Book Review: Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke

by Keifer Navey

There’s no denying that we are living in a golden age of good reformed literature. Providentially, the Church has benefited from the pens of many men of God beginning with the Biblical writers themselves, the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, Puritans, Old Princetonians, and up to now with many magnificent volumes coming out every single month.

One of these recent magnificent volumes is Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke. It is no exaggeration when I say that I used two highlighters with this book. Literally, every single page in this book is filled with wisdom, and it will prove itself to be a powerful tool for preachers young and old for centuries to come.

Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People

Joel Beeke―a pastor and professor of preaching with over four decades of experience―explores the fundamental principles of Reformed experiential preaching, examining sermons by preachers from the past and bridging the historical gap by showing pastors what the preaching of God’s life-transforming truth looks like today.

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Joel Beeke has gifted rookie preachers, veteran pastors, and everyone in-between volume that could nearly be the last preaching book you will ever need. A book so hefty in its physical weight (500 pages) and spiritual depth that it could be revisited once a year for a lifetime.

Key Points of the Book

  1. Reformed Experiential Preaching Defined and Described: The First 100 pages are dedicated to what Beeke calls Reformed Experiential Preaching or REP. He begins by defining it and follows through to describing it. REP is “preaching that applies the truth of God to the hearts of people to show how things out to go, do go, and ultimately will go in the Christian’s experience with respect to God and his neighbors- including his family members, fellow church members, and people in the world around him.” Or more briefly put, “the Reformed Experiential Preaching received God’s Word into his heart, and then preaches it to the minds, hearts, and lives of his people.”
  1. Reformed Experiential Preaching Illustrated: The next 200 pages are dedicated to history lessons of REP beginning with the Reformation and on. He speaks of Calvin and Beza, Perkins, Sibbes, and Bunyan. He covers the dutch reformed preachers, 18th-century preachers like Edwards, and all the way up to Ryle and Lloyd-Jones. And that’s just half the list. But don’t be dismayed if you feel daunted about reading 250 pages of reformed preaching history. What you may think is boring or intimidating is actually humbling and encouraging. Reading about the work great men like Calvin put into the pulpit such as preaching nearly every day of the week isn’t intimidating, it’s encouraging. Reading about these godly men and the effort they put into expositing the Scriptures for their people all to God’s glory ignited a fire in my bones to preach that was rekindled with every new chapter.
  1. Preaching Experientially Today: Finally, the book ends on a highly practical note for preachers. The organization of the book is simple but well-paced, building upon each part. Coming out of the church history classroom fired up to preach, Dr. Beeke gives you the tools to do so. Specific chapters on preaching with balance and how to use the application in your sermons are some of the best in the book. The final chapter “Preaching for Holiness” perfectly ties the book together and ends on the right chord.

Powerful Quotes From the Book

  • “Whenever the Word and the Spirit break forth in Reformed experiential preaching, people are transformed. The Spirit is the Lord of reformation and revival. As Lord, he acts sovereign and freely (John 3:8). He may act in small, quiet ways or he may suddenly rush upon men like a mighty wind. He may work upon thousands in a single day or he may touch just one hearer. But he is ever the Spirit of holiness, and his effects constantly bear the image of Jesus. This, then, must be the aim of preaching: a holy people for the glory of God” (p.69).
  • “Preaching is the instrument for the application of redemption. Christ is a medicine that must be taken, clothing that must be put on, a foundation on which we must build, a light to be set forth, and food that must be eaten. Therefore, a preacher must open the ‘open the mystery of Christ’ in his natures; his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; his state of humiliation to work our salvation for us; his state of exaltation to apply our salvation to us; and his promises, which are ‘but Christ dished and parceled out’” (p.183).
  • “Effective application of God’s truth to human experience requires a lifestyle of walking with God, continually study, learning about human nature, praying continually for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, speaking naturally from the heart, and cultivating our motivation” (p.370).
  • “We must preach the whole counsel of God without apology and without regret or reservation. Remember, we are merely the messengers of God and the ministers of his Word. All the text of Scripture to set the agenda” (p.359).
  • “Our calling is to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Cultivating an original life with God does not mean self-fulfillment, but paradoxically finding life in self-abnegation for Christ (v.24). The self denied is a self-put into the right place to be sanctified, transformed, and eventually glorified. Only when you seek and submit to the Spirit’s application of Christ’s death to your self and your sins do you become what God designed you to be” (p.89).

Application in the Local Church

If you are a local pastor or elder this book is priceless for you. Containing 500 pages of pastoral ministry gold this gift from Joel Beeke is easily readable, highly quotable, and incredibly practical. You will highlight and underline every page in this book and keep coming back for more to glean. Your preaching will improve, your studying will deepen and your heart for your flock will be even more tightly knit together.

Citation: Reformed Preaching by Dr. Joel Beeke. Crossway 2018. 504 pages.

Interested in Planting a Biblical House Church?

If you’re interested in exploring, planting, or joining a biblical house church, this booklet will serve as a tool of clarity and confidence.

Keifer is the Founder and book reviewer for Nerdy Theologians—a digital resource dedicated to recommending the most edifying theological literature. He is also a husband, father, preacher, and elder mentee at his local church. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

More by Keifer

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