Why Preach Expositionally through the Bible?
By Pastor Aaron Adame
A really important (perhaps even critical) conviction when it comes to church ministry is the conviction of expositional preaching.
What is expositional preaching?
Let me offer an answer from my favorite expositor of Scripture, John R.W. Stott in his wonderful volume Between Two Worlds:
Exposition refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor opens what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed.
For more concise definitions of expositional preaching, please click here.
Stott’s definition of exposition is to clarify what some unfortunately think is the same as exposition, which is a running commentary—what you might hear some refer to as “chapter-by-chapter; verse-by-verse.” This approach sounds neat, but in fact, those verses and chapter breaks are not inspired. What I mean is that they are not found anywhere in the original texts. They were a later addition, placed there to help with practical needs. So, even though these breaks are helpful, they are really just place holders and should not be confused with exposition.
But there's another kind of Bible reading and preaching that is not helpful, which is the topical sermon. This is the kind of preaching that takes a topic and scrolls through the Bible to find verses or stories that best suit the topic. The problem with this is, many times, the preacher and reader take the text out of its context in order to fit the topic. This is dangerous! This is not to say that all topical preaching misses the point, but it is much easier to do so. Now, it is possible to preach a topic expositionally through a text. But that is simply expositional preaching that brings out a topic or main point.
Furthermore, trendy topical preaching—when it is the steady norm for a church’s Sunday gatherings—is often dictated by two things: 1) the agenda of the leadership or 2) the agenda of the culture. If the leaders have an agenda, it's very easy to find chapters and verses to suit it. This spiritual manipulation is the hazard. Secondarily, topical preaching can also be seen following cultural moments. If there's a breaking news story in society, many times you will see a new series of sermons coming up that address that issue topically, which may or may not be biblical.
The conviction of expositional preaching (and reading) holds to this truth: that God sets the agenda for what He wants His people to hear, at the pace He wants them to hear it, and in the way He wants to communicate it. Expositional preaching ensures that God’s people hear God’s voice and not someone else’s.
Critics of this method would conclude or argue that to preach expositionally doesn’t suit the needs of God’s people in modern times. I would argue they are sorely wrong and have a low view of God’s Word and the liveliness and relevance of His Word throughout all times. They might also consider God’s Word boring to the modern listener, thus the need for topics that are more interesting to the hearer. To that person, I would say they should probably choose another vocation—nothing in the Bible is boring, if they’ve truly read it.
On that point though, as someone committed to exposition, I’m always amazed at how God speaks through His Word. When I am done with a Sunday sermon, I know where I will be next week (the next section of text), but I don’t know what God wants to say until I spend time in study. But when I do, I am amazed at how He speaks right into a situation going on. How he addresses a topic or need or desire at that present time. His Word is truly alive!!!
For further reading on this, please click here for a great article by Jason Allen on 12 Reasons to Commit to Expository Preaching.
Side note: In regards to point 9, “EXPOSITORY PREACHING MOST MATURES THE PREACHER AS A MAN OF GOD,” I would add that the conviction to study God’s Word every week ensures that the pastor is personally growing in his love of the Word and obedience to it. The sad but growing trend to plagiarize other pastor’s sermons is a sure sign that the pastor doesn’t delight in the Word of God as he should, doesn’t find it relevant for himself anymore, or has believed himself to have arrived at a level where he has nothing more to learn.