Why I’m Committed to Expository Preaching (II)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the longtime pastor of the Westminster Chapel in London, England, described preaching as “The highest, the greatest, and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” While Lloyd-Jones’ assessment resonates broadly with evangelical preachers, precisely how one is to preach lacks such consensus.
As I argued in part I of this series, expository preaching—to rightly interpret and explain the text, in its context, and to bring the text to bear upon the lives of the congregants—should be the preacher’s standard approach to the pulpit. To be sure, bad sermons come in all forms, including expository, but I am convinced biblical exposition is the healthiest and most faithful form of preaching. Consider with me these twelve reasons why.
First, expository preaching best fulfills the biblical commands regarding preaching. The Bible has a lot to say about what preaching is to be. Prescriptively, passages like 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and 1 Timothy 4:13–16 call for a Word-centered ministry. These injunctions are straightforward. There is no question as to who’s Word or which Word; we are to preach the Word. In fact, if Timothy and Titus got anything out of their Pauline correspondence, it was that they were to preach the Word with authority and faithfulness.
Descriptively, throughout the Bible, and especially in the book of Acts, we repeatedly see a model set forth for preaching. In Acts, for example, Peter and Paul explain the Old Testament and bring it to bear. This is no coincidence. Implicit within the call to preach is the call to preach the Scripture, and expositional preaching best fulfills this biblical command.
Second, expository preaching affirms a high view of Scripture.It is one thing for theological liberals who disavow the inerrancy of Scripture to not preach the Word, but it is altogether another thing for evangelical preachers to neglect the Scriptures. To do so is illogical, and it undermines one’s claim to believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture.
Consistent exposition affirms a Bible that is true, powerful, and life changing. When it comes to preaching and one’s stated beliefs about Holy Scripture, actions speak louder than words. How we handle and preach the Bible reveals what we truly believe about it.
Third, expository preaching most honors the authority and status of preaching. It is hard to overstate the importance of this point. Biblical preaching gives people a clear and certain Word. As I’ve argued elsewhere, preaching, if anything, is to be authoritative, and expository preaching gives the sermon a “Thus sayeth the Lord” influence.
Conversely, to preach commandingly without the authority of Scripture is tantamount to pulling rank. Don’t settle for human authority when you can have God’s, as established in his Word. Personalize Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “speak these things with all authority.”
Fourth, expository preaching adds gravity to one’s ministry. Biblical preaching puts the text of Scripture front and center in the sermon, thus bringing a level of seriousness to the pulpit. The great preachers of church history who truly made their mark—men like Bunyan, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc.—were men of the text and men of gravity. They were cheerful, but not goofy; happy, but not trite. Their seriousness was rooted in their biblical preaching. We would do well to emulate them.
This point comes with immense practicality. In every man’s ministry, seasons of trial will come. Ethical quandaries, contentious personalities, scandalous sin, and other issues will require heroic pastoral leadership. The pastor whose ministry is marked by joyful sobriety, who evidences a respect for Scripture and a determination to preach it, will be best positioned to lead the church through such a crisis, having long since earned leadership credibility and the congregation’s respect.
Fifth, expository preaching most matures the congregation. In every church there will be a trickle-down effect from the pulpit to the pew. Overtime, for better or worse, churches tend to reflect the personalities and passions of their pastor. The church that receives a steady diet of biblical exposition will grow in its knowledge of the Bible, and in its confidence to study, practice, and teach it.
Moreover, strong pulpits become a beacon in the city, drawing mature believers who want to be fed and be part of a maturing congregation. Over time, expository preaching leads to a healthier church. A weekly diet of John 3:16 leads to a weak church.
Sixth, expository preaching demonstrates to your congregation how to study the Bible.It is no compliment when a church member asks, “Wow, where did you get that from?” Church members should be able to see the root of your application, and how it is derived from the preached text. A part of preaching the Scriptures is to demystify the preaching and sermon preparation, thus educating our people on how to study the Bible. Expository preaching does more than explain the text, it shows our people how to interpret and explain the text as well.
Bad sermons are no respecter of men or method. Too many expository sermons sound like rambling commentaries on the passage. The Bible deserves much better. A rambling Bible commentary lacking homiletical polish or helpful application doth not a great sermon make.
For the preacher, it is not an either or scenario. We are to preach the Word with skill, using every tool at our disposal, to preach in a compelling and captivating way. I believe expository preaching best facilitates this, and in part three of this series I’ll offer six more reasons wh
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971).
topicsExpository Preaching, Expository Preaching Series, Preaching
April 06, 2015 at 9:41 am, Geoff said:
I agree with you that expository preaching is generally the best. But I’m not sure I find your arguments to entirely compelling. For instance, in point 1, your second Timothy reference seems to be referring to the gospel as the word of God, not the Bible.
Also, I’m not sure that modern expository preaching bears much similarity to the Sermons in Acts. For instance, in Acts 17, Paul references no Old Testament texts in his philosophical sermon, nor does he in his sermon on Lystra. I suspect that the quotations we see in the other sermons aren’t so much expositions of Old Testament texts as they are types and prophecies that were incidental to preaching the gospel message about Jesus (that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament promises in his life, teachings, death, and resurrection therefore those who hear should follow him). Maybe a theological rather than textual argument would work better:
1. If Paul wants us teaching the gospel, we should base our preaching off of the best sources.
2. The best sources possible would be inspired by God and historically close to Jesus and his friends and associates.
3. The New Testament fits premise two and affirms the Old Testament as useful for training Christians.
Conclusion: The Old and New Testaments are the best sources for explaining the gospel.
Corollary: We should explain the content of the Old and New Testaments and apply them to others in our sermons.
Secondly, from an economics perspective, I think trickle down theory is demonstrably false. I’ve visited churches with poor preaching whose members have great Bible knowledge. I’ve also visited churches with extremely explicit and careful Bible preaching wherein the members did not study the Bible on their own because they felt (in one sense rightly, in another sense dangerously) that experts like their preacher could do it better.
Also, I’m not sure that it would be wrong to have how-to sermons that involve explaining non-Biblical concepts such as how-to interpret the Bible would be wrong simply because it comes from a pulpit.
So, though I agree entirely that expository preaching is usually best. I’m not sure that it is necessarily equal to the function of the Sunday morning teaching/preaching time. Nor do I think that equating it with the sine qua non of a successful church will help convince people to do it.