Review of ‘Preaching the New Testament’ by Ian Paul and David Wenham

Preaching the New Testament Paul, Ian and David Wenham, eds. Preaching the New Testament. 2013. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Expository preaching is not an easy task. It requires familiarity with the Bible and your listeners, as well as facility in bridging the contextual divide between the two. In other words, it involves at least three disciplines: exegesis, homiletics, and hermeneutics.

Preaching the New Testament is a collection of 17 essays by evangelical New Testament scholars who are also preachers. Edited by Ian Paul and David Wenham, it does not focus on “persuasive communication.” Rather, it offers “insights about how to interpret and communicate the New Testament today.” In other words, its focus is on exegetical and hermeneutical foundations of homiletics rather than on the mechanics of homiletics.

The first 11 essays are organized in canonical New Testament order, with specific focus on the Gospels (ch. 1), the infancy narratives (ch. 2), Jesus’ parables and miracles (chs. 3, 4), the Sermon on the Mount (ch. 5), Acts (ch. 6), Paul’s letters (ch. 7), the Pastoral Epistles (ch. 8), Hebrews (ch. 9), the General Epistles (ch. 10), and Revelation (ch. 11). The remaining six essays address archaeology and history (ch. 12), New Testament ethics (ch. 13), hope and judgment (ch. 14), relational hermeneutics (ch. 15), exegesis and the “New Homiletic” (ch. 16), and evangelistic preaching (ch. 17).

As a Pentecostal, I was especially interested in the chapters on preaching Jesus’ miracles and Acts. Pentecostals typically ignore the hermeneutical divide between narrative and normative, between what Jesus and the early church did and what we should do. So it was interesting to see how evangelicals negotiate the divide. Though I did not agree with all the conclusions in these chapters, I learned from both of them.

Expository preachers needing help with this Sunday’s sermon will not find it here. Preaching the New Testament offers no plug-and-play advice for procrastinating pulpiteers. Rather, it should be read long in advance of preparing an individual sermon, perhaps as you are planning a new sermon series. It will stimulate insights into about the meaning and significance of the New Testament for contemporary audiences. For the mechanics of how to persuasively communicate these insights from the pulpit, you’ll need to read other books.

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Five Smooth Stones of Faith (1 Samuel 17:1-58)

This morning, I preached in the chapel service of the Assemblies of God national office. My text was 1 Samuel 17:1-58. I made the following five points:

  1. Faith is the settled conviction that God is always there. Whereas the army interpreted Goliath’s mocking as defiance of them (v. 25), David saw that it was really defiance of God  (v. 26). Indeed, he is the first person to mention God in this passage. David’s faith is the opposite of the army’s practical atheism, which believed that God is apparently not there (G.I.A.N.T.) during difficult times.
  2. Faith is the antidote to fear. Compare the army’s fear (v. 24) with David’s faith-filled defiance of Goliath (v. 26).
  3. Faith is the antidote to criticism. David’s faith provoked anger from his Eliab, who questioned his motives (v. 28). Eliab represents the Stupid Older Brother, who critique of David was likely rooted in jealousy. Eliab was afraid that David’s faith would demonstrate his own and the army’s own lack of faith. Rather than nurturing and releasing that faith, Eliab and Stupid Older Brothers the world over attempt to squelch it. (And yes, the abbreviation of Stupid Older Brothers is intentional.)
  4. Faith is built through experience. David’s faith in God’s ability to protect Israel from Goliath is rooted in his experience of God protecting him from predators in the wild (v. 37). And God’s strategy for delivering Israel from Goliath built on those unique experiences, which is why David refused to wear Saul’s armor (vv. 39, 40).
  5. Faith doesn’t play by the rules; it changes the game. Goliath wanted to fight a champion battle, which favored his size and strength. David knew that was a losing game, so instead of playing by those rules, he changed the game to a kind of fighting that favored him (v. 40).

Anyway, here’s the video:


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