Alistair Begg begins his book, Preaching for God’s Glory, with this fitting account:
“I have a vivid recollection as a small boy of sitting in St. George’sChurch is Glasgow waiting for the commencement of morning worship. At about three minutes to 11 the beadle (parish official) would climb the pulpit stairs and place a large Bible on the lectern. Having opened it to the appropriate passage, he would descend, and the minister in turn ascend the stairs and sit in the cone-shaped pulpit. The beadle would complete his responsibilities by climbing the stairs a second time to close the pulpit door and leave the pastor to his task. There was no doubt in my young mind that each part of that procedure was marked with significance. There was clearly no reason for the pastor to be in the pulpit apart from the Bible upon which he looked down as he read. I understood that, in contrast to his physical posture, the preacher was standing under Scripture, not over it. Similarly, we were listening not so much for his message but for its message.”
This little book is a powerful and challenging read. Begg works from theology to methodology in what I would term a “primer” on expositional preaching. This text would serve as a great introduction to faithful biblical preaching for anyone interested in the subject. There is brevity to the format of this text, but also a depth of insight and powerful exhortation for preachers and listeners alike.
Begg begins by talking about the “eclipse of expository preaching” in our day.
“We have instead become far too familiar with preaching that pays scant attention to the Bible, is self-focused, and consequently is capable of only the most superficial impact upon the lives of listeners. Worse still, large sections of the church are oblivious to the fact that they are being administered a placebo rather than the medicine they need. They are satisfied with the feeling that it has done them some good, a feeling that disguises the seriousness of the situation. In the absence of bread the population grows accustomed to cake! Pulpits are for preachers. We build stages for performers.”
This opening section closes with Begg’s very creative take on the “caricatures of true preaching” that he sees in our day. Here are seven descriptions (each of which he explains in detail) of what he calls “sad substitutions” for the biblical preacher:
1) The cheerleader
2) The conjurer
3) The storyteller
4) The entertainer
5) The systematizer
6) The psychologist
7) The “naked preacher”
Begg diagnoses what he believes has led to the lack of expositional preaching in the second chapter.
“Because of a loss of confidence in the Scriptures, preoccupation with the wrong battles, and a sad lack of excellent role models, many preachers compromise on their calling and revert to the expectations of the culture.”
After explaining all of these dynamics, the last half of the book details the nature and benefits of expositional preaching, and some practical pointers. Here is a summary of the eight points that he explains in these final sections:
1) Expository preaching always begins with the text of Scripture.
2) Expository preaching seeks to fuse the two horizons of the biblical text and the contemporary world.
3) Expository preaching gives glory to God, which ought to be the ultimate end of all we do.
4) Expository preaching demands that the preacher himself become a student of the Word of God.
5) Expository preaching enables the congregations to learn the Bible in the most obvious and natural way.
6) Expository preaching prevents the preacher from avoiding difficult passages or from dwelling on his favorite texts.
7) Expository preaching assures the congregation of enjoying a balanced diet of God’s Word.
8) Expository preaching liberates the preacher from the pressure of last-minute preparation on Saturday night.
If you are called to preach, there is no excuse to pass on this book. It is so good. It’s a small book, only 60 pages long; I read it in about an hour and a half and spent around half a highlighter on its pages. Begg references great pastor/preachers like Richard Baxter, John Stott, Martin Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, and John Piper. I highly recommend this book if you have an interest in the subject.