Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Meyer, Jason C., Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 368 pp. $22.99.

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In Preaching: A Biblical Theology, Jason C. Meyer—pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church and associate professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary—provides a unique contribution to the subject of preaching. Rather than focusing on issues such as sermon development or delivery, Meyer traces the theme of the ministry of the word—stewarding the word and heralding the word—through the Biblical narrative in order to provide a foundation upon which to build his discussion of expository preaching.

Meyer describes that the impetus to engage in this study occurred while teaching a course on preaching at Bethlehem College as he discovered that his students did not know what preaching was, “and so they had an even less clear grasp on how to do it” (313). Meyer began to ask questions himself: “Did I really know what preaching is—well enough to define it, explain it, and defend it from Scripture?” (314). In search of answers to these questions, Meyer discovered a gaping hole in contemporary discussions on the subject of preaching, and this book resulted from his study. Rather than approaching the Bible with the intent of defending a model of preaching, Meyer sought to allow God’s word to provide the method and manner of preaching.

The position presented in the book is that “the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21). This three-part thesis—receiving/stewarding God’s word, heralding God’s word, and responding to God’s word—is then traced from Adam to the Apocalypse through ten stewardship paradigms (70). Meyer argues that “knowing these stewards will strengthen our own stewardship today” (71).

Furthermore, these paradigms provide a backdrop for Meyer’s contemporary discussion. He presents expository preaching as the best method of stewarding and heralding God’s word in the present context, though he acknowledges the difficulties associate with such a position. Providing a Biblical definition of expository preaching is tenuous, because “the Bible never directly defines expository preaching,” in fact, “it never explicitly uses that phrase” (237). Even more disconcerting is the “question of whether the Bible contains any examples of expositional preaching” (270).

Such difficulties may appear overwhelming, but Meyer’s background study provides the necessary corrective-lens through which the definition of expository preaching is made clear. In the same manner that the three phases—the stewarding phase, the heralding phase, and the response phase—fit the context of Scripture, they also provide the construct for contemporary discussion, albeit with two points of distinction. God’s revelation is complete in written form and is no longer being added to by God’s spoken word. The canon is complete and closed. Secondly, Meyer notes rightly that while Scripture is inspired and inerrant, “our interpretations of Scripture are not” (238).

With these two caveats in place, Meyer posits that, “the phrase expository preaching is a way of expressing the vital connection between the terms stewarding and heralding” (239). He explains that while heralding describes the manner of delivery, stewarding emphasizes the care with which the preacher approaches his task in order to communicate accurately the very words of God. Meyer demonstrates that the over-arching Biblical witness concerning the manner in which one receives and proclaims God’s word testifies in support of expository preaching, even if it never does so by name. Modern exposition of the Biblical text, then, is the culmination of Meyer’s study.

Critique

Meyer rightly discerns a vacuum in the vast array of books written on the subject of preaching. His concern is that most books, “focus narrowly on specific words for ‘preaching’ instead of the wider conceptual category to which preaching belongs: the ministry of the word” (316). Such a narrow focus reveals an inadequate appreciation for—and understanding of—the breadth and width of the Biblical text. One cannot simply defend his own method of proclaiming the word of God with an insufficient understanding of what God’s word says about the task of proclamation. Meyer provides the Biblical theological study necessary to support expositional preaching.

His emphasis on “the herald,” and “heralding” the word of God is helpful in light of other preaching images. [1] The image of the herald highlights the borrowed authority of the preacher, for, “the herald’s authority is completely derived and is legitimate only to the degree that he faithfully represents the one who sent him” (23). The herald has no authority other than that which is given him by the king and that authority is predicated upon the accuracy and faithfulness with which he proclaims the king’s message. The herald, “has no authority to modify the message or insert his own opinions as if they represent the revealed will of the sender” (24). The herald’s responsibility is not to persuade or convince, but rather to proclaim the message faithfully and accurately. This Biblical portrait should force the one who would proclaim the word to God to reassess his purpose, design, and goals for preaching.

In light of his emphasis upon the herald, readers familiar with various models of expository preaching may long for Meyer to have been more specific in his definition thereof. He provides a general overview of the major books on the subject of preaching, and demonstrates his appreciation for the works of Haddon Robinson, Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, John MacArthur, Sidney Greidanus, and Bryan Chapell. Yet, he fails to distinguish between the various levels of expository models of preaching.

There is significant variance among those who write on expository preaching. For some, such as Robinson, this simply means deriving one’s main point from the text before discerning which method to communicate the main point. They might argue that the form of the sermon matters little in the exposition of God’s word. Others maintain that the shape of the text should govern the shape of the sermon—the manner in which God communicated his word should govern the manner in which the preacher communicates God’s word. [2] Meyer’s heraldic emphasis appears to place him comfortably in the camp of the latter rather than the former, yet he does not make this distinction at any point. However, it must be noted that Meyer’s book is not intended to serve as a homiletical handbook or preaching manual and as such, the author may have determined such clarification to be beyond the scope of this work.

Preaching is not intended to walk the reader through the task of sermon preparation, nor is it written in such a way as to strengthen the reader’s sermon delivery. Meyer approaches the task of preaching with the reverence and gravity that the subject matter deserves and establishes a Biblical theological call for expository preaching; such preaching stands in the line of those who have been entrusted with God’s word and who “take that word and faithfully serve others with it” (21).


1. Thomas G. Long, The Witness of Preaching, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 18-51. Long describes the herald as one of three insufficient images of the preacher (herald, pastor, storyteller/poet) before offering his own image—that of witness.
2. See Daniel L. Akin, David Lewis Allen, and Ned Lee Matthews. Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010).

This review appears in the Southwestern Journal of Theology 58.1 (Fall 2015): 144-46.


I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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