Preaching is the primary means for building up the saints in faith. In Romans 10:17, Paul writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Also, in Colossians 1:28, Paul details even further how one’s faith is developed: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” If you were to read through the New Testament, you would observe that God has given the preaching of the Word as a means for the local church’s sanctification.
But it is not enough to merely commit to preaching the Word. A preacher has to determine how he is going to preach the Word and what passage of the Word he is going to preach. Will he preach to the felt needs of a congregation or will he preach through a book? Will he preach on a topic with an assortment of Scripture or preach one text? In other words, will he emphasize topical or expository preaching?
I believe that a preacher should consider and adopt an expository style of preaching. In their helpful book, Preach, Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert define expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached” (36). Simply put, the truths or points that a preacher argues in his sermon are directly from the text he has decided to preach on. I believe this is the most biblical and effective way to build up Christians in a church. Here are X reasons why I believe this:
1. Expository Preaching is Modeled in Scripture
Scripture is not a textbook on the “how’s” of preaching. However, in both the Old and New Testament there are passages that show the effectiveness and practice of expository preaching. In Nehemiah 8:5-12, Ezra opens the book of the Law to read, explain, and exhort it to the people. He merely presents the Word, interprets it, and applies it to the people.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Here, Ezra and the elders of Israel, read Scripture and explained what that passage of Scripture means. In verses 9-12, the people of God receive the Word and it brings forth affections (v. 9) and actions (v. 12).
In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this expository approach. On a Sabbath day, Jesus entered a synagogue and preached a sermon to the people (Luke 4:16-30). Here Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah (vv. 16-17) and explains its meaning (vv. 21) to the people. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul commands him to be an expositor: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13).
These are just three examples in Scripture where expository preaching is modeled and even commanded (see also: Luke 24:25-32; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). If this is the biblical method of preaching, why would we not adopt it in our local churches?
2. Expository Preaching Fixates the Church on the Word
Expository preaching is the proclamation of a text’s truth and argument. Thus, a preacher is
not bringing new “revelation” or “wisdom” to the congregation. Rather, he is simply encouraging his local church to look down at their Bibles. There are two direct applications of this truth.
Firstly, this protects the pastor and his preaching. His goal is not to establish a new argument or bring forth his own intellectualism. Rather, his time in the study is to merely interpret, organize, and display what the passage says. Expository preaching protects the pastor from false teaching and misguided teaching (1 Timothy 4:6-7).
Secondly, expository preaching protects the church from falsehood, silly myths, and irreverent teaching. If a church’s preacher is an expositor, then the church can confidently trust that the Holy Spirit will sanctify them through the preaching of the Word (1 Timothy 4:16). They will have no need to be worried of erring from the truth.
3. Expository Preaching Teaches the Church How to Study the Bible
Through the consistent expository preaching of the pastor, the congregation will learn
how to read and interpret Scripture. The preacher sets forth an example of how to study a passage. He points out key phrases, the argument, and how it connects to the rest of Scripture. A healthy diet of expository preaching will lead a congregation to become better students of the Bible.
4. Expository Preaching Introduces the Church to the Whole Bible
If a pastor preaches consecutively through books of the Bible, the congregation will
have a greater grasp of what the entire Bible teaches. Thus, in a topical style of preaching, the congregation may only be aware of a few key verses in the Old and New Testament. But in expository preaching, the congregations traces the entire narrative and argument of a particular book. This is helpful for it also connects a specific passage to the entirety of the book to the entirety of Scripture.
There are three further observations to make here. Firstly, expository preaching requires a preacher to handle the tougher passages of Scripture. Rather than shy away from them, the preacher and congregation must come face to face with all of God’s word (i.e. divorce and remarriage; adultery; election). Secondly, expository preaching helps the preacher vary his style and mood.
Not all passages require the same temperament and thus reveal the varied emotions of God’s word. A congregation will be edified in knowing that Scripture speaks to their laments and suffering in the Psalms but also rebukes them in the commands of Deuteronomy. Thirdly, expository preaching shows the congregation that the Bible is relevant for their life. An expositor is always relevant, for the whole Bible is always relevant (2 Tim 3:16-17).\
5. Expository Preaching Brings Forth Conversions
It is the word of God that brings individuals from death to life. Paul in Romans 10:9 writes, “so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” A preacher’s wit or wisdom or convincing argument will not bring repentance and faith. Rather, the Holy Spirit’s work through the preaching of God’s word will save sinners (Isa 55:1-3; 2 Cor 5:20; Col 1:28).
A congregation who sits under expository preaching will hear the gospel of Jesus every week. This will bring forth those who believed they were Christians into an actual saving faith of Jesus. Also, church members will invite the lost to a Sunday morning gathering for it is by the word of God that salvation comes to individuals.
Expository preaching is essentially a church’s profession of the sufficiency and authority of God’s Word for their lives. A church submits to the revealed Word of God and expects the Spirit to awaken their hearts and lives to the truths preached. Faithful preaching is expository preaching.