When you think of preaching, what comes to mind? Do you think about the tone of the preacher’s voice? Perhaps the rhythm of his preaching? Do you think of the content of the message? The intent? Maybe the term “preaching” carries a negative connotation in your mind. Regardless of what we presently think about it, we must understand that preaching the Word is central to the life of the local church for its health and growth. In fact, it was one of the major recoveries of the Reformation in the 16th century. At the time of the Reformation the Catholic Church’s teaching on the authority of the pope and sacramental rituals as means of grace caused the preaching and teaching of the Word to be of no value and not practiced. Reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, Hus, Calvin, and Knox contended that the preaching of the Word needed to be primary in gatherings. This was in step with the church’s practice in the first century. Acts 6:1-3 records:
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
The Apostles understood that they were called to proclaim and teach God’s word because Jesus instructed them to do so before His ascension (Matthew 28:18-20). After Jesus ascended to heaven, Jesus gave gifts to men and established offices for them to carry on the work of ministry in the local church, which involves the teaching of the Word (Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11,12). It is very clear from these two texts and many others, even in the Old Testament, that God has ordained the preaching of His word. However, we will further consider the goal of preaching and how preaching is to be done.
The Goal of Preaching
It’s very difficult to define preaching apart from its intended goal. Preaching is the verbal proclamation and teaching of the authoritative Word of God. For the believer, preaching is to inform and instruct them about Christ and how to respond to Him for the believer’s good and ultimately for His glory (Jhn. 17:17, Col. 1:28, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Heb. 4:12). For the unbeliever, the primary goal of preaching is to instruct them about sin, God’s holiness, the grace, mercy and love offered in Christ, repentance, faith, and the reality of eternal condemnation (Acts 8:12, 10:42, 14:21, 1 Cor. 1:21). In order for those two goals to be accomplished, the method of preaching that best communicates God’s truths is expositional preaching.
Expositional Preaching: What Is It?
As a simple explanation, expositional preaching is done when the point of the passage is the point of the sermon for life application to the hearer. In other words, expositional preaching is merely exposing God’s Word to the congregation so they can know how to apply it. This implies a couple of things. First, the pastor/preacher must believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is authoritative. Second, the pastor/preacher must believe that the Author had one intended meaning for all people for all time. Also, expositional preaching typically is done through whole books of the Bible.
Expositional Preaching: Why Do It?
By submitting to God’s authority and God’s intended meaning, pastors/preachers are prevented from preaching their own agenda. Instead, Scripture sets the agenda of the sermon and pastors are called to trust that the faithful proclamation of the Word, by the Spirit’s power, will accomplish God’s intended ends. When this happens, a church’s trust in the Bible and worship of God increases. In his article, Accept No Substitutes: 6 Reasons Not to Abandon Expository Preaching, New Testament scholar D.A. Carson lists these six reasons to employ expositional preaching:
1. It is the method least likely to stray from Scripture.
2. It teaches people how to read their Bibles.
3. It gives confidence to the preacher and authorizes the sermon.
4. It meets the need for relevance without letting the clamor for relevance dictate the message.
5. It forces the preacher to handle the tough questions.
6. It allows the preacher to expound systematically the whole counsel of God.
Most importantly, expositional preaching reveals that the Bible is primarily about God, not man, and His salvific work in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Consider Luke 24:27:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
This verse sums up what Jesus did as he spoke to the men on the road to Emmaus. Thinking Jesus was going to be their political messiah, they were confused and possibly hopeless concerning Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. However, Jesus explains the current events about Himself from the Old Testament. Jesus exposed the truth of the Scripture to these men and after some time they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 ESV)
The most important aspect of preaching is not superior oratory ability, exuberant expression, but biblically faithful communicated content.
Next, we will take a look at some benefits of expositional preaching and the consequences of the lack of it.
Grace & Peace,