Preaching in the New Testament (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Jonathan L. Griffiths. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.
Summary: An exegetical and biblical theology of preaching from the texts of the New Testament.
Most of the focus today in preaching is on what is called “homiletics” which focuses on how to prepare and deliver messages in the church and other contexts. But what are the grounds for this thing called “preaching” in the New Testament? How is this distinct from other ministries of the word? What is taking place, ideally, in faithful biblical preaching? What connection is there between the preaching that occurs today and Old Testament prophetic ministries, the preaching of Jesus, and apostolic and post-apostolic preaching?
These are the questions Jonathan I. Griffiths explores in this clear, and I thought, quite helpful monograph. After a brief introduction laying out these questions and his plan of approach, Griffiths explores first the question of the theology of the word, and how God speaks, acts, and is encountered through that word. Then he considers the particular New Testament terms used for preaching, focusing on three: euangelizomai, katangello, and kerysso. He charts the speaker, context, and content of each instance and argues that they function with a high degree of consistency as “semi-technical” terms for preaching.
The second part of the work then focuses on exegetical studies of key New Testament passages. He considers the following texts and finds these themes:
- 2 Timothy 3-4: The Preacher’s Charge
- Romans 10: The Preacher’s Commission
- 1 Corinthians: The Power of the Gospel in Authentic Christian Preaching
- 2 Corinthians 2-6: Beholding the Glory of God in Preaching
- 1 Thessalonians 1-2: Preaching the Very Words of God
- Hebrews: Preaching to the Gathered People of God
In the third part he summarizes his findings, which he has elaborated in his exegetical studies. Most striking to me is the idea that when God’s word is faithfully proclaimed, people hear God’s voice through the human agency of preaching. I think this is a great encouragement to any who engage in this work, who struggle with what do we have to say, and can we say it well. Certainly these things are worthy of consideration, but uppermost is the idea of faithfully setting forth what God has said in scripture and that when we do so, there is the very real prospect that God works through this and speaks to our hearers! So often, people speak of encountering God in various aspects of worship, but do they think of encountering God through the preaching of the word?
Some other key points include the idea that those who preach today do so in continuity with the prophets, the Lord Jesus, and the apostles. Those who preach must be commissioned–not self-appointed. Preaching reflects the character of the gospel in that it is something given by God through preachers to be received and believed by faith. Preaching has a natural context and significance within a Christian assembly–it forms and sustains a local body of believers as they hear God address them together.
I think today that preaching is often conceived of as either an exercise in inspiring people to get through another week or as a way for the preacher and church leadership to get people to devote themselves more diligently to the affairs of the church. Often, the word of God is “used” in these attempts. What Griffiths describes is very different, and to my mind a more noble and awesome calling–to so carefully study and listen to the scriptures in order to faithfully speak for God, such that what people hear are not our ideas, but God speaking. Rather than simply inspiring or goading people to action, the preacher has the opportunity to host an encounter with the living God, whose word is sustaining, and empowering, and compelling. Griffiths’ book sets forth this noble privilege and call, grounded in God’s address to those who preach, and his exegetical work helps us hear that call afresh.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.