Book Review – The Supremacy of God in Preaching

41aW95Yh5uL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_[No…I’m not reading a book a day.  I have been very lax on posting reviews, so while the wifey is out of town, I’m trying to catch up…]

Cards on the table: I’m a Piper-Head.  He was so instrumental in my coming to faith…so helpful, so powerful…I could go on.  So naturally, I absorbed The Supremacy of God in Preaching.

First written in 1990, when I had a sweet mullet and used to wear argyle socks, it was revised in 2004.  Piper comes out swinging right from the [Revised] Preface – “Preaching is worshiping God over the Word of God – the text of Scripture with explanation and exultation…this includes understanding with the mind and feeling in the heart.” [10].  You can guess how nicely that will set up a huge Piperian wordfest – and it does.

In the [Original] Preface, Piper starts by dropping “People are starving for the greatness of God.  But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure.” [13] No matter what the trouble is, this “vision of a great God is the linchpin in the life of the church, both in pastoral care and missionary outreach…the living out of a God-bosotted [See…I told you…] life and worldview.” [15] This sets the foundation for the rest of the book.

Piper divides the book up into two main parts – Why God Should be Supreme in Preaching and How to Make God Supreme in Preaching.

Part 1 he further sub-divides into the Goal, Ground, Gift, and Gravity of Preaching.  The goal of preaching is the glory of God.  Do people take away from our worship services, and particularly our sermons a sense of the glory of God?  He quotes Mather “The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher is to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men.” [25]. Preachers – this is our job – proclaim the glory of the glorious God.

This isn’t possible without the ground of preaching, which is the cross of Christ.  “Preaching is the heralding of the good news by a messenger sent by God.”  This is essential, for without the cross there is no solution to the fundamental problem of how sinful humans can be reconciled to a perfect, glorious God? Quoting Sproul “Man-centered humans are amazed that God should withhold life and joy from his creatures. But the God-centered Bible is amazed that God should withhold judgment from sinners.” [34].  “It horribly skews the meaning of the cross when contemporary prophets of self-esteem say the the cross is a witness to my infinite worth, since God was willing to pay such a hight prices to get me.”  [Todd White, anyone?]. Piper writes “What should shock us is that we have brought such contempt upon the worth of God that the very death of his Son is required to vindicate that worth. The cross witnesses to the inline worth of God and the infinite outrage of sin.” [36].

The gift or preaching is none other than the power of the Holy Spirit – we are utterly dependent on it.  “Without it, nothing of abiding value will be achieved no matter how many people may admire of coney or enjoy our illustrations or learn from our doctrine.” [42]. The Spirit’s Word is the Bible – we preach the Word…all of it. [Said the Preacher who just finished preaching Hosea. Yikes!].  Piper offers a few practical steps of how to rely on the power of the HS – I admit to the Lord that without Him I can do nothing and therefore pray for help.  I trust and act in the confidence that God will fulfill His Word and then thank God when it’s over for sustaining me. [47-49]

The gravity and gladness of preaching includes both the weight of compassion for the lost, and also a genuine love for his people that leads to joy in the ministry of the Word.  Piper, being Piper, expounds on joy – “If you are indifferent to your joy in ministry, you are indifferent to an essential element of love. And if you try to abandon your joy in the ministry of the Word, you strive against God and your people.” [56!] “The gladness of preaching is biblically essential if we would love men and glorify God!” [57]  We should not go too far with this, as Piper cautions that “laughter seems to have replaced repentance as the goal of many preachers, and is seems to be the stock of many preachers that they must say something cute or clever or funny”. [59]. Absolutely.  This is always a real and present pressure and temptation.  Yet we must hold both the gravity and gladness in balance and tension.  It goes back to God’s Word and the power of the gospel – “preaching is part of God’s security power. He calls effectually by the Word and he keeps effectually by the Word.  Heaven and Hell are at stake every Sunday morning.” [62].  Since this is so vital, [and I need them to sink in] he gives a few practical steps:

  1. Strive for practical, earnest, glad-hearted holiness in every area of your life.
  2. Make your life – especially the life of your study – a life of constant communion with God in prayer.
  3. Read books that were written by men or women who bleed Bible when you prick them and who are blood-earnest about the truths they discuss.
  4. Direct your mind often to the contemplation of death.
  5. Consider the biblical teaching that as a preacher you will be judged with greater strictness.
  6. Consider the example of Jesus.
  7. Strive with all the strength you have to know God and to umber yourself under his mighty hand.

Part 2, for those of you who know Piper, will not be shocked to learn that it is grounded in the preaching and life of Jonathan Edwards. [see #3] How we make God supreme in preaching, is helped by looking at a man like Edwards – a “God-besotted preacher.”

What Edwards preached and how he preached were owing to is vision of God. [77] Two inferences follow – one that the goal of all that God does is to preserve and display his glory and that the duty of man is to delight in God’s glory. [79].  This not only included holy affections, but also a faith that is of course initially placed in Christ for salvation, but then diligently preserved.  “Preaching is a means of grace to assist the saints to persevere. Perseverance is necessary for final salvation. Therefore, every sermon is a “salvation sermon” – not just because of its aim to convert sinners, but also in its aim to persevere the holy affections of the saints and so enable them to confirm their calling and election and be saved.” [#Boom, 81]

What sort of preaching flows from all this? One that…

  1. Stirs up holy affections.
  2. Enlightens the mind.
  3. Is saturated with Scripture.
  4. Employs analogies and images.
  5. Uses threat and warning.
  6. Pleads for a response.
  7. Probes the workings of the heart.
  8. Yields to the Holy Spirit in prayer.
  9. Is broken and tenderhearted.
  10. Is intense.

“People are starving for the greatness of God. This is the heart pang of every human being. One a few know it. If only people could articulate the silent cry of their hearts! Christian preachers, more than all others, should know this truth – that people are starving for God.” [108]

Lord, may I know this in my soul and walk in this more deeply each day.  Thank you,  Preacher Piper.


One thought on “Book Review – The Supremacy of God in Preaching

  1. I’m particularly delighted to have read this book, but more happier to have read a comprehensive review such as this. It trows more light and understanding to the most important details of this book for greater impact in the life of every preacher. Thank you and God bless you richly.

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