Preaching is a very important aspect for Church. Every true spiritual revival begins with preaching. For many years I attended Churches that preached new topics every Sunday. They sought to address issues, themes, and even theology in the Bible. Many times the sermons were chosen by the Pastor based on what he felt the congregation needed to hear, what was on his heart. However, after years of listening to topical sermons, I found myself empty. I had been listening to sermons, yet realizing that I had not grown in my sense and understanding of the Bible. I realized that the topical preaching was making me less prepared for reading through the Bible on my own. I wasn’t getting much from jumping around the Bible in my own devotionals, so what benefit could that bring to the pulpit on Sundays? I found myself wanting to learn more about each and every Word of God. I found myself wanting to get answers and not avoid the difficult passages. I found myself wanting a Pastor who would preach through Romans and not skip chapter 9 (doctrines of grace) or through 1 Corinthians and not skip chapters 12-14 (spiritual gifts). Then I found expository preaching.
So what is expository preaching? Consider my personal definition: Expository Preaching is that which exegetes (explains) the text with grammatical-historical hermeneutics (interpretation) in a sequential fashion (verse by verse), following the example of the original authors of Scripture, in an effort to explain all the authors original intended meaning to their audience, then through the Holy Spirits illuminating affects exhort the theological principles to modern day Christians.
I am not saying that there isn’t a place for topical studies, but expository preaching should be the meat and potatoes of every Church. In fact, adapting to seasonal changes and holidays are good times for topics to be covered, but topical preaching must be done in an expository fashion. There is a difference between expository topics and topical messages. Expository topical preaching takes just as much effort and can be extremely helpful. The preacher needs to address the topics in context with appropriate interpretative skills (exegesis). Pastors must not makes passages mean something they want it to mean (isogesis), but rather pull out the explanation of the topic in context with the original author’s intent (exegesis). I find Sunday schools or even house groups a great way to do expositional topics. So whether its verse by verse or topical, it must be expositional.
Here are 3 Biblical reasons expository preaching feeds the flock the best:
1. Biblical Intention Supersedes Pastoral Intention – As a student of the Bible you will run into the term ‘Authorial Intent’. This means that we are to explain the authors original intended meaning to their original audience and then make the bridge in application to our audience today. Sadly, with most topical preaching, the preacher starts with their intention (i.e. what’s on their heart) and then finds a few random passages to support their message. This is sloppy isogesis. As Christians, we should seek preaching that does not ‘shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God’ (Acts 20:27). Paul told Timothy to ‘Peach the Word’ (2 Tim. 4:2), not your thoughts. Paul knew that letting Christ reign in the Church would mean letting his Word reign. In fact, everywhere Paul went he raised up Elders to teach God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:3) and preach ‘sound doctrine’, not messages in accordance with our own desires (2 Tim 4:2-3).
Col. 3:16 tells us to ‘Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.’ Expository preaching gives us the unique opportunity to get the richness of God’s Word verse by verse.
2. Expository Preaching Covers More Topics – Expository preaching brings up more topics that would not otherwise be addressed. For example, I recently heard two sermons in a row on widows because that was the next section to teach in 1 Tim 5:1-15. I know many ‘hip’ Churches would avoid such topics, but Paul spent 15 verses on widows and that deserves our attention. This is the attention to detail that happens in expository preaching. The attention to detail in verse by verse exposition allows us to obey every jot and tittle (Mt. 5:18-19). We learn so many topics through the opportunity to exegete (explain) the texts history, culture, genre, literary structure, lexical studies (words), syntax and grammar (how words and sentences are structured), and resolve apparent issues. Imagine all the topics that get covered. In fact, you can’t do the exposition if you haven’t done the exegesis. The exegesis is what explains the sense and meaning of Scripture, giving the preacher his topic. As an expository listener, I became a better Bible student by observing the methods demonstrated by the preacher. Over time, the topics and methods addressed by the preacher allowed me to fill the whole from the weaker topical preaching. In fact, I was able to become a teacher and need solid food rather than just milk (Heb. 5:12). The solid food led to more application and understanding more of God’s Word, having my senses trained (Heb. 5:13).
3. Expository Preaching is Submission – Pastors are called to shepherd the flock in order to be approved by the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-6). Ezra is a great example of this submission. Ezra saw a rebellious people that had not worshiped in the temple. In fact, many of the people in Ezra’s day submitted to Babylon more than God. What practical advice did Ezra follow to turn the people around? Ezra 7:10 tells us that “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra studied ‘the law of the Lord’ by setting his heart on this difficult task. The message he had for his people was fueled from the sufficiency of Scripture. Ezra was letting the Chief Shepherd speak. In fact, all of the practical applications he gave was rooted in his intense study of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8, we learn a very important lesson from Ezra:
“8:1 And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. 2 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding...3 He read from it ... and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 4 Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose ... 5 Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground ... 8 They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
The reverence for God’s word was obvious. Ezra’s expository preaching ‘blessed the Lord’. Ezra was thorough by reading God’s Word, translating it, and making sure all understood the sense and meaning of what they read. Ezra’s expository preaching led Israel to apply the Law of the Lord and worship in the rebuilding of the Temple. Preachers must let the Chief Shepherd speak through expository preaching.
I hope this article helps you in furthering your love for Scriptures call to ‘open the Bible, read it, explain it, and apply it’ so that all of us can have ‘the sense so that [we] understand the reading’ (Nehemiah 8:8). Let’s promote expository preaching so that we can ‘bless the Lord’ as well. If you struggle to find great expository preaching in your area, please consider the TMS ‘Find a Church’ link: https://tms.edu/find-a-church/
David J. Lupinetti is the Associate Pastor at San Tan Bible Church in Arizona. He has a passion for Expository Preaching, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, and Evangelism.