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Monday, March 06, 2006

Book Review

Preaching for God's Glory by Alistair Begg.

Before you seem impressed that I've finished a second book in two days (remember, I don't seem to be capable of reading the Bible, and more than one other book at once), I should point out this "book" is only forty-seven "half pages." Like Begg's sermons, however, it is rich and challenging.

Begg first deals with the fact that expository preaching has been removed from many pulpits today. Giving the pastor the benefit of the doubt, Begg approaches this issue sympathetically, acknowledging some good intentions that may have led to this movement. He unapologetically exposes that though the intentions may have been pure, the result has been disasterous.

Begg then moves on to deal with many of the objections to expository preaching. Many people believe expository messages are dry and boring. Nothing should be further from the truth. I should have more passion sharing with the Body what God's Word spells out, than my own therapeutic advice. Others also think expository preaching doesn't engage with the culture. However, proper examination of Scripture reveals that doctrine is always revealed in living. Good exposition should lead to Biblical application.

(A side from the review: As I was reading this book and thinking about the Bible and culture, an illustration came to my mind. Imagine two people floating in inner tubes in a swimming pool. One person represents the Scriptures, the other the culture. In our desire to bring culture and Scripture together, it is like throwing a rope between the two tubes and telling both parties to pull. The tubes will eventually collide, but neither will be in its original location.

Now we realize that culture and Scripture should not be on the same plane. So, instead we encourage only the person representing Scripture to pull on the rope. However, since both are still floating in the waters both tubes will still drift from their original location.

Bibilcal exposition means that we see the Word of God and firmly anchored on solid land. It's not expositiory preaching if we are content for culture and application to drift along in the water while we simply instruct what the Bible says as seperate issues. Instead, we still pull on the rope, from the shore, and watch the culture and our application move toward Scripture. The Scriptures do not move, but we do.)

Quite simply, expository preaching is allowing the Bible to determine the message. It is applicable, but not application driven. It does not have to be a word-by-word account (there are some who are wonderful at this) but can even be an overview of an entire book of Scripture (provided it is driven by the Scripture). It could seem topical (as one might preach on anxiety, temptation, etc.) but should be driven by a passage dealing with that topic. And it should never seek to apply the passage to our modern context before we first understand what the author originally intended for his audience.

If you are a pastor, I highly recommend you read this book. (It won't take long, and will hopefully encourage you). If you are not a pastor, I recommend you read it and then pass it along to your pastor. It will allow you to know what you should be looking for and challenge the pastor to understand what you'll be looking for.

If you are still wondering why the fuss, or fear your pastor would say the same if you handed him the book, allow me to share Begg's list of benefits of expository preaching:

1. It gives God glory alone. The focus is not on the wisdom or genius of the speaker, it is on the glory of God and His grace for revealing Himself to us.
2. It makes the preacher study God's Word. As a child, I remember our church hiring a pastor who seemed brilliant in the candidating process. However, it quickly became obvious that he had about five good sermons in his pocket to use at any time. A church that loves expository preaching places accountability before the pastor that he better be in the Word, because it is the Word they want to hear.
3. It helps the congregation. It is a deep prayer of mine that no one will sit in a sermon and feel the study and application is beyond their abilities. As we preach expository messages, we send a picture to the whole Body of how to study God's Word systematically.
4. It demands treatment of the entire Bible. It's much harder to preach "soapbox topics" or favorite doctrines. Know a pastor who only preaches about prophecy or continually preaches against Hollywood every week? Odds are that expository preaching is not happening.
5. It provides a balanced diet. Closely related, a church does not become fat on certain topics while starving in other areas. We grow in the whole council of Scripture.
6. It eliminates Saturday night fever. Begg is not claiming that expository preaching brought down disco (though if our churches had been more expository at the time, it may never have arrived!!!). Begg offers that expository preaching allows the pastor to be released from worrying about what he should preach on next. He no longer wrestles Saturday afternoon, wondering whether this is really what the people need. God's Word does the directing.

It's a quick, easy and necessary read. I recommend it and encourage you to pass it on to your pastor too.

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