Review: Preaching the Whole Counsel of God By Julius Kim

Not all preaching is good preaching. Some preachers do not exposit the text when they preach on Sunday. Other preachers exposit the text in ways that fit their agendas. And some preachers simply do not have a Christ-centered approach to preaching. The list goes on. Most Christians have heard some bad sermons in their lives. It is a sad reality that subpar preaching is not uncommon today.

Thankfully, there are plenty of good resources available for preachers who want to improve their craft. Indeed, all preachers should seek to grow in their preaching abilities. Speaking of homiletics resources and improving upon preaching, here is an excellent book for the preacher’s shelf: Preaching the Whole Counsel of God by Julius Kim. Although this book is not extremely lengthy, it is extremely full of helpful instructions about preaching. Kim guides the reader along the path of interpreting the text, writing a sermon on the text, and actually delivering the sermon in person.

Kim’s book contains four sections that address the main aspects of preaching. Two sections give details about interpreting Scripture and two give instructions about writing and preaching sermons. Here are the four sections: 1) Discovering the truth of the text according to the human author, 2) Discerning Christ in the text according to the divine author, 3) Designing the sermon according to truth, goodness, and beauty, and 4) Delivering the sermon for attention, retention, integration, and transformation. These four sections deal with both hermeneutics and homiletics, including practical instructions on how to preach a live sermon. There are many details in this book, from the specifics of Christ-centered interpretation methods to the specifics of how to structure a sermon in a way that listeners can best follow.

One strength of Kim’s book is his purposeful integration of hermeneutics (the interpretation of Scripture) and homiletics (the craft of preaching). In Kim’s words, preachers can use this book “to help them not only understand the words of the King (interpretation) but also convey his message well (communication)” (p. 21). Indeed, a balance in these areas is necessary for preachers. If a pastor knows how to interpret Scripture well but has no communication skills, his sermons will be lacking. Similarly, if a pastor has excellent communication skills but does not know how to interpret Scripture rightly, his sermons will fall far short of the biblical ideal. Kim understands the intimate connection between hermeneutics and homiletics, which is one helpful aspect of this book.

Speaking of hermeneutics and homiletics, Kim also nicely emphasizes the importance of a Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture and Christ-centered preaching of Scripture. This is another strength of Preaching the Whole Counsel of God. Kim argues that pastors should preach Christ from all of Scripture because it is biblical: “Jesus and the apostles did it” (p. 58). Utilizing the biblical-theological insights from Edmund Clowney, Geerhardus Vos, and others, Kim gives helpful instructions on interpreting Scripture in a Christ-centered manner. Thus, learning to interpret Scripture in a Christ-centered way helps pastors preach sermons with a Christ-centered emphasis. This book also contains particular instructions about how to preach Christ from the various genres of Scripture.

Preachers looking for specific details on how to write and preach a sermon will be pleased to find all sorts of sermonic particulars in this book. Kim argues for writing and preaching sermons that are designed with truth, goodness, and beauty in mind. He also explains how to write and preach a sermon with a main proposition (central idea), main points, and fitting subpoints under each point. Kim even gives specific tips on how to make the sermon’s points biblical, truthful, relevant, and related to one another. This is the big picture of writing a sermon: the general outline. But this book also gives instructions on how to write specific aspects of a sermon, such as illustrations, application points, introductions, and conclusions. For example, good sermon application, in Kim’s terms, should be “perceptible to the mind,” “penetrating to the heart,” and “practical to life” (p. 169). All the bases of sermon writing are covered in this book.

In my opinion, one of the more unique and helpful aspects of Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is chapter eight: “The Influence of Neuroscience on the Design and Delivery of the Sermon.” In this chapter, Kim engages with neuroscience to help the preacher understand how people’s brains best receive spoken information. For example, research has shown that people’s perception of the speaker correlates to how well they listen and retain what they hear (p. 180). For another example, research also shows that when “information is emotionally relevant to the hearer, the likelihood of attention, retention, and integration is increased” (p. 185). After giving this kind of information about neuroscience, Kim applies it to preaching and gives instructions on preaching sermons that are easier for people to listen to and retain. These insights are helpful because preachers sometimes fail to think about how to preach in a way that makes it easier for the listener to understand and follow.

One weakness of Kim’s book is its lack of interaction with the hermeneutic or homiletic insights of preachers before the twentieth century. Kim helpfully interacts with modern preachers such as Timothy Keller and Bryan Chapell, for example. Apart from a few passing references, however, this book fails to glean preaching insights from significant homiletic resources from the past such as those by William Perkins, Charles Bridges, W. G. T. Shedd, Augustine, and others. The book would have been even better had it taken into account good preaching insights from the past.

All in all, Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is a very good resource for pastors who want instruction on how to write and deliver biblical, Christ-centered sermons that touch people’s hearts. Some of the material in this book is similar to other homiletics resources. Preaching the Whole Counsel of God, however, contains some material that is not found in other homiletics books. For that and the other reasons mentioned above, I believe this book on preaching is a good one, and one that will help pastors preach better sermons.

©Shane Lems. All Rights Reserved.

Kim, Julius J. Preaching the Whole Counsel of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.


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Posted by Shane Lems | Thursday, November 9, 2023 | Categorized Books, Church History, Reviews | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Shane Lems

Shane Lems graduated from Westminster Seminary California in 2007. He has been a church planter and pastor in the URCNA. Since 2013 he’s been serving as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Hammond, WI. He is married and has four children. Shane has written numerous articles for Modern Reformation, New Horizons, and other publications. He is also the author of Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition and manages a book blog, The Reformed Reader.