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Ministry Theology

Review: Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Jason Meyer. Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. $16.73 (Amazon). 368 pp.

Some of the best books on preaching contribute to the larger conversation with one or two insights that no other book seems to make. That’s why most preachers have several books on preaching on their shelves.

Those who are familiar with evangelical preaching know that there is a “crisis” in preaching today. Preaching often looks like a collection of random Bible verses, some self-help advice, and cute stories. Jason Meyer, lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has written a new book to fortify the evangelical church against this kind of preaching. In Preaching: A Biblical TheologyMeyer has provided a wonderful addition to the preaching conversation.

As the title indicates, the book is a biblical theology of preaching, or more broadly, of the ministry of the word. A “biblical theology” means that Meyer analyzes what the Bible teaches about Scripture as redemptive history progresses (e.g. the ministry of the word will look different in Genesis than in does in Isaiah or John). This is the vital insight Meyer adds to the preaching conversation. He knows this book is different. Appendix 2 was written to tell the reader why his book is different.

The book separates into five parts. Part one covers a brief summary of the ministry of the word in Scripture. Part two digs into more detail and covers each epoch of biblical history. Part three addresses expository preaching today. Part four seeks to synthesize biblical theology with three elements of systematic theology. Part five closes the book with some applications for today. From start to finish, here’s what Meyer wants to accomplish: he wants to prove that “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” (21, his emphasis).  This is also Meyer’s definition of preaching. The “encountering” piece may either bring a sweet aroma of life or a stench of death. I think preaching can be defined many ways, and I find Meyer’s definition very helpful, particularly for my preaching ministry, for it encapsulates its primary components: faithfully handling the word of truth (stewarding) in order to passionately and appropriately communicate it (heralding) so that hearers come face-to-face with the living God (encountering).

It’s these three “suitcases” that Meyer unpacks throughout the book. As Meyer moves through the history of redemption, he reflects upon each of the main stewards of God’s word, how they heralded the word, and what happened after the word was preached (or what happened after it was not preached rightly). Embedded in this reflection is a look at the call and fall narratives for the respective preachers. Meyer does this to reveal the biblical expectation of a true steward and herald will climax in Jesus Christ.

Section three on expository preaching is perhaps the most immediately practical portion for the preacher/reader. Here Meyer discusses the what, how, and why of expository preaching. For those more inclined to topical preaching, I highly encouraging you to ponder chapter 19 on “Why Expository Preaching?” He argues that it is thoroughly and demonstrably biblical and he provides six arguments to prove it. Perhaps his greatest argument is that “God did not give us a topical [Bible]. He gave us specific books, such as Isaiah and Romans. We must give the a voice, not compile them into topics or ten-step plans” (279).

For those who are already convinced of expository preaching, the what and how chapters will be helpful. What expository preaching should be is God-centered and gospel-saturated (251ff). In other words, preachers must exalt the glory and grace of God and always draw a line to the redemptive work of Christ from any text. How does expository preaching work? The preacher shares the point of the passage, shows why that is the point, and shepherds the flock to wherever the text leads (258ff).

Finally, let me say that this is not just a good preaching book, it’s a good theology book. Section two on the paradigm shifts in the ministry of the word is theological gold. Meyer writes in the introduction that he knows pastors are busy, therefore he encourages readers to “choose their own adventure” by either reading or skipping over section two (14-15). You may skip it initially, but come back to it. This section, in particular, will not only help preachers get better; it will sharpen their theology (namely, their biblical theology). And that’s always a good thing for preachers.

I plan on turning to this book for years to come, and I highly recommend it to you if you are a preacher or even if you are a curious sermon-hearer.

Categories
Theology

321: The Story of God, the World, and You

https://vimeo.com/48734715

Categories
Life

Christ-Centered Biblical Theology Coming in May

Graeme Goldsworthy is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors when it comes to seeing the unity of the Bible, and he will release a new book in May called Christ-Centered Biblical Theology

In case you missed it a couple weeks ago, I talked about what it means to be a biblical theologian. A biblical theologian is concerned with the grand narrative of the Bible, taking parts and relating them to the whole. Biblical theology, for the minister or the average saint in the seat on Sunday, is vital because it keeps each individual story in perspective and helps guard against taking passages out of context. Coffee mugs at Christian bookstores are notorious for this.

In an interview with Collin Hansen on the Gospel Coalition blog, Goldsworthy talked about biblical theology’s importance for pastoral ministry. I think laypeople can learn from this too:

A sound biblical theology should prevent the misuse of Scripture, such as when texts are relieved of their biblical context and allowed to mean something quite other from what they mean in that context. When Scripture is treated as a lucky-dip of texts that assumes Christians stand in one, flat, undifferentiated relationship to all biblical texts, it can be made to mean anything we like. This is no basis for a sound and faithful pastoral ministry. I understand pastoral ministry to be the valid application of biblical truth to the various situations that arise and affect individuals and whole congregations. Biblical theology provides the means for understanding every part of the Bible in its final canonical context. Biblical theology, then, is at the heart of the pastor’s correct understanding of how Scripture can be thus applied to people’s lives. I also believe that the main emphasis in preaching should be the regular exposition of Scripture. Expository preaching, as the norm, really requires biblical theology in the preparation of sermons. Ideally, everyone who has the task of teaching the Bible to others should understand something of biblical theology.

When I told a friend and co-pastor about Goldsworthy’s new book, he said, “Maybe eventually this kind of book will replace classic systematic theology books in Christian colleges.” There is nothing wrong with systematic theology, as far as it goes, but if the only way we think about the Bible is in compartments (creation, atonement, Holy Spirit, end times, the Church, etc.) we will always study doctrines in isolation from each other. The Bible will then become a book of doctrine, rather than God’s story of redemption in the world.

What is your experience with biblical theology? Do you find that is the heartbeat of your personal ministry, whether a pastor, teacher, or small group leader?

Categories
Theology

Jesus: True and Better

Categories
Theology

C is for Christocentric

How do you read the Bible? To find rules to obey, to discover spiritual insights for your life path, or memorize answers for doctrinal debate?  Dane Ortlund posted several weeks back on the Resurgence blog about transforming your Bible reading.  He wrote, “Biblical theology reads the Bible as an unfolding drama, taking place in real-world time and space, that culminates in a man named Jesus.”

We call this type of theology “Christocentric” (aka “Christ-centered”). The Bible is truly God’s grand story of redemption in the world he created, and that redemption is found and fulfilled in Jesus.  Therefore, the way we view the creation, the fall, redemption, and future glory should be centered upon him.

If we have an anthropocentric (aka human-centered) view of the world or Scripture, we will inevitably make life and redemption about us. Grace will not longer be grace, and we will make God a debtor to us.  Salvation will not be a free gift–it will be something we have earned and deserve.

We cannot even have a view of the world and redemption that is centered on others. Why? Because no human being–not even a spouse or child–can bear that responsiblity.  Ernest Becker wrote, “If your partner is your ‘All’ then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you…What is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to this position?…We want to be rid of…our feeling of nothingness…We want redemption–nothing less. Needless to say, humans cannot give this.”

The Bible does not let us go either of those ways, however.  We could discuss dozens of passages all over the Bible that declare this, but one passage in particular stands out about the rest in calling us to a Christocentric view of Scripture and all of life.  Colossians 1:15-22 says:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

How glorious!  We could spend years on this paragraph, but notice the linchpin of the text: all things were created through him and for him. Was anything made through you or for you, or through or for any other human for that matter?  I don’t think so.

If my world is Jamescentric, I will be a miserable and mean wretch of a man, isolated from others and void of purpose, meaning, significance, and love. But if my world is Christocentric, Jesus will be my supreme delight and ultimate end, and in him there is complete joy and pleasure forevermore (Ps. 16:11).