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Book Review: John Piper’s “Supremacy of God in Preaching”

John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching[1]

Synopsis: John Piper’s call for God saturated preaching is a much needed word to us all, regardless of our theological orientation and views of him. His text is a vivid plea to all preachers to make God supreme in every preaching endeavor, highlighting and exalting the grace of God in Christ Jesus. He calls the preacher to highlight the need for God by encouraging a “gladful submission” (28) in which we take pleasure and delight in submitting ourselves to our King, holding Him above all else as our treasure. Piper calls every preacher to herald God as the only satisfying joy in the lives of every person and it is to this end that directs his preaching. In this vein of thought the book encompasses two parts, a portion unpacking three theses of Piper on preaching and a portion on the wisdom of Jonathan Edward’s vision for preaching.

Preaching Framework: Piper lays out three driving theses for his philosophy of preaching:

  1. The goal of preaching is the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of the human heart

  2. The ground of preaching is the cross of Jesus Christ

  3. The gift of preaching is the power of the Holy Spirit

This framework for understanding preaching firmly centralizes all preaching endeavors on God’s glory alone and shirks any human glory in the process. The goal of preaching for Piper is not that the preacher might be honored, but that God might be magnified and treasured in community. This can only be done the magnificent work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people through the continual realization of God’s grace displayed on the cross. It is in the lowliest places of Jesus’ life and death that God proves his excellence. This is the grounds for preaching and why we can boast confidently.

The Preacher: As Piper elicits a philosophy for God-centered preaching, he also emphasizes the necessity of the God-centered preacher. As Piper calls the preacher to demonstrate the pleasure we are to have in God, he emphasizes that this need not just be spoken, but also lived in the life of the preacher. We “can’t be something in the pulpit that [we] aren’t during the week” (63). It is this continual call from Piper on the preacher that gives the sermon an added dimension, the life as sermon in the life of the preacher displayed to the congregation. We are not called to be a kind of preacher, but a kind of person!

Jonathan Edwards on Preaching: In the second half of the text Piper demonstrates how his philosophy of preaching has stemmed from his study of Jonathan Edwards. He gives a brief biography and then begins to lay out different preaching principles that Edwards held. It is important to notice that Piper magnifies the message and content of how the Holy Spirit used Edwards’s sermons and not the man himself. This is crucial to Piper’s view of preaching. For Edwards the sovereignty of God was absolutely essential to his preaching. Out of this understanding of the magnificence of God Edwards held two key principles as a vision for preaching: 1) The goal of all that God does is to preserve and display his glory (79), and 2) The duty of man therefore is to delight in God’s glory. In Edwards’ sermons he sought diligently to direct every listener to the glory of God through their affections so as to most deeply reflect His glory. This delight in God is an essential expression of our faith, we take a deep joy in our God when we truly believe and understand the worth of His love for us. In light of Edwards vision for preaching, he directs every preacher, according to Piper, to strive to accomplish ten things in their preaching style:

  1. To stir up holy affections: “Edwards aimed at the affections because they are the springs of all godly action. Make the tree good and its fruit will be good” (85).

  2. To enlighten the mind: the good preacher will give good reasoning for the affections they are trying to stir up.

  3. Saturate the sermon with Scripture: It is in the Scriptures that we show the congregation where our ideas are coming from that they can stand on throughout the week.

  4. Employ analogies and images: Make the sermon tangible to the hearers.

  5. Use threat and warning: Have a real understanding and fear of hell for your congregation.

  6. Plead for a response: Ask for a daily change in living through faith.

  7. Probe the workings of the heart: Seek out the sin in the lives of our people and ask the Holy Spirit to work on them.

  8. Yield to the Holy Spirit in prayer: All preaching is dependent upon God, we must labor as preachers therefore for God’s influence through the Holy Spirit in the lives of our congregants.

  9. Be broken and tenderhearted: Edwards power was in the raw honesty of his theology embodied in his life openly displayed for his congregation to see.

  10. Be intense: Show the congregation the eternal consequences of the Gospel.

Why You Should Read The Supremacy of God in Preaching: Every person is starving for God. Those who have been called to preach are called to proclaim this God that we all long for. God has been dethroned in our hearts and we have a charge to plead with our people to put Him back. Piper’s text is a plea to the heart of any preacher of the weight of their task. It is sobering and encouraging. There are pages where you may feel the weight of the call to preach and be overwhelmed and there are pages where you are lifted out of the darkness into the glory of the calling for God’s sake. Above all read this text because it is an emotional appeal to know God more deeply personally and to share that knowledge in community. It is all about God’s grace in Jesus Christ, this is the grounds, purpose and goal of preaching. We would do well to hear this plea often and remember the divine calling God has placed upon us as preachers of His grace and mercy.


[1] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990).

#BookReview #Homiletics #SupremacyofGod #Preaching #JonathanEdwards #JohnPiper #Glory

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