Jonathan Griffiths is the Lead Pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Church, Ottawa, Canada. He formerly served as an instructor on the Cornhill Training Course at the Proclamation Trust, London. He wrote Hebrews and Divine Speech (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014) and edited The Perfect Saviour: Key Themes in Hebrews (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity, 2012). Jonathan holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.
This is an important and valuable book. It tackles two foundational questions about what we call ‘preaching’:
First, according to Scripture, is there actually such a thing as ‘preaching’ that can be differentiated in any way from other forms of word ministry? Or, if there was such a phenomenon in the context of the Old Testament prophetic ministries, or in the ministries of Jesus and his apostles, is there still such a thing as a specialized word ministry called ‘preaching’ in the post-apostolic age? … We then encounter a second and related question: How would post-apostolic ‘preaching’ relate to the preaching of the Old Testament prophets and of Jesus and his apostles? (pp. 2, 3)
Griffiths recognises that these are crucial questions. We could decide that preaching is optional or do it because we have always done it. Or we could do it because it seems to work or stop doing it because it seems not to work! These kinds of responses are unsatisfactory and inappropriate.
These questions are the focus of the book, and Griffiths tackles them by developing a biblical theology of preaching; by investigating three crucial words: εὐαγγελίζομαι, καταγγέλλω, and κηρύσσω; he then studies key passages in 2 Timothy, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, and Hebrews. This is a powerful combination, including as it does biblical theology, key words, and key passages. He also includes a discussion of the relationship between Old Testament prophets and New Testament preachers. And he places preaching in the context of the broader word ministries of the New Testament. Through this exercise he develops a robust and convincing exposition of the crucial role of preaching in post-apostolic ministry, and also demonstrates its continuity with and dependence on the ministry of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
Here are his conclusions:
- ‘Preaching is a proclamation of the word of God.’ (p. 122)
- ‘Christian preaching stands in a line of continuity with the preaching of Jesus and the apostles.’ (p. 123)
- ‘Christian preaching stands in a line of continuity with the Old Testament prophetic tradition.’ (p. 126)
- ‘Preachers must be commissioned to preach.’ (p. 129)
- ‘The nature of preaching uniquely reflects the nature of the gospel.’ (p. 129)
- ‘Preaching is a divine and human activity that constitutes an encounter with God.’ (p. 130)
- ‘Preaching has a natural context and particular significance within the Christian assembly.’ (p. 131)
- ‘Preaching is related to, but distinct from, other ministries of the word.’ (p. 133)
All this is carefully and comprehensively argued and supported, yet presented with elegant simplicity. He clarifies what the Bible teaches, and does not go beyond the evidence. You will miss the significance and power of these conclusions if you do not read the book yourself, and see the evidence with which Griffiths supports these claims.
Those who are excited by reading this book would be further enriched by reading his Hebrews and Divine Speech, which forms the foundation for his section on Hebrews in this book and also provides an even deeper and richer theological foundation for what is found here.
This is important evidence we need to keep in mind when making decisions about the place of preaching within ministry in both the Western and the Majority world. At least the book makes it clear that preaching is not a Western invention or the product of a rationalist and scientific age!
Issues which could be profitably followed up include the following:
- Any clues or indications of what New Testament preaching might or should look like in the prophecies of the Old Testament, as for example Deuteronomy.
- A fuller development of the place of New Testament prophets and prophecy within the general frame he has outlined of the relationship between Old Testament prophets and New Testament preachers.
- The relationship between the teaching ministry of Old Testament priests (see for example Ezra 7, Neh 8, and Mal 2) and New Testament preachers.