Expository Preaching. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It seems very heavy and weighty and technical. In some ways, it may be, but at its essence, it just makes sense as a style (for lack of a better word) of preaching. Some of you hypothetical readers may not know what it is. Don’t worry. I didn’t either for a span. In fact, it was one of the most confusing topics of lecture in my early seminary days. All that being said, it’s what I would like to talk about today.
The best definition of expository preaching that I have found is in Richard L. Mayhue’s article “Rediscovering Expository Preaching” in the book entitled Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition where Mayhue and others on the staff at the Master’s Seminary write on this subject. Mayhue defined expository preaching as thus: “…expository preaching focuses predominantly on the text(s) under consideration along with its (their) context(s). Exposition normally concentrates on a single text of Scripture, but it is sometimes possible for a thematic/theological message or a historical/biographical discourse to be expository in nature” (MacArthur, J. (1997). Rediscovering expository preaching (9). Dallas: Word Pub.). I’m sure you can see where the confusion set in.
Let me define it as I see it. Expository preaching is preaching the Word of God in the context of the passage of Scripture in the context of its passage, chapter, book/epistle, and place among the entirety of Scripture. The key word is context. This way, the preacher does not take his own ideas or opinions and find within the text of Scripture a prooftext to make his message valid. To me, it just makes sense. What better way is there to proclaim the Word of God than in the context in which He “breathed” it out (2 Timothy 3:16).
The idea of expository preaching is expressed Scripturally:
- Nehemiah 8:8: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
- Acts 20:26-27: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
I must admit to you the reasons that this is on my mind today. Firstly, today is a preaching day for me. It is the culmination of weeks of study of the book of Colossians. I have studied the words, the context – Scriptural and historical, and have done much reading over the text. I do not want to get into the pulpit and have my own words come out. In fact, when I pray before preaching, I pray that what the Lord wants me to say will take precedence over my own words. Second, I have listened to a few sermon snippets this morning that are not based upon the word of God. In fact, I finally cut the sermon off because it was not preaching God’s Word. It basically was a discourse on what this man wanted to talk about. Lastly, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Sadly, this time is apparently at hand.
Now, for those who think I am saying that any who don’t preach in an expository manner are unbiblical preachers, re-read everything prior to this. I have not said that. I preached for years before I knew there was such a phrase. I am, however, saying that the context of Scripture is of the utmost importance. I believe that Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 supports this:
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
I will close with some words from John MacArthur to those of you who long to be faithful expositors of the Word of God:
“To be a legitimate expositor, you have to explain the text, and that rarely occurs in preaching. That does not mean taking a text of Scripture, finding an outline, and bouncing your way through a homiletical format. Explaining the text means giving to the people precisely the message that God intended when He revealed that Scripture. That’s going to take you beyond superficiality, because frankly there isn’t anything superficial about the mind of God…. Everything about the mind of God is profound. Everything about the mind of God is systematic. Everything about the mind of God is clear. Everything about the mind of God is cohesive. Everything about the mind of God is orderly. And that is how the text should be explained.”
Once again, hypothetical readers, I thank you for your time.
Yours and His,