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Thoughts on Expository Preaching

Recently we have enjoyed a sermon about the Supremacy of the Word of God in the life of the believer. A similar theme appeared in my reading this week and I believe it is worthy of sharing. This comes from a lecture extolling the virtues of expository preaching. Expository preaching steps through a book or section of the Bible in an orderly and systematic way, taking the passages and their content as they come, so that we do not neglect portions of the Word by hunting out passages to preach on that we find easy or attractive. It seeks to expose the meaning of the text, to hone in on the lessons that the Holy Spirit has placed before us. Expository preaching is not the only way of preaching, indeed we enjoy topical sermons from time to time. But expository preaching causes us to tackle themes and passages that might otherwise lie forgotten. In doing so, we enjoy a diverse intake of fresh ideas regularly.

In his book, The Ministry of the Word, William M. Taylor defines expository preaching like so: “I mean that method of pulpit discourse which consists in the consecutive interpretation, and practical enforcement, of a book of the sacred canon.” Taylor says the chief difference between expository preaching and other valid and helpful forms of preaching (topical, doctrinal, horatory, biographical) is its continuous and consecutive character.

This has proven to be a rich blessing for us at CCF. We have had to face doctrines and lessons in the Bible that would be likely have gone untouched. Most recently, our ongoing study of 1 Samuel has brought us face-to-face with lessons we needed, but perhaps would not have voluntarily examined. Not many pastors desire to teach on the dark sins of the sons of Eli or the horrors of God’s hand heavy on the Israelites. Few want to uncover the sin of envy. Its hard to preach several times in a row about man’s inconsistencies as we see in David. But in taking the book consecutively, we have had the Holy Spirit’s help and seen the benefit of His Word when we take it in step-by-step, consecutively. Expository preaching is prosperous. Taylor describes the benefit:

Truth is the nutriment of the soul, and Bible-truth is the stamina of the spiritual life. It gives strength and stability to the Christian character, and he who is familiar with it is not easily moved from the path of duty, or lightly “tossed” by every wind of doctrine. The great defection of the Ritualistic party in the Church of England was preceded by a depreciation of the pulpit. The preacher forgot that his mission is to instruct, and so substituted a few minutes of vapid sentiment for an earnest effort to expound the Scriptures. Biblical intelligence is absolutely essential to doctrinal steadfastness and Christian stability. [emphasis mine] It is as true now as when the Psalmist wrote that he who meditates in God’s law day and night shall be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

This is one of the things we have labored to teach at Cornerstone. We want God’s people to understand the connection between Biblical truth and practical living; sound doctrine and its practical application. One can really and truly have the “peace that passes all understanding” [esvignore](Philippians 4:7)[/esvignore] if we stay Biblically literate. I emphasized “Biblical intelligence is absolutely essential to doctrinal steadfastness and Christian stability” because I believe that is the heart of the preacher’s mission – to impart Biblical truth so that it will strengthen and nourish God’s people.

As we continue our study of 1 Samuel, we hope to bring forth much fruit. After this book, it would be a shame not to go on into 2 Samuel. It is, after all, one book that was split into two sections. It will likely be that we tackle a short epistle in between, for the sake of variety of genres. But be sure, we’ll take it consecutively and rejoice in the Lord’s provision of good “nutriment for the soul.”

Source of quotes: Taylor, William M., Plumer, William S. The Ministry of the Word. “Lecture VII Expository Preaching.” Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, PA 2003