Review by Emilio Ramos
Most preaching today has departed from the vision of the great Puritan expositors, who strongly focused on the centrality of Scripture in all of their preaching. Meyer has attempted to recover some of that biblical-centricity by exposing the reader to a meaningful biblical theology of preaching from all of Scripture. According to Meyer, "the whole Bible alone can give a holistic answer to what preaching is" (pg. 14). The entire book is broken down into five parts, each focusing and contributing to this "holistic" view of preaching.
Meyer first seeks to answer the "what of preaching" not just by focusing on the act of preaching specifically, but even more broadly, he interacts with "the ministry of the word" in Scripture. Meyer calls pastors today to be good stewards, heralds, and experimental preachers as they preach to create an encounter with God through His Word (pg. 21). Particularly helpful in this first part of the book is Meyer's data-graphs that show our world today is engaged in a conflict between true preaching and counterfeit preaching. Meyer refers to this conflict as "the conflict of the two kingdoms" (pg. 70).
Distinct from, but related to the biblical theology of Part One is what Meyer calls "Paradigm Shifts in the Ministry of the Word." In this part of the book, Meyer gives a meaningful survey of how the ministry of the Word develops through different periods of redemptive history beginning with "the covenant of creation" down to the new covenant pastor. This is the largest section of the book and it is meant to support the introductory biblical theology of Part One. Meyer's burden throughout Part Two (what he calls "the meat of a biblical theology of the ministry of the Word") is to show the stewardship of the Word by various biblical characters-how they fail and how they succeed. Meyer views the Fall as "failed stewardship," where Adam and Eve fail to "stop the rebellion against God's word" (pg. 79). Meyer moves from the primeval history to the patriarchal period by looking to Abraham's stewardship of the promise. Meyer points out that Abraham is the first person in Genesis called a "prophet" (pg. 87). What follows is a detailed biblical theology of Abraham's life and more importantly the implications of his stewardship of God's promise. According to Meyer, Aaron, the Levites and Moses are all positive paradigms of faithful stewardship of God's Law, while Balaam is the most prominent negative example of a false steward (pg. 99-105?). Meyer also points out that when otherwise faithful stewards of God's Word fail to uphold God's Word, such a situation should be viewed as a "corrupt stewardship" that ultimately causes many to stumble (pg. 103).
Part Two of the book also operates under three main aspects of stewardship of the Word: the call of the stewards (e.g., Joshua and Samuel); the stewarding and heralding of God's Word; and the effects of that stewardship. With a book of this detail, the reader in Part Two will look forward to these three aspects to keep things grounded and simplify the content. The chapters in Part Two are a biblical theology of how the Word of God is handled by those whom God called and commissioned and those who faithfully stewarded God's Word with the blessings that followed their stewardship. His spectrum of God's stewards span from Abraham to Moses, Joshua to the prophets, then the Psalms and what he calls the "scribes" (the Writings). Meyer also surveys the stewarding of the Son and the apostles. The last section of Part Two focuses on the stewardship of the modern pastor.
Chapter sixteen is a transitional section of the book. It places the pastor in the stream of redemptive stewardship on the one hand and looks forward to the pastor and his contemporary context on the other. In Part Three, Meyer tackles the What, How, and Why of Expository Preaching today. Here Meyer seeks to "bring the survey of preaching in Scripture to bear on the issue of preaching from Scripture today" (pg. 237). Preaching purports to be avoiding two extremes: rigid mechanical devotion to rules on the one hand and an "anything goes" approach on the other. Meyer reminds the contemporary expositor of his opening thesis of what preaching is, "stewarding and heralding God's word in such a way that people encounter God through his word" (pg. 21, 238). Meyer begins the What of preaching with two important points: an infallible source (i.e., the canon) and a fallible steward (i.e., the sermon). Meyer argues, the pastor must, "(1) re-present the word of God in such a way that the preacher (2) represents the God of the word (3) so that people respond to God" (p.240). Consequently, all such preaching must be gospel saturated. The How of preaching operates under the wisdom of Mark Dever who is quoted as saying, "the point of the passage is the point of the sermon, applied to the life of the congregation" (p.258). Thus, Meyer calls pastors to another three letter system, this time three S's: to share with people what the point of the text is; show the people from the text why this is the point of the text through the rigors of exegesis; and shepherd the people (the Church) by applying the text to their present situation or circumstance (pg. 258-61). The How of preaching also gives preachers many helpful do's and don'ts that pastors will find quite useful.
Finally, the Why of preaching is more of a defense of expositional preaching than the goal of expositional preaching. The chapter is primarily constructed in six arguments leveled at the criticism that expositional preaching is not biblical. Meyer's burden is captured by the following words, "This criticism can sow seeds of serious doubt for those who are committed to expositional preaching. If the practice of preaching in Scripture does not promote expository preaching, then proponents of expository preaching today will feel less confident in their own practice of it" (pg. 271).
Part Four of Preaching focuses on two aspects of Systematic Theology: Scripture and sin. Meyer argues that these two topics serve his purpose in the book and points out that expository preaching uniquely honors the sufficiency of Scripture and protects the congregation from the pastor's sin of "soapboxes" and "hobbyhorses" (pg. 288-289). The author also gives wise and practical guidelines for the often controversial and complex subject of "topical preaching." Meyer sees a way that topical preaching can be done faithfully and beneficially by acknowledging both the strengths and weaknesses of topical preaching.
Part Five is Meyer's concluding thoughts along with a series of helpful appendices. All and all, many books have been written on the subject of homiletics; however, this book accomplishes something unique simply because of its scope of treatment with respect to preaching and its place in Biblical Theology. I would love to see Meyer write something smaller that would summarize the content further (especially Part Two) and maximize the effectiveness of this refreshing volume on preaching. This book should be read by both new preachers just coming into the ministry and seasoned expositors who need to be reminded of the majesty and magnitude of their task.
Emilio Ramos is the Preaching Pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church in Frisco, TX. He blogs at redgracemedia.com.
- 1 Corinthians
- 1 John
- 1 Samuel
- 1 Timothy
- 2 John
- 2 Kings
- 2 Samuel
- 3 John
- Biblical Theology
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Old Testament Theology
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom Literature