Of course, any discussion in 2019 that discusses preaching God’s glory is essentially required to mention John Piper. Piper argues in The Supremacy of God in Preaching that “God is the goal of preaching.”John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), 25. Homileticians may argue about the best methods and philosophies of preaching, but surely we can all agree that solid Christian preaching has the glorification of God in the preaching event as the purpose of preaching.
As someone who agrees with the text-driven method that is taught here at Southwestern, I would add that the best way to do this is to preach your text in a manner that faithfully captures the structure, substance, and spirit of that text. God has given us his Word in order to reveal himself. At times, your text will present God in a light that his glory shines through. Isaiah 6, for example, highlights this in a manner that is more easily recognized by the preacher than, say, Leviticus 1. However, all of Scripture reveals God: his character, his deeds, and—through these things—his glory.
I believe that two practical suggestions can help the preacher clarify this in his mind.
First, demonstrate what your text teaches about God.
This may seem like a no-brainer at first glance, but I believe that many times we as preachers forget about God while preaching our text. We tell the story, parse the verbs, decline the nouns, trace the argument being made, and then move immediately to practical application. We show what this text meant for its original audience, take that principle, and then apply to our contemporary setting. I’m not saying this is illegitimate preaching, but let me suggest we add a step in between moving from the past to the present.
Alistair Begg defines expository preaching as “Bible-based, Christ-focused, and life-changing—the kind of preaching that is marked by doctrinal clarity, a sense of gravity, and convincing argument.”Alistair Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 13 (emphasis added). This is a marvelous and short (61 pages!) treatment of God-glorifying expository preaching. Any preacher would benefit from having it in his library. Take the time in your sermon to teach doctrine, to teach theology—words or studies about God. There may be a principle in your text that is ripe for relevant, practical application, and you should not ignore that. But clear some space to teach your people what your text teaches about God.Remember, God is Trinity. So this does not mean that you need to focus exclusively on God the Father. Exaltation of Father, Son, or Spirit is still exaltation of God. Teach the theology of your text. By doing so, whether it explicitly mentions the glory of God or not, you glorify God in your preaching and present him as glorious to your people.
Second, get out of the way.
Piper writes, “For God aims to exalt himself, not the preacher, in this affair of preaching.”Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 25. And God will exalt himself as you faithfully proclaim his Word. This means that the Word is to be our focus, not ourselves. Begg adds, “Pulpits are for preachers. We build stages for performers.”Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory, 14. You cannot point your people to God or show him as glorious—or at least the task is immensely complicated—if your focus is yourself. Preach, do not perform. Tell your illustrations in a way that reveals God, not yourself. Watch how many times you use a first-person pronoun. Is your sermon full of personal stories, background on you, and what has been going on in your life?
Admittedly, this can be done in a way that is pastoral and edifying for your people. But over time, overuse of these practices can move us away from preaching the Word and toward preaching ourselves. Preachers must be in a continued state of brokenness. We cannot preach of our glorious God when we are full of self. Begg summarizes, “We gather together as the church not to enjoy preaching eloquence (or to criticize its lack) but to hear and heed the Word of God. We come to be exhorted, not entertained.”Ibid., 16.
Do not seek to entertain your congregation with amusing anecdotes or insights into their pastor. Preach the Word. Glorify and magnify the Lord, and by doing so you will help your people to see his glory.
Aaron S. Halstead is the Administrative Assistant for the Professional Doctoral Office at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Editorial and Content Manager for Preaching Source, and a PhD student in Southwestern’s School of Preaching.
|↑1||John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), 25.|
|↑2||Alistair Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 13 (emphasis added). This is a marvelous and short (61 pages!) treatment of God-glorifying expository preaching. Any preacher would benefit from having it in his library.|
|↑3||Remember, God is Trinity. So this does not mean that you need to focus exclusively on God the Father. Exaltation of Father, Son, or Spirit is still exaltation of God.|
|↑4||Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 25.|
|↑5||Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory, 14.|