Bret James Stewart's Reviews > Anointed Expository Preaching

Anointed Expository Preaching by Stephen F. Olford
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This book is written by father and son team, Stephen and David Olford. Both are ardent supports of proper preaching. Both have phenomenal careers that honour God. They have the expertise to specialize in this subject.

The book itself is attractive and clearly laid out. The information segues nicely and is written in a winsome manner that should appeal to the reader. The biblical references used are legitimate and adequately explained. Further, the book is comprehensive, covering the role of the preacher from his initial call, to proper sermon preparation, to a delivery of the message that achieves its goal in a personable manner.

Chapter by Chapter Overview

Chapter one starts of the book by rightly assessing the preacher and his call to preach. Some preachers may be mistakenly called or unsure if they are called, so the authors provide an overview of the qualifications of a legitimately called preacher. These involve the meeting of the requirements of a preacher as set forth in Scripture (see Acts 9:15-16; 20; 22:14-15; 26: 16-18). The witness of the Holy Spirit must also be present in the man’s heart (see Rom. 8:14; Gal. 1:15-16; II Tim. 1:8-11). Evidence for the spiritual gift of preaching must be present, and the preaching gift should be recognized and confirmed by the local congregation (see I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6-7; Acts 13:1-4). Finally, the preaching gift should be used toward the salvation of souls and/or the edification of the saints, which are the two normative foci of preaching.

Chapter two focuses upon the need for the man of God to immerse himself in the Word of God, both at the daily devotional level and in sermon preparation. The gospel is the primary theme of Scripture and, therefore, should be the main theme of preaching. Study habits pertinent to the study of the Word are also supplied. These promote a meditative and careful approach to Scripture.

Chapter three introduces the contemporary problems the author identify with the topic of the Holy Spirit. They feel a tendency is in place wherein many preachers are hesitant to preach about the Holy Spirit because of the temptation to reject or ignore the Holy Spirit and His role in the gospel or, on the other extreme, to overemphasize the importance of the Spirit. The former the authors label as “escapism” and the latter “extremism.” They maintain both should be avoided.

Chapter four identifies and argues against two vices that are particularly heinous with a preacher: liberalism and mammonism. The former refers to deviating from the Word and leads to a corrupted message, a conceited mindset on the part of the preacher, contentious behaviour and attitudes, and a tendency for the preacher to sell out to commercial motives such as materialism. The latter is somewhat related to the former, especially to the result of materialism, and refers to a love of financial gain.

Chapter five deals with four areas of the preacher’s life that should be thoughtfully considered and maintained. The first of these is the moral life, which refers to the adherence of the preacher to biblical moral standards, which he is, after all, teaching and promoting. The second of these is the mental life, which promotes an active intellectual approach to learning. The third is the marital life, which involves the homelife of the preacher, which should be somberly held to the biblical standard and involve vibrant, edifying relationships with his wife (especially) and family. The fourth is the manual life, which refers to the physical body, which should be kept in optimum shape.

Chapter six defines expository preaching as the “Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical, and doctrinal significance of the given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ-transforming response” (69) and argues for the same as the proper preaching style. The authors also describe four approaches to this stylistic: the study, subject, structure, and substance of the text.

Chapter seven utilizes the Apostle Paul as an example of a legitimate preacher of the gospel, one which the contemporary preacher would do well to emulate. The legacies of Paul include personal example, a preached Word, and prepared leadership. All of these are qualities and characteristics that are important in today’s church. Much of this chapter is devoted to the process of accomplishing Paul’s spiritual legacy, and the examples and procedures provided serve as a step-by-step guide many preachers will find helpful.

Chapter eight expounds upon the aforementioned research phase of sermon preparation. This, too, consists of a step-by-step manual for preachers that is useful, especially for new preachers. This practical chapter deals with meta-matters such as time management and office arrangement as well as textual methods such as selecting a text, how to study it, including the use of study procedures as well as aids such as compendia, and how to hone in on the main theme of a given text. This is more or less hermeneutics, and a proper hermeneutic is key to arriving at the proper interpretation of a text.

Chapter nine addresses organization in regard to the central idea of the text. After the methods of chapter eight, the preacher should be able to ascertain the primary thrust of the passage. This chapter deals with strategies for arriving at the unifying thematic elements of the text to arrive at a “thesis statement” (my term) of the Scripture.

Chapter 10 proceeds to aid the preacher in utilizing the central idea ascertained in chapter nine to create an introductory statement that clearly identifies the central idea to a listening audience. This chapter also includes praxis-related concepts and methods for actually delivering the introduction before a congregation.

Chapter eleven serves as a cautionary admonishment to avoid some of the more common mistakes in communication from the pulpit such as speaking with too low a voice to be understood by all. In particular, the authors warn against the preacher reading too quickly, which makes the message difficult for listeners to understand, and reading with too little expression, which often results in the listeners feeling the text in question is less important or meaningful than it is.

Chapter twelve deals with the concept of the preacher and consecration. This focuses upon the anointing of the preacher by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is vital because the preacher cannot reach people or proclaim truth effectively on his own, the power of the Spirit is necessary to imbue the message and the messenger with holy strength to accomplish the mission of the gospel.

Chapter thirteen proceeds to grapple with the various aspects of proclaiming the message. Preaching is God’s ordained means of communicating truth, so this element of the preaching event should be treated somberly and with all the care and obedience as other elements of preaching. The focus is upon the practical in this chapter, and the praxis of communication will benefit many preachers.

Chapter fourteen deals with spiritual comprehension and how it is obtained and harnessed. Spiritual things are only comprehended by the spiritual. Through the Holy Spirit, mankind is able to understand and apply the wisdom of God. The non-spiritual, unregenerate man cannot understand the wisdom of God without divine aid.

Chapter fifteen addresses the applications that should be part of any sermon. These include the law of content, which refers to the doctrinal elements of Scripture, the law of intent, which refers to the purpose of the preacher to move the hearer to conform to the holiness God expects in His people, and the law of movement, which refers to the goal of stimulating the whole man—heart, mind, and will—to the preceding conformity to righteousness.

Chapter sixteen describes the invitation. This is the goal of preaching, the culminating factor toward which everything else has been geared as far as the preaching process. The Holy Spirit can (and hopefully will) move the hearer to respond, but the invitation is the last planned part of a sermon. Response to those responding to the invitation may be required, but this cannot be prepared in advance.

Chapter seventeen provides a description of what should be the results of a proper preaching event culminating in an invitation: conversion of sinners and edification of the saints. Both are based upon an anointed expository presentation of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The most important idea of the chapter involves the conversion/salvation of the hearer. The conversion process has three steps. First, the Holy Spirit convicts the person about his sin and moves him to make a decision to accept Christ as His personal saviour. Second, the repentance and Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a result of the conversion of life. Third is the confession of faith wherein the person makes a public acknowledgement of his obedience to the Lord, which usually involves baptism and the joining of a local church.

Chapter eighteen grapples with the issue of people leaving the church. The authors posit this occurs because preachers fail to teach core doctrines pertaining to Christ and the church. The three main things the preacher is to convey to counter this tendency is to proclaim that one must be saved to live the Christian life, the acceptance of Christ as saviour, and the acceptance of Christ as sovereign. Without Christ, there is nothing to hold the person to the church. The acceptance of Christ sounds as if it is about salvation, but it is nuanced here to refer to the proper understanding of Jesus’ status as saviour. Lastly, the believer must understand that Christ is sovereign as is to be obeyed, part of which involves being an active member of a local church.

Chapter nineteen deals with the proper motivation for the preacher. The first of these is a hope in the eschatological aspects of Scripture. The second is a motivating fear of the Lord that leads to obedience and a desire to proclaim the Word of truth. The third is love of Christ that both compels the preacher to preach and constrains him to do so correctly.

The book concludes with a chapter exhorting the preacher to preach. The Word is to be proclaimed conscientiously, comprehensively, and courageously. Only in this way is the preacher to fulfill his commission in a way that pleases the Lord.

Following are various appendices designed to aid the preacher. Appendix A: The Preacher and Worship provides help regarding the nature and procedure of worship as well as strategies for avoiding obstructions to the same. Appendix B: The Preacher and Music covers the substance, standard, and secret of success in music. Also included is a suggested covenant to be used with members who wish to participate in the choir. Appendix C: The Preacher and Evangelism contains information about evangelism as it pertains to the message, manner, and motive of the preacher. Appendix D: The Preacher and Romans provides a look into this biblical book as it pertains to the role and desired result of preaching. This is designed to both motivate the preacher and ensure his methodology adheres to biblical precept. Lastly, there is a selected bibliography for those who want to continue to learn about the wonders of preaching. Sadly, the book has no index. The table of contents is well done with subheading that aid in finding topical information, but this does not function as well as an index.

Discussion and Review

As the title of the book implies, expository preaching is the focus of this book. What is expository preaching? As mentioned above, expository preaching is a stylistic. There are different nuances to the term. Here, the authors define it as: “…the Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical, and doctrinal significance of the given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ-transforming response.” There are two primary aspects of expository preaching that need to be considered: biblical authority and practical artistry.

The expository stylistic is supported by the Bible. In the Old Testament, Nehemiah 8:8 is the flagship verse for this style: “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (KJV). This verse involves all three aspects of expository preaching: the reading of the text, the revealing of the truth of the text, and the relating of the thrust (the understanding) of the text. In the New Testament, Jesus expounds from the Scriptures in Mark 1:22; 2:1-2; 4:34; Luke 4:16-22; 24:27; and John 1:18, among others. Peter does so in Acts 2:14-36 on the Day of Pentecost, and Stephen does so in Acts 7. Paul is a great New Testament expositor.

The practical artistry for expository preaching is supported by II Timothy 2:15 in regard to “rightly [accurately] dividing the word of truth.” This involves a study of the text wherein the preacher must be accurate historically, contextually, grammatically, and doctrinally in order to convey the truth. The subject (theme) of the text must be ascertained out of the context in order to arrive at the proper unity of thought and purpose of the passage. A careful exegesis of the text is necessary to accomplish this. This is to be honed into a viable sermon including a properly-arranged and supported introduction, exposition, and peroration (conclusion) including an invitation for the hearers to respond appropriately to the message. The three disciplines of prayerfully reviewing, relating, and rehearsing the sermon both involves the Holy Spirit in the communication procedure and proves careful handling of the material by the preacher to encourage a sober and impactful biblical message. As we can see, Paul’s admonishment to Timothy for expository preaching is a timeless promotion of the expository stylistic.

I fully agree that the expository method is a biblically-supported methodology. The historical-grammatical hermeneutic is the conservative and proper way to approach the text. Thus, expository preaching should be the default stylistic utilized by preachers. I do posit, and the authors agree, that there are times when a topical or thematic style is acceptable or even desirable. During holidays or events such as wedding ceremonies, a topical sermon is both suitable and expected. Other legitimate topical treatments include biblical characters studies (e.g. Solomon), in-depth studies about places or concepts (e.g. Solomon’s Temple) or events (e.g. the building of Solomon’s Temple). These are interesting, and the preacher is likely to include such sermons in his ministry. It is presupposed that these also include a proper hermeneutic, of course. Still, the “bread and butter” (my term) of the preaching event should be expository preaching.

The “anointed” portion of the title portrays the need for the Holy Spirit to be involved in the preaching process. I also fully support this. Without His work, all that the preacher can do in his human strength is going to be insufficient. This does not lessen the responsibilities the preacher has to act in obedience and conscientiously prepare sermons and deliver them, but the results are up to the Holy Spirit.

I like everything about this book except for the lack of an index. I take away one star for this because I feel an index is a given for an instructional book such as this. Otherwise, I heartily recommend it to all preachers and anyone else who is interested in learning more about the role and practice of the preacher. The book is biblically accurate and written clearly in a personable manner that is enjoyable to read.


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November 25, 2015 – Shelved

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