John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2021).
I first read The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper in the early nineties. I remember the deep impact it made on my life, ministry, and most of all – my preaching. Since that initial read, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this excellent book. Crossway Books has since picked up the publishing rights and commissioned John Piper to add additional material in a revised and expanded edition.
Part 1: Why God Should Be Supreme in Preaching
Dr. Piper argues, “The goal of preaching is the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of the human heart.” This theme of God’s glory matches the theme of the Bible and Redemptive history and should motivate every man who enters the pulpit with a Bible in hand.
The author demonstrates how God’s righteousness and the pride of man are obstacles to fulfilling the glorious goal of preaching. Therefore, the ground of preaching is the cross of Christ. Piper argues, “Without the cross, the righteousness of God would demonstrate itself only in the condemnation of sinners, and the goal of preaching would abort – God would not be glorified in the gladness of his sinful creatures. His righteousness would simply be vindicated in their destruction … The cross witnesses to the infinite worth of God and the infinite outrage of sin.”
Good preaching is dependent on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit illuminates the Bible and enables preachers to proclaim the truth of God’s Word in great power.
Finally, preaching must include gravity and gladness. Piper explains, “Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burden of the saints.”
Part 2: How to Make God Supreme in Preaching: Guidance From the Ministry of Jonathan Edwards
Part two shows readers how Jonathan Edwards influenced the preaching ministry of John Piper. The high points of Edwards’s life and theology are presented. But the real treasure lies in the principles that Piper presents that summarize how Edwards made God supreme in his life and his preaching. Piper offers ten characteristics of the Puritan divine’s preaching that is worth repeating here:
- Stir up holy affections
- Enlighten the mind
- Saturate with Scripture
- Employ analogies and images
- Use threat and warning
- Plead for a response
- Probe the workings of the heart
- Yield to the Holy Spirit in prayer
- Be broken and tenderhearted
- Be intense
Part 3: After Thirty-Three Years: God Still Supreme in Preaching and Ministry
The final section includes new material that is worth the price of the book. Dr. Piper speaks from the heart as he reaffirms all that he has taught in the book. Additionally, he presents thirty reasons why it is a great thing to be a pastor. Each of these is worth reading again and again.
Summary and Evaluation
The Supremacy of God in Preaching is not a typical preaching book. It does not unpack homiletical principles or preaching mechanics. Rather, it sets forth the case for biblical preaching and urges (and even begs) preachers to remember that the goal of preaching is “the glory of God in the glad submission of his creation.”
The Supremacy of God in Preaching is a landmark book. This book should be included in every homiletics course. This book should be in every pastor’s library. And this book should be read on a regular basis by every pastor. It sets pastors straight by calling them to stand and deliver. It motivates them to put the glory of God on display and cast aside triviality and duplicity. May John Piper’s plea be heard and heeded by the next generation of preachers. The sheep will reap the benefit of such a ministry.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.