"Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching" by Graeme Goldsworthy

David White
Wednesday, June 13th 2007
Sep/Oct 2001

Whatever the differences among people and groups in Evangelicalism, one thing is sure: no matter what it sounds like, the sermon is here to stay. But do we need another book on preaching? There are several on the market.

Most pastors have received some homiletical training, and there are many tools to help them to become better communicators. Laypeople have also been led to believe that preaching is concerned mostly with how one speaks.

Yet while there is much that is designed to help the preacher to communicate better, there is little that helps him to become more committed to and confident of getting his message right. Perhaps Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is not in a class by itself, but it is definitely in rare company. It is dedicated to helping the preacher of God's Word understand the meaning of the Bible as God's revelation of his saving purposes in human history through his Son, Jesus the Christ, and then to enabling him to deliver that message to God's people and to the world in the way God intended. In other words, this book is about getting the message of the Bible right and then preaching it right.

Goldsworthy, who is lecturer in Old Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, is a world-class biblical theologian. "Biblical theology is nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of salvation." Goldsworthy puts it to work to show us how it helps us to understand and handle the Scriptures. He is concerned that preachers embrace the authentic unity of the Testaments, understand the centrality of Jesus in the whole of Scripture, recognize the gospel as the hermeneutical center of the Bible, and know the structure of redemptive history in a way that aids our grasp of Scripture's theme. He states that "[t]he idea that evangelical pastors can be sent to have ministerial oversight of congregations without first having a solid grounding in biblical theology is one of the scandals of our time. Show me a church without a good grounding in the Old Testament and biblical theology and I'll show you a church with a weak understanding of the gospel." This scandal means that a people are raised up who have no or little conception of how the Bible hangs together and works.

The book's first part is entitled "Basic Questions We Ask About Preaching and the Bible." Its chapters answer eight questions: What Is the Bible? What Is Biblical Theology? What Is Preaching? Was Jesus a Biblical Theologian? What Kind of Unity Does the Bible Have? How Does the Gospel Function in the Bible? What Is the Structure of Biblical Revelation? And Can I Preach a Christian Sermon without Mentioning Jesus?

Among the questions preachers face each week are: Why should I preach from the Old Testament? How do I preach it? and How do I rightly apply what I find there? These are the kinds of questions that Goldsworthy sets out to answer. While all of these chapters are strong, those on understanding the theological implications of the unity of the Bible and the centrality of the Gospel to the whole of biblical interpretation are standouts.

Goldsworthy's positions relating to preaching and the message of the Bible are clear and compelling because they are based on biblical arguments. If you take issue with him, it must be on the basis of his exegesis and theology.

The book's second part "The Practical Application of Biblical Theology to Preaching" is even more unusual. Here Goldsworthy seeks "to apply the biblical theological method to the various genres of the biblical literature, all the time with the preaching task in mind." Chapters on preaching from the Old Testament's historical narrative texts, as well as from its law, its prophets, its wisdom literature, and its Psalms are followed by chapters on preaching from apocalyptic texts, from the Gospels, and from Acts and the Epistles, with a final chapter on preaching biblical theology. Each gives concrete although brief examples of texts in each genre. Literary and historical considerations are addressed as well as how to plan sermons from each genre. These chapters alone justify buying this book. In ten minutes you can gain great insight into a particular biblical genre.

What sets this book apart is its thoroughly biblical nature. It should help all of its readers to begin to understand how theology is developed from God's Word and how we must be shaped by the Bible rather than shape the Bible to fit our ideas. Although its primary audience is the preaching pastor, great care has been taken to make it accessible to laypersons and Bible students as well.

Wednesday, June 13th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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