Most of us read the Bible as if it is telling a story, one that culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We get the overarching narrative of Scripture and can see that Scripture sets out to tell a story about Christ. For some reason, however, it is more difficult to make this transition into the pulpit. A lot of sermons seek to apply to Scripture to their own moralistic purposes, or they simply present the facts of the verses read without pointing to its Christological significance. Thankfully, we have many prominent preachers and theologians like Edmund Clowney to point us back to the true purpose of our preaching: to “take account of the full drama of redemption, and its realization in Christ” (11).
In Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, Clowney not only aims to convince its readers of the importance of Christocentric preaching but demonstrates it at length. This book is divided into three sections. Clowney first shows the “theoretical foundation” for reading and preaching Christ from the whole of Scripture. Following this chapter, he gives preachers very ground-level wisdom for how to go about actually doing it. The last and longest section of the book is a collection of sermons from Clowney himself, with the intention of modeling this style of preaching.
I found this second section to be the most beneficial for me of all. Clowney goes through the process out laying out how we should structure our sermons, pray in our sermon preparation, and lean on the Lord’s presence in our sermon prep and preaching. Here are some of the key quotes from the chapter that I underlined:
- “Careful, devout reflection on the Word of the Lord remains the key to entering his presence in worship.” (48)
- “When preaching from Gospel accounts, do not put the words of Jesus into indirect discourse. Call on your hearers to hear the words of Jesus, and quote them.” (54)
- (Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones), “If you are preaching in the energy of the flesh, you will feel exalted and lifted up. If you are preaching in the power of the Spirit, you will feel awe and humility.” (55)
Page 58 is the most valuable page in the entire book, in my opinion. I have “decades of wisdom” written in the margin next to several underlined phrases and points made. This section was extremely beneficial.
I also really benefitted from Clowney’s sermons, because he is emulating and modeling everything he is calling preachers to do by actually disciplining them into the process with an “I do, you watch” approach. These sermons beautifully bring together all of Clowney’s arguments and points made in the first two sections to help us think through how we should think through our own Bible reading and sermon prep. I do wish there had been more of an even balance between preaching methodology (58 pages) and examples (120 pages). Clowney is obviously a very seasoned preacher, and he definitely could have unpacked more of his principles to make it its very own book!
Nonetheless, the book is still a must-have for preachers, especially young preachers, as it will really help form us into a proper understanding of our task in the pulpit, and how to go about doing it, with some help along the way from Clowney’s very own mind. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture is an important volume that I will be sure to return to for its important homiletic reminders.