The Best Books on Preaching--Part 8
Part 8—Rediscovering Expository Preaching, John MacArthur, Jr., Richard Mayhue—Editor & Robert L. Thomas—Associate Editor, 1992, Word. Republished as: Preaching: How to Preach Biblically, Reprint of original in 2005.
Perhaps I should have written a review of this book on the first or second day when I began to undertake the month long project of the best books on preaching. I have to say that this book is probably my favorite of all the books on preaching that I have in my own personal library. In my opinion, this book, and one other book on expository preaching by Harold Bryson have helped me the most in this area. I never pick this book up without bringing something useful for me personally.
My exposure to John MacArthur, Jr. came when I was at Texas Bible College and his commentary on 1 Corinthians was the textbook for that class taught by A. B. Keating. It was through his encouragement that I began to read after JMac. He also encouraged me to listen to Grace To You on one of the Houston radio stations. JMac was on in the 11:30 PM time slot which was the time that I would be coming home from work from M. D. Anderson where I worked in the SICU. Honestly, JMac did not even remotely appeal to me at the time because I found his verse-by-verse approach to be very boring; which was probably reflective of my low-level hunger for Scripture at the time. I also had some obvious doctrinal differences with JMac which still exist to this day.
As time passed, I begin to develop an affinity toward his books. The Vanishing Conscience was over the fence because of the issues that it dealt with. Furthermore as time has passed, I have found that when he speaks to issues that he does a good job although his position on the Pentecostal movement overall has remained unchanged. When his point of reference is what is portrayed on so-called Christian television of the Pentecostal movement, I have to say that his points are well within their bounds of criticism because I find myself at odds with the flamboyant, money-driven “prophets” also.
His book on Rediscovering Expository Preaching has had a huge impact on the way that I look at Scripture and the use of homiletics and hermeneutics. This book is a must for anyone who seriously wants to get down to the business of v-by-v preaching of the Bible. It is helpful in that it shows you certain methods and techniques about which to accomplish the task. One other huge benefit that I found helpful was the massive amount of foot-notes that are provided so that the motivated reader can trace out and read much more on preaching should he so choose to do so.
In this review, I will be doing a lot of listing and quoting so that your appetite for this book will be encouraged. The Preface has the four reasons that the book was written by a collaboration of colleagues from the Master’s Seminary of which JMac is the current president. The whole goal with this book is to promote solid biblical preaching that will transform both the preacher and those to whom he is preaching (1 Tim. 4:16). As you read through the book you will also understand the incredible discipline that is required to be a solid biblical preacher.
The four aims of the book are:
1. To clarify the need for and meaning of expository preaching. Answering: What is expository preaching?
2. To verify the theological and historical demand for expository preaching. Answering: Why insist on expository preaching?
3. To specify the essential elements and steps involved in preparation for and participation in expository preaching. Answering: How does one go about expository preaching?
4. To exemplify the reality of expository preaching. Answering: Who have been or who are promoters and practitioners of expository preaching?
To do this the authors follow a pattern in four parts that actually follows the progression of the preaching experience. This includes:
1. The godliness of the man who comes to study the Word of God. (We have to be holy men in a very unholy age to let the clear Word flow through us.)
2. The ability of the godly man in studying Scripture exegetically. (Meaning that there is an understanding of the flow of history with the text and yet still understanding that there is a modern application meant by that passage.)
3. The skill of the godly man in merging all of his study materials into a message form that is true to the text and applies the text to our generation.
4. The dynamics in the actual presentation of the message so that the Scripture has authority and clarity and is given in a compelling and spiritual way.
In his introduction, JMac gives some reasons for the compelling need for expository preaching:
- Expository preaching—expressing exactly the will of God—allows God to speak, not man.
- Expository preaching—retaining the thoughts of Scripture—brings the preacher into direct and continual contact with the mind of the Holy Spirit who moved on holy men of old to write it.
- Expository preaching frees the preacher to proclaim all the revelation of God, producing a ministry of wholeness and integrity.
- Expository preaching promotes biblical literacy, yielding rich knowledge of redemptive truths.
- Expository preaching carries ultimate divine authority, rendering the very voice of God.
- Expository preaching transforms the preacher, leading to transformed congregations.
In Chapter 1, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, Richard Mayhue gives an excellent list as to what it is not. I will not list it here but suffice it to so that it is not a rambling commentary that flits from v-to-v in an effort to make some kind of sense. He really starts pressing in that a true biblical sermon is one that is anchored by the Scriptures. I think that most all of us have heard sermons relied solely on an illustration or some idea or vague spiritual thought. At the end of the day, there was very little exposure to Scripture in the sermon. Can this kind of thing really fall into the category of true biblical preaching? I think not! We must have our messages anchored in the Scriptures! While I do have many of my own notes from my early days of preaching, I can truly admit that I can see a maturity developing over what I preach now than what I did in my rookie days of preaching. That should be the same characteristic of every preacher who preaches. I have a desire to preach my way through the Bible and it is going to require a price tag of disciplined study and prayer for it to happen. As to footnotes in this single chapter, there are fifty!!! You can get a long way on this kind of documentation.
I would like to list Mayhue’s fifteen advantages that he gives for expositional preaching:
1. Expositional preaching best achieves the biblical intent of preaching: delivering God’s message.
2. Expositional preaching promotes scripturally authoritative preaching.
3. Expositional preaching magnifies God’s Word.
4. Expositional preaching provides a storehouse of preaching material.
5. Expositional preaching develops the pastor as a man of God’s Word.
6. Expositional preaching ensures the highest level of Bible knowledge for the flock.
7. Expositional preaching encourages both depth and comprehensiveness.
8. Expositional preaching forces the treatment of hard-to-interpret texts.
9. Expositional preaching leads to thinking and living biblically.
10. Expositional preaching allows for handling broad theological terms.
11. Expositional preaching keeps preachers away from ruts and hobby horses.
12. Expositional preaching prevents the insertion of human ideas.
13. Expositional preaching guards against the misinterpretation of biblical texts.
14. Expositional preaching imitates the preaching of Christ and the apostles.
15. Expositional preaching brings out the best in the expositor.
Chapter 2 is written by JMac and is called The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy: Expository Preaching. He does an excellent job in a defense of the absolute inerrancy and authority of Scripture. The Bible is a spiritual book written by God to be handled by spiritual men and listened to by a spiritual church. JMac also does an excellent job in writing against the cheap hits of liberal scholars, some dead and some modern-day, who want to devalue the Word of God. He resorts to a couple of very inspiring historical examples of notable preachers in bygone years such as G. Campbell Morgan and Robert Murray McCheyne.
As I had mentioned in one of the earlier reviews of D ML-J’s book on preaching, I noted that I personally liked books that dealt with the personal holiness and level of devotion in the preacher. Chapter 4, The Priority of Prayer and Expository Preaching by James E. Rosscup. The superscription he wrote at the beginning of the chapter is worthy of quoting:
Prayer is not an elective but the principal element in the kaleidoscope of spiritual characteristics that mark a preacher. These traits unite into a powerful spiritual force; they build a spokesman for God. Jesus, the finest model, and other effective spokesmen for God have been mighty in prayer coupled with the virtues of godliness and dependence on God. The composite of spiritual qualities that centers in prayer is conspicuous of God’s long line of proclaimers in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in church history, even to the present day. Some books on essentials for preaching slight prayer, but others acknowledge its invaluable role. Preachers who follow the biblical model take prayer very seriously. In sermon preparation, they steep themselves in prayer.
This chapter has some of the most incredible quotes on prayer you will ever read! Every time I pick this chapter up and re-read it, I become convinced of the powerful impact that personal, private, and passion-filled prayer has on my own preaching.
I could not leave out this quote, both in this book and in another book by Ralph Turnbull called The Minister’s Opportunities. I read it years ago in Turnbull’s book and wrote it in my Bible. It is by Thomas Armitage:
A sermon steeped in prayer on the study floor, like Gideon’s fleece saturated with dew, will not lose its moisture between that and the pulpit. The first step towards doing anything in the pulpit as a thorough workman must be to kiss the feet of the Crucified, as a worshipper, in the study.
By the way, Rosscup leaves you with 86 footnotes of some the great devotional classics on praying that are incredible to track down and read.
Part III of the book is called Processing and Principlizing the Biblical Text. There are five very helpful chapters on hermeneutics, exegesis, grammatical analysis, study tools, and a study method. I used to dread Mrs. Peggy Rice’s and Mrs. Linda Little’s efforts at getting me to diagram sentences in my middle school and high school years. May the Lord bless their souls wherever they may be today! There is a great blessing in taking Scripture and finding out where the subject, predicate, verbs, adverbs, and so forth all fit into what the Bible writer has written.
The chapter on hermeneutics opens up some encouragement to use Greek and Hebrew lexicons like Brown, Driver, and Briggs for OT work and Thayer’s for NT work. You will also discover the great blessing that comes from the mother of all Hebrew and Greek works in Kittel’s works. It is a multi-volume set that will help you immensely to uncover some great angles of preaching for where you are serving the Lord. An understanding of hermeneutics also helps Pentecostals not to get in trouble by stretching the types and shadows from the OT to NT. It also will stop you from saying, “What does this Scripture mean to me?” It doesn’t matter what it means to you, it matters what the context and direction that God is speaking from to help His church.
To simplify exegesis would be to say that it is a deep study of the particular passage that you are looking at. Exegesis is what makes a preacher more knowledgeable of the Word of the Lord. It assists him in pulling out nuances that would not be normally seen by just a rapid reading over of that Scripture.
George Zemek in his chapter on grammatical analysis gives some excellent points when it comes to outlining a passage of Scripture. You might say, “Boy! That is trying to make preaching too technical!” My response would be that an outline keeps you from “picking a text and pitching a fit!” Many times the text and the fit were miles apart. We owe it to God and those we preach to; to get it right! Those who don’t want to give attendance to study as a good and qualified workman (2 Tim. 2:15) are going to end up having churches that look like the sluggard’s farm in the Proverbs. His fence walls were down; weeds and varmints had taken over his farm because he was too lazy to work. Many of our problems today are self-inflicted because of a lack of devotion to preaching solid biblical messages. If ever we needed disciplined prayer, study, and work in the pulpit, it is now!
The chapter on Study Tools for Expository Preaching is a very helpful chapter for building a personal library. I personally found this chapter to be motivating and encouraging for continuing to build a library of books that serve as tools to help craft strong biblical messages. A preacher needs to constantly be a man of books, prayer, and study if he is to make an impact on the place that God has called him to be a shepherd.
Here is a Jay Adams quote from the Chapter 11, A Study Method for Expository Preaching, by JMac:
I have had the opportunity to hear much preaching over the last few years, some very good, some mediocre, most very bad. What is the problem with preaching? There is no one problem, of course. . . But is there is one thing that stands out most perhaps, it is the problem I mention today. . . What I am about to say may not strike you as being as specific as other things I have written, yet I believe it is at the bottom of a number of difficulties. My point is that good preaching demands hard work. From listening to sermons and listening to hundreds of preachers talking about preaching, I am convinced that the basic for poor preaching is the failure to spend adequate time and energy in preparation. Many preachers—perhaps most—simply don’t work long enough on their sermons.
Part IV is entitled Pulling the Expository Message Together. It has five chapters that deal with the central ideas, outlines, titles, introductions, illustrations, and other kinds of sermons.
This has obviously been one of the longer reviews and much more could be given to help you see that this book would be a wonderful (necessary?) volume to add to your personal library. I have not had the opportunity to compare the updated volume with my own personal copy so it may have been updated to include more material.
Stay posted. . .
More to come. . .