Cover Image: Expositional Preaching

Expositional Preaching:
How We Speak God's Word Today

David Helm (Crossway, 2014)

Blurb Review

Review by

Helm, D. Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.

David Helm serves as the Lead Pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. He has been preaching expositionally for over twenty years and acts as chairman for the Charles Simeon Trust, an organization dedicated to the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. He has also authored many articles and books on the subject of expositional preaching. His latest work is within the 9 Marks series, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today. 9 Marks is a series of small books dedicated to offering quickly read works on nine foundational principles of a healthy church.

In this book, Helm makes clear that he is not attempting to offer anything necessarily new to the expository preaching repertoire. Instead, he hopes to offer a systematic plan for sermon preparation that can be utilized by either a beginning preacher or seasoned veteran of the pulpit. It would seem as though he accomplishes his goal. The book simultaneously gives a breadth of knowledge on the art of expository preaching, yet with a narrowed focus that keeps the book short enough to be read in one sitting. The content also has a freshness about it that keeps the reader’s attention.

Helm divides the book up into four chapters, each addressing an aspect of expository preaching. Helm defines expository preaching as, “empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text” (13). This allows, Helms states, the text to speak what the Holy Spirit intended as opposed to the preacher imposing his own conclusions on to the text. According to Helm, expository preaching prevents the preacher from contextualizing the text in all the wrong ways.

The first chapter deals with this issue of contextualization. While contextualization is important, Helm sees over-contextualizing as a potentially devastating plight of modern preaching. Good contextualization communicates the gospel message in ways that are understandable to the modern audience. However, according to Helm, the modern preacher runs the risk of focusing so much on the application of his sermon, that he loses sight of the text’s main point. In this, he can easily read meaning into a text that is not there. Helm warns preachers not to “confuse ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ with ‘thus sayeth me’” (33). Helm’s suggestion is to have a two-fold goal with the text and contextualization: get it right and get it across. In other words, the preacher must ensure he correctly understand the text’s meaning and how that meaning is best presented to a modern audience.

The second chapter covers the subject of exegesis. Exegesis is getting the truth from the text. Helms wrote that if contextualization deals with “us and now”, then exegesis is concerned with “them and then” (40). In other words, what did the original author mean when he wrote and what did the original audience understand when they received it? The modern preacher must cede his application to the text’s meaning. Helm offers several strategies to help the preacher in biblical study, to ensure as much as possible, that the original meaning is found.

In the third chapter, Helm discusses theological reflections. This is the “heaviest” chapter in the book, as Helm discusses the need for theology in preaching. In short, what Helm discusses in chapter three is the need to have all preaching drive toward the cross. Helm encourages the preacher to find the original message and to use that truth to contextualize the text for a modern audience. However, Helm sees the point of preaching as point believers to the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Helm also suggests that a working knowledge of Systematic Theology allows the preacher to effectively contextualize the text’s original message and orient the sermon towards the gospel (86).

The last chapter conveys the topic of “Today.” Once the original meaning is found, the subject has been contextualized and systematically compared to the rest of Scripture, the preacher must then consider his audience. To whom is the preacher preaching? This is the subject of application. This can represent the greatest workload for the preacher in preparation, but can only come after the other three steps have been completed. Helm suggests that starting with application is a certain way to doom the sermon to irrelevancy, at least from a biblical perspective.

Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today is a book well worth the read. For either the experience expositor looking for a refresher, or an inexperienced expositor looking for a step-by-step guide, this volume will be well received.

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