Among the weekly responsibilities of a pastor, he knows that Sunday is only a few days away. On the Lord’s Day during the rhythms of worship, prayer, Scripture reading, and the ordinances he knows that in a few short moments he will stand and speak. The question is – what will he say?
The pastor’s primary role is to “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). He has been gifted and trained to deliver God’s message to God’s people. Among the various styles of preaching – including topical and textual (each having pros and cons) – I am convinced that the most effective method of proclamation each Sunday is defined as “expository preaching.”
Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, defines expository preaching as,
…that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text and makes clear how the word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God.”
Simply put, expository preaching allows the Bible to set the agenda for the message. This ought to be the case for every preacher, right? I’m sure every preacher claims to be preaching a Word from God but what is so important about expositional preaching? Expository preaching is allowing the Bible to speak on its own terms with its own voice. The cute and creative ideas of the preacher are subservient to the Bible’s message. The preached Word will captivate God’s people. I believe God inspired the substance (the message), the structure (how the message is developed), and the spirit (the way the message is presented). I believe faithful expository preaching is defined more accurately as “text-driven preaching.” Dr. Steven Smith from Southwestern Seminary says,
Text driven preaching is the interpretation and communication of a biblical text in a sermon that re-presents the substance, structure, and spirit of the text.
For one to preach expository, text driven sermons, the preacher must have a high view of Scripture.
Why should a pastor preach expository sermons?
First, expositional preaching communicates that the authority of the Church is not man but God and his Word. This type of preaching places an emphasis upon the authority of the inspired text. The preacher does not have authority by himself. As he begins to explain the meaning of a particular text, he can declare what God has already communicated authoritatively. The Word of God is central, not the word of man. God knows what His people need and a wise pastor will surrender his desire to be cute and creative to God’s authoritative Word. As one theologian said, “When Scripture speaks, God speaks.”
Second, expositional preaching will cover a range of topics. I believe it is possible to preach “topical sermons” but only if the “topic” are found within the text being preached. This means in 1 John 1:5-10 the topic under examination is forgiveness and walking in the light, while in 1 John 4:7-12 the topic is love. The text presents the topic and develops it. At this point there is no need to “cherry pick” verses to make the point. This helps safeguard the tendency to take short-cuts, prevents proof-texting, and stops the preacher from preaching his favorite pet topic week after week.
Third, expositional preaching challenges the rampant epidemic of biblical illiteracy. Our churches are filled with individuals who simply don’t know the Bible – believers and unbelievers. Since they don’t know the Bible, they don’t know what God requires of them. The role of the preacher is to unpack the Bible, teaching the congregation how to read it. This is the most practical way to fight illiteracy.
Finally, expositional preaching is both evangelistic and discipleship driven. Each text of Scripture points to Jesus and promotes discipleship among the people of God. The consistent application of expositional preaching week after week satisfies the longing of the “hunger and thirst” for God’s righteousness among believers while also making the direct appeal to unbelievers to trust in Jesus.
At GCC we value expository preaching and these are a few reasons why we preach this way at Grace Community Church. We want God’s people to know His Word and we desire to see unbelievers become believers in King Jesus. Expositional preaching creates, sustains, matures Christians and makes an evangelistic appeal to unbelievers to trust in Jesus. I am thankful that each Sunday I have the joy to preach this way and see God’s Word work among the people.
(This article is adapted from The Dangerous Task of Expository Preaching at Lifeway Leadership)