Preach so that others will come if only to watch you burn.
In C. K. Barrett, we meet a masterful biblical scholar and gifted preacher who never lost touch with his Wesleyan heritage. In the wake of the discovery of his sermon notebooks, it became immediately apparent to Dr. Ben Witherington that these sermons were of immense value for, not only students of modern Methodism and its homiletics but also for theologians and pastors who want to see how the interweaving of insightful biblical exposition and Wesleyan theology can be done with skill and clarity.
The sermons in this book were mostly preached in British Methodist chapels and in university chapels between 1934 and 2009. They reflect the labors of a world-renowned scholar with considerable homiletical skill and open a window on superior Methodist preaching. C. K. Barrett is in touch with the original sermons of John Wesley and the hymns of Charles Wesley, but is, at the same time, conversant with modern theology and biblical scholarship. Barrett’s unique blend of Bible scholarship, Wesleyan heritage, and artful preaching is instructive and still needed in our church if we intend to fulfill our mission to transform the world.
I, like generations of preachers, have been tutored by C .K. Barrett, the biblical scholar who helped us into the biblical text by sharing his unending delight in the joys of scripture. But until Ben Witherington, I did not know C. K. Barrett the preacher, even less his father, Fred. In this book of Barrett sermons Ben Witherington shows why he loves Barrett the preacher and how Barrett’s preaching can help us be contemporary servants of the word. The sermons are disarmingly fresh, direct, and engaging, demonstrating how the biblical word can speak here and now. What a delightful collection of great biblical preaching.
—Will Willimon, Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry, Duke Divinity School, and United Methodist Bishop, retired
At a time when a great gulf exists between serious biblical scholarship and most preaching, the sermons of C. K. Barrett—arguably the most significant New Testament scholar of the twentieth century—offer an instructive and rewarding corrective. Barrett had a gift for drawing out the theological significance of passages so as to stimulate the intellect of the most sophisticated thinkers and at the same time to make the biblical truths interesting, understandable, and relevant to ordinary Christians. These sermons are pure gold.
—David Bauer, Ralph Waldo Beeson Professor of Inductive Bible Study, Asbury Theological Seminary
C. K. Barrett’s sermons are the gospel in miniature. Wearing his scholarship lightly, Barrett confronts us here first and foremost with the person of Jesus. In simple, pithy prose, he subverts comfortable piety and conventional religion by evoking the disturbing voice of Jesus, and then leads us beyond that bracing encounter into the limitless love of God. These down-to-earth reflections are both personal and profoundly theological, and they stand the test of time. Barrett was a brilliant communicator of the gospel in the Methodist chapels of County Durham, but these selected sermons have the capacity to speak powerfully to many contexts today.
—John Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Biblical Studies, Durham University, England
Some readers of the luminaries of New Testament commentaries have often pondered how that scholar might preach a New Testament text, how they might apply the text, and how they might work this exacting exegesis out for lay folks. In a former era most of those New Testament scholars could be heard in their local churches, preaching but in the last generation an increasing number of our luminaries have faded from the church scene. It is nothing but a delightful and spiritually forming experience to read the sermons of C.K. Barrett, a scholar I have treasured my entire academic life. I now admire his spiritual formation as visible in every one of these sermons.
—Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary, Lombard, IL
Like many others, I first encountered C. K. Barrett as a great New Testament scholar. But the sermons published here reveal another Barrett—Barrett the preacher. He was a preacher who knew how to unravel a biblical text and put it back together again, a preacher whose sermons sounded like a summons from the God of eternity. It is wonderful to have this treasury of Barrett’s pulpit work to inspire a new generation of Christ’s heralds today.
—Timothy George is the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.
Wesley’s Foundery Books is an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, The United Methodist Church and named for the abandoned foundery that early followers of John Wesley transformed into the cradle of London’s Methodist movement.
Ben Witherington III is an American New Testament scholar. Witherington is Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary, in Wilmore, Kentucky; Doctoral Faculty at St. Andrews University, Scotland; and an ordained pastor in The United Methodist Church.