Every once in a while there is a special book that captures my attention and grinds me to the throne of Grace with a thankful heart and a greater appreciation for my Great God and Savior and for the calling that He has put on my life to be a “faithful shepherd” of His flock. A few titles that have gripped me are “The Supremacy of God in Preaching” by John Piper, “D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Vol. 1 & 2″ by Ian Murray, “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges ( and complementary volumes) and many more. Now, to add to that growing list is a short but powerful defense of the role and function of preaching in the local church by Christopher Ash – “The Priority of Preaching”.
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, IL gives this rousing endorsement that should suffice any Christ-Adoring Gospel-Centered pastor to pick up and read this book:
“A compelling apologetic for expository preaching from the wells of Deuteronomy. This little book is so seminal, so convincing, so winsome, so bracing and salutary–that it should be commended as an indispensable read to all who aspire to preach the Word.”
I have to agree with Kent. I read this book with a jaw dropping eagerness as I saw my calling rooted in the text of Deuteronomy and in the role and function of Moses the prophet…the first prophet.
The book is divided as follows:
- Chapter 1 – The Authority of the Word Preached
- Chapter 2 – Preaching that Transforms the Church
- Chapter 3 – Preaching that Mends a Broken World
- Appendix: Give God the Microphone (Seven blessings of consecutive expository preaching)
1. The Authority of the Word Preached (Deuteronomy 18:9-22)
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” Deuteronomy 18:15
“I will put My words in his mouth.” Deuteronomy 18:18
“This is my Son, whom I love, Listen to him!” Mark 9:7
In this chapter Ash roots the authority of the expository preacher in the forth-telling role and function of the prophet Moses and all subsequent prophets, The Prophet (Christ), the Apostles and then those given the ongoing task of proclaiming the new covenant in Jesus Christ, the Pastor/Teacher. This authority is such that the preacher speaks with authority when he is speaking the very words of God…and that the preacher can speak the very words of God, and that Christ exercises His authority over His church not by the written word, but by the written word preached. Such preaching is one of great toil and pain and keeps the preacher on his knees.
2. Preaching that Transforms the Church (Deuteronomy 30:11-20)
In this chapter Ash presents Moses as the prototypical preacher who carries out his bestowed responsibility with a healthy understanding of the reality of God, the stubbornness of people, the urgency of faith and the wonder of Grace (his outline of Deut. 30:11-20. Ash contends that Moses understands the culture of Egypt and of Canaan – the seductions of money, sex and power…and that Moses presents the reality of God “a consuming fire” to God’s people in that context. Moses also appeals to their hearts by identifying their fears (7:17), their pride (8:17) and stubbornness (1:32; 9:4-24). He then emphasizes the urgency of “today” throughout the book of Deuteronomy (1:21; 4:4; 5:1-4; 26:3; 27:9) and beyond (Josh. 24:15; Psalm 95:7-8; Heb. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; James 1:21). Finally he urges every preacher to follow the example of Moses and be clear, urgent and passionate.
3. Preaching that Mends a Broken World (Deuteronomy 4:5-14)
In this chapter Ash identifies the importance and relevance of the assembly (aka – the church). He contends that the church is the assembly called together by, and under, the Word of God. He stresses that “preaching and assembly are inseparable” (pg. 80). He states,
“Only the preached word of Christ, the word of grace preached again and again and again, pressed home with passion and engagement, only that word will create God’s assembly to rebuild a broken world.”
Again he says…
“Our identity is defined not by our achievement but by redemption, not by what we have done, but by what has been done for us, just as Israel was defined as those who were slaves in Egypt and had been redeemed with a strong hand and a mighty arm.”
Ash continues to press home that “the goal of the Bible is Bible performance, not Bible interpretation.” In saying this he is pressing home the need for us to “live out” by belief and obedience what God says in His Word.
Finally, he notes that…
“By and large we who are preachers do not reach the word with the word. Mostly the world will not listen to the word. Christ shapes his church with the word, and the church reaches the world…If a preacher is to act on the world he must, as a rule, do it through his church…He is to preach to the church from the word, so that with the church he may preach the gospel to the world.”
I would recommend any and every pastor to read this short text and rekindle God’s calling to be a preacher and teacher of His Word. The centrality of the pulpit ministry is under attack. Programs are presented as alternatives, Bible Studies are heralded as sufficient, worship in song has tended to eclipse God’s central focus from its proper place.
I suggest that we all fight to give God the glory in honoring our time gathered as an assembly under the delegated authority of the preacher who is exercising the gift and satisfying food of the word of God with passion urgency and clarity so that all God’s children can believe and obey in such a way as to spread the glory of the Gospel.
I have been convicted that there have been times in my pastorate, especially in the past five years, when, in a desire to be understanding and relevant, I have allowed myself to drift from this calling. It is an understandable drift that comes from the pressure of time constraints, perceived cultural acceptances, and the tickling ears that tend to be very vocal in ministry. In so doing, at times, I have deprived God’s church of the spiritual food they need.
Thank you Christopher Ash for the seminal confidence that I have to serve God in the most responsible role as prophet/preacher/forth-teller of His very words to His beloved flock.
I will leave the appendix for another blog article…but I would suggest you just get the book and read it for yourself.