The two lectures that make up the text of this book are concerned with making the glory of God our goal in preaching:
Is this what people take away from worship nowadays – a sense of God, a note of sovereign grace, a theme of panoramic glory, the grand object of God’s infinite Being? Do they enter for one hour in the week – not an excessive expectation – into an atmosphere of the holiness of God which leaves its aroma on their lives all week long? p. 22.
Two obstacles to the goal of preaching are the righteousness of God (how can he give his glory to sinners) and the pride of man (how can we give glory to God), and both are met in the cross of Christ. It “overcomes the objective, external obstacle of God’s righteous opposition to human pride, and it overcomes the subjective, internal obstacle of our proud opposition to God’s glory.
Our authority as preachers comes from the Scriptures with which God has entrusted us:
We are simply pulling rank on people when we tell them, and don’t show them from the text. p. 42.
Preaching and Perseverance
Preaching, following Jonathan Edwards here, is a grave task and the means God uses to enable the perseverance of the saints. It is a confirming ordinance more than a converting ordinance.
[Edwards] saw preaching as a means of grace to assist the saints to persevere, and perseverance as necessary for final salvation. Therefore every sermon is a “salvation sermon” – not just because of its aim to covert sinners, but also in its aim to preserve the holy affections of the saints and so enable them to confirm their calling and election, and be saved.Ibid., p. 80.
Again following Edwards, Piper ends with a list of ten marks of Good Preaching. Preacher, you and I must:
- Aim to stir up holy affections [emotions] in the hearts of those who hear.
- Enlighten the mind: “Heat and light; burning and shining; it is crucial to being light to the mind because affections that do not rise from the mind’s apprehension of truth that are not holy affections.” Ibid., p. 85.
- Saturate with Scripture which means reading out and not merely citing them. (It was striking that Jay Adams’ book on preaching quoted every text cited, even if only as a footnote)
- Use analogies and images. “[Edwards] knew that abstractions kindled few affections, and new affections was the goal of preaching.” (p. 88)
- Use (biblical) threat and warning because the Bible does.
- Plead for a response. “It is a tragedy to see pastors state the facts and then sit down. Good preaching pleads with people to respond to the word of God” Ibid., p. 95.
- Probes the human heart, like surgery.
- Yields to the Holy Spirit: “Good preaching is born of good praying” (100)
- Is broken and tenderhearted. (For more on this see the more recent book by Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling (First edn, IVP, 2012) Chapter 8) and my review here.
- Be intense.
Compelling preaching gives the impression that something very great is at stake … Lack of intensity in preaching can only communicate that the preacher does not believe or has never been seriously gripped by the reality of which he speaks – or that the subject matter is insignificant. Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 103.
Who but preachers will look out over the wasteland of secular culture and say, “Behold your God!”? Who will tell the people that God is great and greatly to be praised? Who will paint for them the landscape of God’s grandeur?… Who will cry out above every crisis, “Your God reigns!”? Ibid., p. 109.
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching 2nd Revised edition ed. Kingsway Publications, 1998.