The Supremacy of God in Preaching

By John Piper
Grand Rapids : Baker (1990). 119 Pages.

Reviewed by
2.1 (Spring 1991) : 118-120

John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, and author of Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, writes to remind preachers that "People are starving for the greatness of God" (p. 9) and need to hear "God-entranced preaching" (p. 11).

The author reasons that the church's view of inspiration will affect its view of preaching: "Where the Bible is esteemed as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, preaching can flourish. But where the Bible is treated merely as a record of valuable religious insight, preaching dies" (p. 40).

Once the authority of Scripture is established, the place the church gives preaching is a critical issue.

Gravity in preaching is appropriate because preaching is God's appointed means for the conversion of sinners, the awakening of the church, and the preservation of the saints. If preaching fails in its task, the consequences are infinitely terrible (p. 54).

With the inspiration of Scripture and the relevance of preaching in place, the preacher's commitment to both will be borne out in his preparation. Stressing the importance of personal Bible study, Piper says:

When the pastor is out of seminary and in the church ministry there are no courses, no assignments, no teachers and the vast majority of preachers fall far short of the resolution that Jonathan Edwards made when he was in his twenties`"to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same" (p. 43, from Jonathan Edwards Memoirs in S. Dwight, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards).

Regarding sermon delivery, the author addresses comments on the preacher's demeanor as he preaches: speaking of inappropriate humor in the pulpit, he says, "I have been literally amazed at conferences where preachers mention the need for revival and then proceed to cultivate an atmosphere in which it could never come" (p. 56). With reference to the pastor's tendency to project a different personality when he preaches, he writes, "Don't strive to be a kind of preacher. Strive to be a kind of person" (p. 60).

Challenged early on in his seminary experience to find one great evangelical theologian to immerse himself in (p. 61), Piper selected Jonathan Edwards. Part two of this volume contains some of his gleanings from Edward's writings and biographies about Edwards. After a biography of Edward's life and a brief summary of his theology, comes the book's capstone, the basis of its title: "Make God Supreme: The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards."

Piper's newest book will be an encouragement to those who preach the Bible faithfully and a challenge to preachers who settle for less than the Bible as their resource. One editorial oversight in a Scripture quotation needs attention: "Far be it from me to glory except in human cross Lord Jesus Christ . . ." (Gal 6:14) (p. 33).