Reflections on The Supremacy of God in Preaching

The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Piper)John Piper’s classic The Supremacy of God in Preaching offers an outline of principles for preaching, centering on the need for preachers to recognize (and apply) the supremacy of God in their theology and practice. The revised and expanded edition contains three emphases: why God should be supreme in preaching; how God should be supreme in preaching (building from Edward’s life and theology); and that God is still supreme in preaching (additions and further reflections after thirty-three years of ministry and preaching).

Part One employs an explicitly Trinitarian structure to discuss the goal of preaching (to glorify God), the ground of preaching (the cross of Christ), and the gift of preaching (the power of the Holy Spirit). For Piper, the goal of preaching must be to glorify God,[1] Christ (and the cross) are the grounds for preaching[2] and for humility on the part of the ones preaching, and the Spirit empowers preaching, primarily through the capacities and limitations of the scriptures. Chapter four stresses the need for balance of greatness and gravity in Spirit-filled preaching, for seriousness and holiness to work in tandem to underscore the approachability of the gospel and the implications of its message. Building from this foundation, the ends of preaching ultimately rest with loving humanity and glorying God.[3]

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards

Part two centers on the life and work of Jonathan Edwards. After recounting the basic narrative of Edwards’ life, Piper delves into the centrality of perseverance (which is supported by preaching) and faith (built and enlivened by preaching) in the Christian life. Perhaps most immediately valuable to readers of this book are the ten characteristics of Edwards’ preaching that Piper draws out and explains. These include the need for preaching to  stir up holy affections, enlighten the mind, saturate with scripture,  employ analogies and images, use threat and warning, plead for a response, probe the workings of the heart, yield to the Spirit in prayer, be broken and tenderhearted, and be intense (passionate).

Part three includes several chapters added in the latest edition of this book, further explicating the value of God-centered preaching and learning from Edwards. Of chief importance are the three messages for today from Edwards, involving the supremacy of Christ (logos theology), God’s self-giving communication, and ultimate union with Christ (theosis). Piper also reflects on the fact that “God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in him” (119) and that the Bible must serve as the tether for all truly effective preaching.[4] After arguing that contemporary congregations need both the explanation of context and the creation of conceptual categories, the final chapter offers thirty reasons why being a pastor is great, seemingly as both encouragement and systematic presentation. In the end, Piper calls his readers to recognize that people are starving for the grandeur of God and the preachers must address that need by pointing them to the supremacy of God and his love for humanity.

[1] This is true, although this is also the general goal of all human existence. It would be helpful to provide more substance/working out of why this is the case specifically for the office of preaching.

[2] Cx. Matt. 10 and 28.

[3] Again, is there a more specific telos for preaching beyond its fit within general human ends?

[4] Perhaps some insufficient theology here regarding the supremacy of God.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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