Expository Preaching

A simple definition of expository preaching is not a running commentary, a verse-by-verse reading and “explaining” of individual words, phrases, and ideas (which can miss the forest on account of the trees).  Usually  (not necessarily) is SERIAL study of the Bible, usually a book at a time (not necessarily in Bible-order); a given unit may be a chapter or part of one (sometimes an entire book of the Bible, even a big one!), with discovery of the key idea in the passage, its relation to the context, the supporting sub-ideas, and the application of the whole to the current listeners.  Despite the virtues of this system and the advantages to a pastor, various pressures make inferior kinds of sermons (topical, “occasional”) more popular.  For this reason we list some arguments in favor of expository preaching:

  1.  Agreed; the Bible should be the textbook for all preaching.  What other textbook is used in any other way than “expository”? (As it is, we use scripture as a recipe-box of slogans, mottoes, maxims, edifying ideas, and unsystematic theology as “texts”.)
  2. Agreed; preaching is (should be) teaching; exposition is simply teaching.
  3. This is the way the Bible was written; not as a book of theology, a catechism or creed, but a progressive unfolding, a revelation, with order, sequence, unity, system.
  4. It is the way that the typical Christian ought to study the Bible for himself; sermonizing (preparation and presentation) on the part of a preacher ought to be a model, example of this.
  5. This was the method by which God’s people in the Old Testament studied the Word of God. (Note the Providence by which Jesus’  “text” in his sermon at Nazareth was arrived at, and the impact that it had on the audience just because it wasn’t artificially selected for the occasion the way we will pick “inaugural” sermons and others. (Luke 4)
  6. Jesus used this method of “preaching”.  Cf. “sermon” on the road to Emmaus.
  7. Paul and the Early Church followed this practice.
  8. The Reformers practiced this system; cf. Calvin’s commentaries, which are his “sermons”.  With their aversion to multiplication of special days, sermons on “Christmas” etc. were not necessarily on nativity texts or subjects.
  9. All times of revival generally and re-emphasis upon preaching have been marked by it.
  10. Church-building preachers have been known of this method; Campbell Morgan, Ian Thomas, Spurgeon, M. Lloyd-Jones, Donald Barnhouse, John MacArthur.  (Versus “name” preachers!)
  11. Today, wherever the church is growing, preaching is usually expository; S. America (Juan Ortiz), Korea.
  12. All the popular Bible-study systems – Navigators, Campus Crusade, Walk Through the Bible – are basically expository (in contrast to devotional booklets with random texts).
  13. The abysmal ignorance of the Bible outside and within the church demands a “return” to this type of Bible study.  (How many “indoctrinated” church members can tell the theme of Colossians, Philippians?  Where to find the Sermon on the Mount? The 7 “I Am’s”?
  14. Such a system will be certain to cover the “whole counsel” of God, instead of constant repetition of a few familiar themes by following the “church calendar” or other.  (As mentioned above, sermons are given added impact because the listeners can never suspect the choice of subject was contrived, self-serving, audience-pleasing or -scolding.
  15. It is really the easiest for the pastor – in terms of subject selection, preparation.  Other systems spend too much attention on form, to neglect of contents.  Illustrations tend to leap from Scripture itself.  (Preparation for the ministry itself is simplified or concentrated on Scripture in the case of expository preaching.  Men like Billy Graham have had only Bible-college training versus expensive liberal arts diversification. The modern minister cannot be expected to be an expert in more than the Scriptures.)
  16. For the Native American, expository preaching lends itself to his synthetic approach to life, versus the analytic, theoretical, abstract, philosophical.
  17. Expository preaching makes long-term pastorates possible (as evidence by men mentioned under Pt. 10, above. (Topical preachers who spent a lifetime in a given church usually had a big turn-0over in their audiences.)  All agree that short pastorates are far from ideal, and do not build up a congregation.  The big reason for the “game of musical chairs” in parsonage and pulpit is that the pastor is “preached out”, (despite the inexhaustibleness of the Scriptures) because of the limited number of ways a minister can preach on a limited number of subjects, be they ethical, doctrinal, or other.
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