Preaching in the local church is the foremost aspect of worship among the gathering of believers. The Reformation stigma “Sola Scriptura” is indicative of such truth. That Scripture alone is our only foundation for worship is what fueled the Protestant Reformation in its entirety.
Although there is a revival of expository preaching, there is an attitude toward expository preaching that deems it boring. This must not be so. As heralds of the good news of Jesus Christ, preachers should do everything in their own power to allow the attitudes of the texts to dictate their attitude in the pulpit. The Bible is never boring, thus the preacher should never be either.
It is my intent, in this post, to expose the true meaning of expository preaching through some of the prominent expository preachers of our day.
What is Expository Preaching?
Often, in the evangelical world, we hear the definition of expository preaching to be something like “verse by verse analysis of a particular text.” However, expository preaching is much more than this. In fact, I would argue expositorily is not necessarily a “verse by verse” approach to a passage of Scripture. As H.B. Charles, Jr. has alluded,
“It is not about the style of the sermon. It is all about how the text is handled.”
H.B. Charles, Jr. On Pastoring: A Short Guide to Living, Leading, and Ministering as a Pastor (Chicago: Moody, 2016), 140.
The issue for expository preaching, as H.B. Charles has proffered, is not merely about the “style” of preaching, rather it is on the faithfulness of the one handling the text. It is essentially making the points of the text the points of the sermon. A more detailed definition from Haddon Robinson defines expository preaching in this way:
“Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the holy spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.”
Haddon W. Robinson. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980), 20.
The element of expository sermons is just that, it is the transmission of the meaning of the original author to the original audience, through the lens of the faithful, diligent preacher, to the audience of the one spekaing.
Why Expository Preaching?
- It allows the biblical text to dictate what is communicated. As the Reformers observed, it is the Scripture alone that is the foundation and authority in the Christian faith. When the preacher faithfully labors in the text of Scripture, he will prompt his sermon to communicate the original author’s intent and purpose of writing. The specific aim of preaching is to do just this – illuminate the meaning of the biblical text to his audience.
- It allows the preacher to minimize his own opinions. Expository preaching minimizes the preacher’s own interpretation. It, once again, places at the front the meaning of the text itself. Often times, preachers will find words or phrases in a passage and create hobby-horse sermons out of those words or phrases. This is not expository preaching; that is a lecture on a subject.
- It grows your church’s knowledge of the Scriptural narrative. When expository preaching is not practiced, the church will never grow beyond its knowledge of the Bible. This is a slight repeat of the last point – a lack of expository preparation and delivery results in a lack of spiritual growth among the members. Expository preaching releases the pastor of coming up with the meaning of a biblical text on his own and increases his dependence on the Holy Spirit for the meaning and application of a particular text.
- It hinders the misinterpretation of a passage of Scripture. The obvious opposite implication of extracting the correct meaning through the act of expository preaching is that when we do not practice it we run the risk of misinterpreting the passage. The preacher, when not practicing expository preaching will end up misinterpreting Scripture in its context.
The act of expository preaching is a necessary element to a healthy church. As Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines posit,
“Today, numerous churches that evidence solid and substantive growth are characterized by a commitment to the practice of expository preaching.”
Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix. Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago: Moody, 2017), 24.
The growth of the church is not in the act of expository preaching but in the dependence upon the Word of God for it. Expository preaching, essentially, forces our dependence upon God and His Word for every facet of our lives, which esteems it necessary in churches today.