Review of John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, rev. and exp. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015). ISBN: 978-0801017087. (Page numbers refer to the 1990 edition.)
The Supremacy of God in Preaching is an exhortation to those who exhort. Brief yet piercing, the book serves as a clarion call for preachers to strike the right balance of gravity and gladness in today’s pulpit, while setting forth a clear challenge for more God-glorifying, Christ-honoring, and Spirit-empowered proclamation. “Our people are starving for God,” says John Piper, former senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul: ‘Show me thy glory!’” (9, 11).
Writing from a Reformed Baptist perspective, Piper passionately contends that a weighty, theocentric sermon is not primarily the product of homiletical technique, but rather the result of the preacher’s personal holiness and a God-immersed life. Citing Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Piper contends, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God” (11).
The book is divided into two parts. The first is titled “Why God Should Be Supreme in Preaching.” Here Piper offers four chapters on what he considers to be, “The Goal of Preaching,” “The Ground of Preaching,” “The Gift of Preaching,” and the “Gravity and Gladness of Preaching.” The second part of the book focuses on the practical outworking of these chapters and is titled, “How to Make God Supreme in Preaching: Guidance from the Ministry of Jonathan Edwards.” Here Piper develops three chapters on a set of imperatives taken from the life and pulpit ministry of his hero Jonathan Edwards, the famous American philosopher/theologian/pastor: “Keep God Central,” “Submit to Sweet Sovereignty,” and “Make God Supreme.”
The Supremacy of God in Preaching, which grew out of the 1988 Harold J. Ockenga Lectures on Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the 1984 Billy Graham Center Lectures on Preaching at Wheaton College, was voted “Book of the Year” by Preaching magazine.