What We Believe

Expository Preaching by David Helm

T. David Gordon

Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today, by David Helm. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014, 125 pages including appendix and indices.

Full disclosure: David Helm was a student of mine at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and my high regard for him may prevent my being entirely objective.

I often tell my students that I evaluate a book by the criterion of “insights per page.” This little volume (125 pages) satisfies that criterion very well, because it contains a remarkable amount of insight for its size. In its four chapters it contains roughly equal coverage of: contextualization, exegesis, theological reflection, today (with introductory and conclusive thoughts). Books could be written, and indeed have been written, about each of these, and Helm does a remarkable job of saying the most important and pertinent things about each of these areas with great concision.

As its title suggests, the chapter on exegesis is pivotal, and it contains wonderful emphasis (and good examples) of contextual exegesis, on noticing the structure and emphases of the biblical author, and on the importance of recognizing and accounting for genre. There is almost no fat on the bones here, as Helm says what needs to be said (convincingly and clearly), without cluttering the chapter by chasing every smaller rabbit. It would not hurt the busy pastor to re-read this chapter several times annually. The chapter on the danger of context overwhelming/overpowering exegesis is also critical to Helm’s point, and his warnings are well founded and his points there are well taken. The chapter on theological reflection is a virtual survey of both biblical theology and systematic theology (and their respective roles in expository preaching), and yet it is done very concisely and wisely, with an unmistakable concern for their effect on expository preaching.

Stylistically, I ordinarily find illustrations/diagrams to be distracting, if not cheesy, but I found these very helpful. As the “them/then ... us/now” was introduced on page 40, then filled out later, I found this very helpful. Some readers will find the mid-chapter summaries (“In this chapter we have looked at ...”, 35) to be distracting; others will be helped by them. Helm probably did not wish to clutter the manuscript with bibliographic footnotes (though the ones that are there are helpful). But I thought I saw the unmistakable influence of Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart in the section about recognizing the importance of genre to exegesis (How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible),[1] Meredith Kline when discussing the move from “creation to consummation” (Kingdom Prologue),[2] and Edmund Clowney in the instructions about biblical theology (Preaching and Biblical Theology);[3] and, since I learned about Charles Simeon’s counsel regarding the three goals of a sermon from professor Nigel Kerr, who was still alive and teaching when Helm was a student at Gordon-Conwell, I would be surprised if Helm did not learn about Simeon from Kerr. Perhaps Helm included attribution in the manuscript and the editors removed them to avoid/evade becoming too academic.

In the section on historical context, I believe Helm may have confused the historical-critical method with the grammatico-historical method. He says “historical-critical,” but probably means “grammatico-historical” (65ff., 86). Most evangelicals and inerrantists object to the anti-supernaturalism ordinarily associated with the historical-critical method.[4] Everything Helm says here is true, helpful, and well within a commitment to inerrancy; but the designation employed would arouse the suspicion of those readers who were otherwise unaware of Helm’s strong commitment to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture.

There are many good books on expositional preaching; but there are none—to my knowledge—which contain so much important insight per page as this one. Even the busiest preacher could find time to re-read it annually, and his congregation would be the benefactors of his doing so.


[1] Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993).

[2] Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Overland Park, KS: Two Age, 2000).

[3] Edmund Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973).

[4] Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical Critical Method, transl. by Edwin W. Leverenz and Rudolph F. Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977); Archie L. Nations, “Historical Criticism and the Current Methodological Crisis,” Scottish Journal of Theology 36, no. 1 (1983): 59–72.

T. David Gordon is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America serving as Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. Ordained Servant Online, May 2015.

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Ordained Servant: May 2015

Preach the Word!

Also in this issue

Expository Preaching: What Is It and Why Should We Do It?

From the Mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson

A Biblical Theology of Mystery: A Review Article

Evangelical versus Liturgical? by Melanie C. Ross

Logos 5, Reformed Platinum, Bible Program

The Broad-minded Preacher (No. 1207)

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