Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Some books are pretty easy to peg by their titles. This is the case with Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer and published by Crossway.  Nearly all interested readers of this book will either be preachers in the pulpit or preachers in training. There is a place for church officers and leaders and Sunday school teachers to learn more about what to expect of and how to evaluate preachers, and perhaps that would be a good topic for another book. But this is a specialized book for the vital few who work from behind a pulpit.

I have been seriously collecting books on preaching for the past 2 years, but had also collected books on the topic many years ago. There have been years in my life where I preached almost every Sunday (the past two years in particular) and years where I hardly preached a sermon at all. But it is only in the past two years that I have had an increasing interest and desire to study preaching and other aspects of Christian ministry.

For me, the revival of interest began with a change in our church that left me as the designated preacher. Then I reread John Stott’s book Between Two Worlds. Standing up in front of a group of people with a studied and prepared Bible text and a sheaf of notes and outlines and talking was no problem for me. Preaching and pastoring were (are) big problems. Preaching bears some resemblance to what I do in my classroom teaching job, but it is not the same. Preparing sermons bears some resemblance to the Biblical and devotional studies I do, but it is not the same.  Reading and studying the Bible bears some resemblance to teaching American history, but they are not the same.

Every year now, I try to read several life-changing books on preaching and ministry. The preacher needs a conversion experience story in his life. He needs a Damascus Road encounter with Jesus Christ. And he needs such every week, every day, and on every occasion where he faces the task of standing in a pulpit declaring to a hungry gathering that he is portraying (imperfectly) the message and example of Jesus Christ.
Preaching: A Biblical Theology (henceforth simply called Preaching) is a good and useful book for preachers–both current and future.

Here are several hints as to its worth: First, it contains a foreword by John Piper, who is one of the best popularizes of sound Biblical theology in our day. Jason Meyer has taken Piper’s place at Bethlehem Baptist Church since Piper has retired. Meyer better know something about preaching!

Second, there is an appendix to this book that is called “A Crash Course on Preaching Books Available Today.” I have lots to learn, but I do know a thing or two about who to learn from. Meyer cites and endorses such men as Lloyd-Jones and Stott, as well as some of the older standard works on preaching by John Broadus, Haddon Robinson, and William Perkins. I often begin a book by skimming the bibliography, the book recommendations, and the footnotes. This one is a winner by that standard.

Third, there are quite a few chapters in this book devoted to expository preaching. The contrast is made between expository preaching and topical preaching. Perhaps more needs to be said about how expository preaching is done. Even a topic can be preached in an expository manner, and it is easy to preach through a book of the Bible and create topic oriented sermons. In general, however, an emphasis on expository preaching is always welcome.

The largest section of this book is a survey of the whole Bible from the angle of preaching. Meyer suggests that the reader can focus on the first and third sections of the book for some big pictures discussions on preaching.  The first section focuses on the “what,” “how,” and the importance of seeing the story structure of Scripture.

Meyer states the thesis for the whole book: “…the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word.” The triad of stewarding, heralding, and encountering recurs throughout the book. Those three words are the book. A steward is someone who is entrusted with a task, a property, a valued thing. God has entrusted the Bible steward with His word. A herald is one who proclaims a message. As Meyer notes, a herald goes into territory ahead of an advancing army announcing surrender terms. He speaks on behalf of a king and offers the choice of surrender or destruction to the king’s enemies. The result should be an encounter. The hearers hear the herald and recognize the voice of the king.

The last section of the book includes a lengthy defense of expository preaching. I know from my own background that it was eye-opening when I first heard and realized that the Bible could and should be taught verse-by-verse. In expository preaching, the preacher is not only taking the hearers through a Bible passage; he is showing them how they should read the Bible. The Bible does not consist of random fortune cookie sayings that can be tweaked or read in such a way as to apply direction and advice, usually confirming what we already wanted to think. The Bible is a context, a whole world, a complete story, and the use of it should reflect that.

The middle section of the book is a lengthy Biblical survey of the pattern of stewarding, heralding, and encountering. Although Meyer says that a reader can skip that section, the book becomes only a helpful reference work if that section is skipped. From the Garden to the New Testament pastorate, the role of the steward and herald is described in a series of models from the Bible. In every case, there is the faithful steward and herald in contrast with the false or unfaithful one.

If the pastor needs to teach the whole counsel of God and the Bible in its totality, it makes sense that the work as a whole models and molds the role of the steward and herald. Preaching is a high risk job. The church today, as in all times, is not really threatened by the false philosophies, religions, and worldviews of the secular, God-hating, or God-rejecting world. The church is threatened from within. False congregations grow out of false preaching. The models of false prophets, false teachers, deceivers, and liars is all there in Scripture. But, there are those who were and are found faithful.

Meyer’s book will appeal to a small audience. Those few who hear and heed its message, or the message of the good books recommended and cited in this work, will impact greater numbers who will in turn impact the world.

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