Book Review – Preaching Old Testament Narratives

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Preaching Old Testament Narratives Book Cover Preaching Old Testament Narratives
Preaching with Excellence
Benjamin H. Walton
Kregel Ministry
June 27, 2016
Paperback
256

Publisher's Description

There's no question that the Old Testament is foundational for the New Testament church. But foundational or not, it can be difficult for preachers to pin down useful resources for narrative texts within the Old Testament, much less to skillfully preach those passages to their congregations.
Benjamin Walton provides the practical insight pastors need. In one volume, he demonstrates both the interpretive and homiletical skills necessary to preach Old Testament narratives well. Walton guides the preacher through selecting a text which is a complete unit of thought; describing the scene in a coherent way; determining the theological message of the text; and carefully crafting a meaningful take-home truth. He doesn't stop with discovering the core message—the majority of the book focuses on delivering the message drawn from these narrative texts.
Walton's approach is not just theoretical. It has been read and tested anonymously by groups of pastors, and their feedback has been incorporated into the book. This valuable resource will help preachers put all the pieces together, have confidence in what they're imparting, and maximize their preaching potential for Old Testament narratives.

Book Review – Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Preaching Old Testament Narratives is a book by Benjamin Walton which, as the name suggests, is aimed at helping pastors navigate through Old Testament passages. To do this, Walton suggests the following five steps in Part 1:

  1. Select the Complete Unit of Thought
  2. Identify the Theological and Historical Contexts
  3. Study the Plot
  4. Determine the Original-Theological Message
  5. Craft the Take-Home Truth

Part 2 is dedicated to unfolding the five steps. I found this division to be very helpful in explaining how the author actually conducts his sermon preparation. I found his chapters on developing applications and “moving to Christ” especially helpful because, as anyone knows who has preached from the Old Testament, these are the two most difficult things to do. For some reason we tend to have a difficult time making good theological applications from Old Testament narratives without resorting to moralism or misappropriating the meaning of the text. The same holds true for moving to Christ in an Old Testament passage. How often we forget that the Old Testament bears witness to Christ (Luke 24:27). That said, Walton interprets this to mean that some and not all passages are about Christ. While I think this is probably true, I also believe that all of the Old Testament (taken as a whole) is testifying to Christ and the promises we have in him. That being the case, I would probably be quicker to move to Christ in some passages than the author.

Overall I believe Preaching Old Testament Narratives by Benjamin Walton is a great book to help preachers develop their sermons from the Old Testament. The only thing that I believe is missing from the book is an emphasis on the Law-Gospel distinction in preaching. By this I mean, like the Lutherans, that a preacher should pay particular attention to the themes of law and gospel in the text (this is not to be confused with Old and New testaments or dispensations). In other words, when preaching from the Old Testament, we should use the law as the law was intended to be used, and once the hearer has been brought to see his or her sin via the schoolmaster of the law, allow the gospel to be the vehicle by which the believer is changed and sanctified. That said I don’t fault Walton for not including it in his book as it doesn’t appear to be a part of his core conviction on preaching. It is merely something that I feel is missing based on my understanding of how scripture is to be used to bring about change in the church.

Preaching Old Testament Narratives is a wonderful resource and would make a good addition to any pastoral library. I would go a step further even and say that this book should be read by parents in order that they can accurately unfold the Old Testament for their children during their times of scripture reading together. This is a book that you will want to pick up if you are in the position to teach from the Old Testament in any context.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Ministry in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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About the Author

Benjamin H. Walton (D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is president of PreachingWorks, an organization dedicated to helping pastors maximize their preaching potential. A respected homiletician and former pastor, Ben has taught or lectured at several colleges and seminaries. His work centers on the fusion of biblical interpretation and communication for the purpose of excellent preaching.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Preaching Old Testament Narratives

  1. Lewis Shiller

    If the law gospel distinction was not presented as something to include when prepping a text then what used in its place? Seems like either law only or gospel only. If law only then we are led to our own gumption to become holy. If only gospel then what sort of problem is there? There is no good news if there isn’t first bad news. Both are needed in every sermon or you end up with either legalism or antinomianism.

    • Hello Lewis,

      I’d tend to agree with you that the law/gospel distinction is important. Personally, I try to incorporate as much as both in my own sermons as appropriate. All to often we see that law is preached without gospel, or gospel is preached without law. This is unfortunate. Many pastors believe that they have to pick between one or the other when, as you pointed out, both are present and both play important roles in preaching; the law showing what God requires, convicts of sin and is a schoolmaster leading us to the good news of salvation found in Christ. I believe Walton would argue that if a Complete Unit of Thought (CUT) in scripture preaches an imperative and does not end with an indicative that we should not impose it upon the CUT. I on the other hand would argue that the whole of scripture taken as a complete unit of thought necessitates that we never leave the hearer with the belief that they can somehow do enough to be righteous and so we must include the gospel as the solution to the problem that the law reveals in us.

      All this aside, this really is a good book. You can do what you want with it to make it your own (such as adding a law/gospel distinction) but the main thrust of the book is to clearly and authoritatively communicate the meaning of OT narratives. His 5-point progression accomplishes this and does so in a wonderfully simplistic way.

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