In preaching in such a way, I am not unique or doing something new. Many much more popular and well-known preachers today are also committed to expository preaching. This serves as the predominant method of John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, and John Piper as well as the late R. C. Sproul and James Montgomery Boice. It was how the Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther preached and later the Puritans. We see a picture of this style of preaching with Ezra the scribe and the Levites in Nehemiah 8 when all the people who had returned from exile gathered together to hear the book of the Law being read. We are told that “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (v. 8). They read from the Word, explained the Word, all so the people could understand the Word and put it into practice.
Not only am I committed to expository preaching but also to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible verse-by-verse. Consecutive expository preaching. This is not on account of comfort but of conviction. I am convinced that the most helpful thing for the spiritual growth of a congregation is a steady diet of consecutive expository preaching. The following are just a few of the reasons which contribute to this conviction.
Expository Preaching Keeps God in the Driver’s Seat. As pointed out earlier, the passage the preacher preaches on determines the topic he will be covering as well as the very points he will be making in the message itself. When preaching through a book expositionally, God in essence chooses the topic for the day; not the preacher. The preacher is just covering the very next passage as God inspired it to be written and whatever topic it is about. I believe so strongly that God’s Word serves as the sole authority for our lives that it not only must determine what we believe, our understanding of the world, and how we are to live but also what we are to hear from God and center on each Sunday morning when we gather together for corporate worship.
Expository Preaching Guards Against “Hobby Horses.” Every preacher has certain topics that they are the most passionate about or that they really enjoy preaching on. The temptation for him then is to continually go back to keep covering such a topic. However, sequential expository preaching will not allow this as he must preach on the topic of the next passage. In fact, a congregation should not be able to discern such “hobby horses” if the preacher consistently preaches in this manner.
Expository Preaching Gives the Congregation a Proper Balance. Paul told the Ephesian elders that in the three years that he was with them that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Consecutive expository preaching better ensures that the “whole counsel of God” will be covered, especially when one alternates from preaching through a New Testament book to an Old Testament one. The gospel will be proclaimed from the prophecies pointing forward to Jesus, the revelation of His first coming, and the accomplishing of the work of redemption as well as His upcoming return to consummate God’s plan. The various parts of the puzzle which contribute to the overall picture are less likely to be neglected.
Expository Preaching Solves the Spurgeon Saturday Syndrome. Charles Spurgeon was the pinnacle of preachers during the 18th century. In fact, he is forever known as the “prince of preachers.” But he confessed to have agonized every Saturday night over what text of Scripture to preach on. He would actually begin an outline on one passage only to crumble the paper up, throw it away, and start again with a different one. I know of pastors who spend up to Saturday praying and pleading with God for what text He would have them preach on only to have their stress level grow as they discerned no clear direction from God at all. With consecutive expository preaching, such a syndrome is cured. Early in the week the preacher already knows what passage he will be preaching on; the next section following the one he finished the Sunday before. He may not yet know exactly what he will be saying as that will come with the study of that passage throughout that week. He also will have more time to devote to studying and preparing to preach it, which will better profit the congregation.
Expository Preaching Models and Teaches How to Study the Word. There is a sense where in expository preaching, the preacher takes the congregation into his study and leads them to how he comes to his conclusions as to what the text is saying and means. This will in turn help them in how to study the Bible for themselves. It wasn’t too long ago that a lady in my congregation told me that she was getting more out of her personal Bible reading. As she reflected asi to the reason for this, she realized that it was because of sitting under my preaching. She had been learning from the questions that I asked to bring out the meaning of the texts the kind of questions she needed to ask of the passage in her own study.
Expository Preaching Prevents Avoiding Controversy. Some topics are difficult for a preacher to address due to the very nature of them. But if the preacher is committed to preach through an entire book of the Bible verse-by-verse, they cannot be avoided. I still remember having to deal with the issue of divorce and remarriage when preaching through the Gospel of Mark. I confess to have been a little nervous knowing that there were those in the congregation who have been divorced and remarried and several who may not share my view on it. But if I am going to preach every passage and verse of the book, I couldn’t just skip over chapter 10. Honestly, I more likely would never have chosen that topic myself due to fear of how it would go over.
Expository Preaching Keeps Things in Context. How many verses have been misunderstood and misapplied due to someone taking them out of context and claiming that they say something that they really don’t? For example, Matthew 18:20 concerning “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” being used often as an encouragement for the few amount of people who managed to show up for the prayer meeting. When connected to the preceding verses in that passage, you come to realize that Jesus is talking about Him being present in the decision of a congregation to discipline a member living in ongoing unrepentant sin. Something that should not be happening at every prayer meeting. One is better able to see how such an application cannot fit if the verse is preached in its context which an expositional sermon would seek to do.
Expository Preaching Sustains a Long Term Ministry. Those who preach topically will find that in a few years they will run out of topics to cover without seeming to be repetitive. But the one who preaches expositionally never will lack material and even though they will be covering several topics over and over again, it will be from different angles or dealing with different aspects of it all based on the context of the passage. Of course, God's Word is inexhaustible as well so even another look at a passage that has been preached may bring out some additional insights that were missed before. And if you need an example of how such preaching can sustain one in the pulpit for a while, we can just look at Dr. John MacArthur who know has been preaching at the same church for almost 50 years! He also has accomplished a task most preachers have not even come close to. Preaching through every verse of the entire New Testament. And after this, he is still preaching. He has yet to run out of things to preach on.
These are the reasons which underlie my commitment to expository preaching. I encourage other pastors to preach expositionally as well. The congregation more than anything else needs to hear what God has said in His Word. They need to understand what it means. They need to be taught how to study the Word for themselves so that they can benefit from God's Word daily. May God continue to raise up expositors who take His Word seriously and rightly divide it!
Love in Christ,