One Of The Most Helpful Chapters On The Meaning Of Preaching

Chapter 1 of  “The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text” should be required reading for every preacher.  Sydney Greidanus explains what, theologically, we are actually doing when preaching Scripture.

I found it useful to summarise each paragraph of the chapter* in my own words.

P1. There is a connection between the Bible and contemporary preaching (2 Tim 3:16-4:2). What it is it?

The Prophets

P2. In OT times the prophets preached God’s word with power.

P3. The prophets were self-consciously preaching God’s word.

p4. Since it was God’s word, the prophets’ proclamation carried authority.

P 5. God’s words always accomplish things.

p 6. Likewise: the prophets words set in motion the content of the message.

p8. The preaching of the prophets was part and parcel of God’s redemptive activity on earth.

The Apostles

p 9.  The redemptive events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection must be proclaimed in order to become effective.

p 10.  God first sent apostles to proclaim His word about Jesus Christ.

p 11.  The apostles represented God in their preaching (as ‘heralds’ and ‘ambassadors’).

p 12.  Like the prophets, the apostles proclaimed the very word of God.

p 13. Like the prophets, the preaching of the Apostles accomplished God’s purposes: it was itself a redemptive event.

p 14. One difference between apostles and prophets was their sources for preaching. The source of the prophets’ preaching was  what they had received in visions, dreams, or audible words. The sources of the apostles’ preaching was what they ‘had seen and heard’ (NT tradition) and the Hebrew Scriptures which they expounded.

p 15. The New Testament uses as many as 33 different verbs to describe what we call preaching.

p 16. C.H. Dodd promoted a sharp distinction between preaching and teaching.

p 17. But the NT does not separate preaching and teaching into rigid, ironclad categories. (Thus the church needs preaching as well as teaching; the unbelieving world needs teaching as well as preaching).

The Contemporary Preacher

P 18. Preachers today are neither OT prophets or NT apostles.

P 19.  But we can preach God’s Word providing we use the Scriptures as our source  (see Paul’s instruction to Timothy – not an Apostle – to preach the Word. 2 Tim 4:2).

P 20.  We can still be ambassadors and heralds, but only if we speak the written word of God. (To say “thus says the Lord” we must first of all say “thus the Lord was written).

P 20. When preachers today faithfully proclaim God’s written word, the word of God is God’s deed today. Contemporary preaching becomes nothing less than a redemptive event!

P 21. The preacher cannot boast however: his authority and power reside entirely in the word of God.

P 22. Preachers must therefore bind themselves tightly to the Word of God if they would see God work with power and might through their preaching.


* The chapter is actually a bit longer than the 22 paragraphs I have summarised. Greidanus goes on to discuss expository preaching and the form of biblical preaching.



What Are They Preaching On?

For a bit of interest, I thought I’d look at what some of our contributors have been preaching on….

Paul W. Martin is looking at Revelation (Stand and Conquer series)

Mark Johnson has been preaching on  Song of Solomon (!) and 1 Peter

Paul Rees recently finished on James (The Complete Christian) and along with his colleagues, Liam and Andy, is doing a series on his church’s vision

John van Eyk has been preaching on 1 Samuel

Tim Bridges has been preaching on Colossians (Who He Is and Whose We Are)

John Percival is preaching through Ephesians (God’s New Community)

And I’m preaching on Malachi (Robbing God) and Hebrews (Forward, Not Back)







10 Questions For Expositors – Robin Weekes

The Proclamation Trust Cornhill is a training course with the primary aim of training preachers.  Robin Weekes serves alongside Christopher Ash as a full-time member of the Cornhill teaching staff in London.

Previously Robin served with Crosslinks in India, as pastor of the English-speaking South Delhi Congregation of the Delhi Bible Fellowship. We look forward to Robin answering our 10 Questions for Expositors today!

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

Preaching is – or at least should be – right at the heart of church life. That is because it is the word of God which creates the people of God, and the word of God which changes the people of God. If you want to think about this further, my colleague Christopher Ash’s The Priority of Preaching is excellent.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

The chief way that I discerned that the Lord had given me the gift of preaching was by doing it and asking the wider church if they thought I was any good! Initially this was as a student, speaking at CU events and summer camps. After graduating I worked as a parish assistant at St Anne’s Church in Limehouse, where along with preaching opportunities I had the privilege of learning to preach at the PT Cornhill Training Course. Cornhill was immensely formative both in my preaching gift being identified and developed.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

Martin Luther famously encouraged preachers to “beat your head against the text until it yields.” Some texts yield more easily than others, but I reckon on needing four mornings of 3-4 hours to prepare a sermon.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

Here at Cornhill we encourage the students to identify a ‘theme sentence’ (or ‘big idea’) and an ‘aim sentence’ for every Bible passage they are teaching. The theme sentence is the main point of the passage. We believe that expository preaching is where the main point of the sermon is the main point of the passage. Whilst I don’t want preachers to be reductionistic or to flatten the Bible, I do think that discipline of identifying and communicating the main point is enormously helpful.

That theme then focuses the application which is what the aim sentence is all about. This is what we want people to think or feel or do as a result of this part of God’s word.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

It is vital that preachers find their own voice, and preach naturally, clearly and passionately. He should avoid trying to please men and trying to be someone else.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

I still use a fairly full script, although I deliberately don’t script my illustrations so as to make sure that they sound different. Early on I employed an indented manuscript which means that it doesn’t look remotely like an essay! This helps me not to read the manuscript as if it were an essay, and to know where I am in the argument. It works for me.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

There are many that I try to avoid and encourage others to avoid including:
• Teaching a passage rather than proclaiming & encountering the person of Christ (from a passage).
• Preaching to others what has not first run through my own soul.
• Being sound but dull and therefore bypassing people’s affections.
• Preaching imperatives without indicatives.
• Ignoring the Trinity.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

Things are a little different now that I am not currently pastoring a church. Early on in ministry I got into the habit of protecting my mornings for preparation and prayer. That habit has become ingrained and I find it very useful. As far as possible, I try to leave personal work, administration and meetings to the afternoons and evenings.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

I am greatly indebted to a number of very fine preachers who have helped and influenced me enormously including: Mark Ashton (the minister of the church I was a member of as a student), David Jackman and Dick Lucas (who taught me at Cornhill), Vaughan Roberts (the minister of the church I was a member of whilst at theological college), Jonathan Fletcher (who I worked under for four years and who was a great model as a preacher and very incisive in his feedback on my early attempts at preaching).

In terms of books, Ed Clowney’s Preaching Christ in all the Scriptures has shaped my preaching. Reading widely – especially books and sermons by John Flavel – also feeds my preaching.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

I have the privilege of serving full time on the teaching staff of the PT Cornhill Training Course in London where nurturing and developing future preachers is what we are all about. I do think that the course is an excellent way of training preachers. Most students do the course part time and so are with us for 2 days a week and in a local church for 4 days a week. This gives them the opportunity to put into practice what they are being taught at Cornhill while they are learning it. It roots them in the local church and by focussing exclusively on one thing (preaching), we are able to do one thing well.


For more information about the Cornhill summer school, check this out.

Out of the Word; into the World

A friend of mine once said, ‘You can tell the colour of a preacher’s sermons by the colour of the spines of the books in his library!’ He was being a little facetious, but there is more than a grain of truth in his observation. Too many sermons belong to a bygone era because their composers have spent too much time living in that era – at least in a virtual sense through what they choose to read. Their sermons may be exegetically accurate and doctrinally orthodox, but they can be utterly divorced from the world their congregations live in.

It brings us into the realm of the preacher’s self-understanding in terms of who he is and how he’s called to function. The long-hand answer to that is found in some measure in the range of Greek and Hebrew words associated with preachers and preaching (and that may be the basis of a future post), but there is a more succinct answer as well. It is captured in the title of John Stott’s book published in the UK as I Believe in Preaching. Its US title is Between Two Worlds.

The rationale for the decision to publish under a different title came from Stott’s reference to John Chrysostom in one of its chapters. There he highlighted the fact that the ‘Golden Mouth’ of preachers in the 4th Century church saw himself as a bridge between two worlds: the world of the Bible and the world(s) in which his hearers lived.

On the one hand his labours in the first of those worlds, the Word of God, was constrained by all the disciplines of careful exegesis with all its many facets, how it was communicated was constrained by the world into which he was speaking. In that sense, the ‘what’ of his message was fixed, but the ‘way’ it was delivered was not.

It’s not hard to see illustrations of this principle at work in the ministries of Christ and of the apostle Paul. In the case of Christ, a glance at how he ‘preached’ – albeit one-on-one – to Nicodemus and to the woman at the well in two consecutive chapters in John shows how the same essential message was conveyed in two very different ways to two extremely different people. With Paul, the same can be seen in Acts 17 in three preaching opportunities recorded there. The first two, addressed to Jewish, biblically literate audiences, were very different from the third addressed to the Areopagus. In all three he preached Christ; but in the third he preached him without naming him.

So for preachers in all ages; those who have had the greatest impact are those who have not only connected deeply with the text they proclaim, but who also connect deeply with the people and culture into which they speak.

What does that mean in practical terms? Pastor A.N. Martin codified it in his counsel to preachers in relation to their reading habits. Of the six books that were supposed to be on the go in any given week, one at least had to have a secular bent – and this on top of having a weekly subscription to Time or Newsweek! Or, for those who prefer British role models, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones would saturate himself in the weekend papers as part of the finishing touch to his sermon preparation for Sundays. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that his sermons caught the attention even of the unbelieving world of his day.

The point is this: if we are going to be not only faithful, but also increasingly effective preachers, then we need to cultivate the art of not just speaking out of the Word, but into the world!

Preaching Acts With David Cook

Acts is a deceptively tricky book to preach.  David Cook recently spoke at a 2 Timothy 4 Trust event on “Preaching Acts.”  Held at Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, these are four videos of exceptional quality. Take lots of notes!

David Cook recently retired from his role as Principal and Director of the School of Preaching at Sydney Missionary and Bible College in Australia, and is now involved in an itinerant preaching and teaching ministry, He has spoken at a number of Christian Conventions including Keswick and New Word Alive where his ministry was much appreciated.

Seven Roads To Christ From Old Testament Land

Sidney Greidanus is a foremost thinker in how to preach the whole bible as Christian Scripture. In an interview last year he proposed seven legitimate avenues from an Old Testament text to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Depending on the text, one can legitimately move to Christ in the NT along these ways:

  • Redemptive-historical progression: following the progression of redemptive history as it moves forward from the text’s historical setting to Jesus’ first or second coming.
  • Promise-fulfillment: showing that the promise of a coming Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming on earth.
  • Typology: moving from an Old Testament redemptive event, person, or institution that functions as type prefiguring Jesus to the antitype, Jesus himself, by showing the analogies and escalations.
  • Analogy: noting the similarity between the teaching of the text and the teaching of Jesus or noting the analogy between the author’s goal in sending this message and Jesus’ goal with one or more of his messages.
  • Longitudinal themes: a technical term in biblical theology meaning that one traces the theme or a major theme of the text through the Old Testament to Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
  • New Testament reference: moving to New Testament quotations of or allusions to the preaching text or to Jesus’ teachings on the same topic.
  • Contrast: noting the contrast between the message of the Old Testament text and the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament.