The Supremacy of God in Preaching
Publisher: Baker Academic
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
If you were to ask me which Christian figure has been most influential in my Christian walk, from finding joy in God to fighting sin with faith, my immediate response would be “John Piper.” Having become an occasional preacher at my home church in the past year, I can now say without hesitation that the selfsame John Piper is far and away the most influential homiletician in my own preaching. That’s not to say I inflect and gesticulate like him; it does mean that I attempt to place God’s great glory and grace front and center everytime I preach.
As anyone who has read, seen, or heard John Piper knows, his personal life and gospel ministry are characterized by the devotional marriage of head and heart – understanding and feeling. He variously refers to this dual reality of the Christian life as seeing and savoring, beholding and believing, regarding and rejoicing.
Although it is a slender volume dedicated specifically to the art and discipline of gospel preaching, The Supremacy of God in Preaching is no less devoted to the right apprehension of truths about God, resulting in true affections in the heart:
The greatness and the glory of God are relevant. It does not matter if surveys turn up a list of perceived needs that does not include the supreme greatness of the sovereign God of grace. That is the deepest need. Our people are starving for God…Our people need to hear God-entranced preaching. They need someone, at least once a week, to lift up his voice and magnify the supremacy of God.
Part 1, which originated as the Harold John Ockenga Lectures on Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1988, is concerned with five “G’s” of preaching in the course of four chapters. Chapter 1, “The Goal of Preaching” pulls together the testimonies of many figures from church history to make the point that preaching’s goal is the glorification of God. Referencing such luminaries as Cotton Mather, John Henry Jowett, J.I. Packer and the Apostle Paul, Piper crescendoes to the greatest luminary of all, Jesus Himself, to establish God’s glory as the ultimate point of all Christian preaching.
In chapter 2, Jesus’ cross is presented as “The Ground of Preaching” in two ways. First, it establishes the validity of preaching, since without the cross, God’s glory could only be seen in the destruction of sinners. Second, the cross is a means of indispensable and integral humility for both the preacher and the congregation: “The cross is both a past event of substitution and a present experience of execution. It holds up the glory of God in preaching, and it holds down the pride of man in the preacher.” Chapter 3 explores the Holy Spirit’s contribution to preaching – nothing less than divine revelation and power, while chapter 4, “The Gravity and Gladness of Preaching,” presses the necessity of serious joy in the pulpit. To that end, Piper supplies seven suggestions, which I urge you to acquire the book to uncover.
Part 2, “How to Make God Supreme in Preaching,” uses the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards (Piper’s main man, in case you weren’t aware) as a case study of how Edwards maintained passion for God in his person, his pulpit and his people.
The back cover endorsements say it best: Philip Graham Ryken calls this book “one of the few truly indispensable books on gospel ministry.” Sinclair Ferguson echoes Ryken’s sentiments: “…it can be safely said: ‘This is a must read.’ ” Bryan Chappell warns against making too litle of this book: “The plan is too simple for a fallen world to notice and too powerful for a faithful preacher to ignore.” Erwin Lutzer suggests a return to this book at least once a year, with which I would wholeheartedly agree. Both preachers and listeners would do well to add this book to their personal libraries.