Expository preaching, what it is and what is is not (or should not be)…

There are different styles of preaching and different ways that certain preachers might approach a passage of Scripture, or a topic, as they consider standing before a congregation and preaching. Over the years I’ve become convinced of the need for and benefit of expository preaching. Expository preaching is when a preacher takes the main point of a passage as his own and works through a book of the Bible.

Maybe when you read that last sentence certain stereotypes came to mind; boring, dull, monotone, academic, etc. But I’d like you to hear me out. Here is what I think expository preaching is and why it’s important and what it is not…

What Expository Preaching is…

There are plenty of things that could be said about this, but here are just three simple thoughts.

  • It is the mode of preaching which lets God’s Word do the talking.
    An expository preacher’s job is to expound God’s Word. If done properly, this should guard against false teaching and should give all the glory to God. People don’t need to hear a pastor’s wisdom, regardless of how wise they might be, people need to dig deep into the Word of God.
  • It is the mode of preaching which allows God’s Word to set the agenda.
    When a preacher expounds Scripture, applies God’s Word and works through books (or sections of books) of the Bible, the preacher is protected from going on their hobby horse. Again, this requires the work and effort to understand a passage, it is all too easy to read your own ideas into a passage.
  • It is the mode of preaching which keeps a text in its context.
    We’ve all done it, we’ve all sighed as we’ve heard others do it, it is so easy to take verses or passages out of context. Expository preaching helps us not to do that. When a preacher walks through a book, verse by verse and chapter by chapter, they keep in mind the overarching message of the book and know where their passage fits in. Preaching this way means that each verse, and each passage, is an individual puzzle piece that makes up the book.

What Expository preaching is not…

There are plenty of things that could be said about this, but here are just three simple thoughts.

  • It is not an academic lecture!
    A preacher is to get people into God’s Word, not a seminar room where they can showcase their knowledge. Preachers are to present a meal for people to feast on, they don’t need to see behind the scenes. I’ve listened to so many sermons that could have been made better if the preacher left out that interesting fact, or that commentary quote or that reference to the original languages. Give them Jesus not a lifeless lecture!
  • It is not lifeless!
    We are preaching the Word of God, one of the means by which our Almighty and Holy God has chosen to reveal Himself. If we approach the Scriptures with no sense of joy and passion, the problem is not with the Bible! Expository Preaching should match the affections / tensions / emotions of the passage. Preaching is to teach the saints and to call the sinner to repentance, not to put people to sleep.
  • It is not irrelevant!
    The job of a preacher is to expound the Scriptures and call people to live according to its message. That means that a preacher must live in the text, know it, be challenged and transformed by it and then exhort other to do the same. This requires preachers to know their congregation, to love their people and to spur them on in their walk with the Lord. Expository preaching does not mean that there is no application!

I do think that there is a place for topical sermons (that are based on a Bible passage), my personal preference would be something like a 80/20 split (80 expositional and 20 topical). However, even the topical sermons I would base on a passage and not a list of individual and relevant verses.

If we are to proclaim God’s Word to people, we best let God do the talking. Only by His Spirit can people be convicted of their sin and turn in repentance. It is only by a work of the Spirit that a person can be transformed to live in accordance with the Word of God, so why would we preach anything else.

My job as a preacher is not to showcase my knowledge or to dazzle people with funny and fascinating stories, my job is to point them to the Wonderful Saviour and call them to glorify Him in all they do and say.

2 thoughts on “Expository preaching, what it is and what is is not (or should not be)…

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