In a court of law in the United States, when a witness takes the stand to testify in front of the court, he swears to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” The goal is to give a complete account of all the relevant information–not adding to or subtracting from what is true.
This should be the same attitude preachers have in relation to God’s Word: preachers should tell the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17), the whole truth of God’s Word (Acts 20:27), and nothing but the truth of God’s Word (Jeremiah 23:16), as helped by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:2-5), and applied to their listeners (Matthew 7:24-27). This was the conviction and practice of many preachers throughout church history; from Jesus and the apostles, to early church leaders like Augustine and John Chrysostom, through the Reformation, to the present day.
The term “expository preaching” often means different things to different people. Simply stated, it is an accurate proclamation and application of God’s truth revealed in Scripture. In Christ-Centered Preaching, pastor and professor Bryan Chapell shares this more comprehensive definition of an expository sermon, and thus expository preaching:
…the technical definition of an expository sermon requires that it expound Scripture by deriving from a specific text main points and subpoints that disclose the thought of the author, cover the scope of the passage, and are applied to the lives of the listeners.
There are many reasons to preach the Scriptures. This article shares some of the most helpful reasons for expository preaching and implications for both the preacher and the church. We hope the preacher and the church see the utmost importance of this practice for the life and health of a church and put it into practice to the glory of God.
20 Reasons for Expository Preaching
1. Expository preaching is obeying the command of Scripture to “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4:2).
The content of our preaching needs to be God’s message as revealed to us in the Scriptures. That’s why we are called to preach not just our words, but the authoritative Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2).
Following a section on the importance of the God-breathed Scriptures in ministry (2 Timothy 3:14-17), Paul sets up his command in 2 Timothy 4:2 to ‘preach the word’ with a solemn charge that couldn’t be more forceful: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word…” Preaching the Word in expository fashion considers the context of a passage (literary, historical, and biblical), preserving the author’s original intent and making it easier to stay in line with God’s truth. If we do not preach God’s Word, whose word are we preaching?
2. Expository preaching imitates the practice of the apostles and Christ.
The book of Acts records many sermons preached by the apostles including Peter’s Acts 2 sermon. In that sermon, Peter expounded the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 and shared how it testified to Christ, supporting his sermon with two Psalms. Later in Acts 7, Stephen exposited portions of Genesis and Exodus. In Acts 8, Philip exposited Isaiah 53 one-on-one with the Ethiopian eunuch. When Jesus was on the road to Emmaus talking with two disciples in Luke 24, He walked through the Scriptures and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Expository preaching and expository ministry bore great fruit for Christ and the apostles–and will for us today as well.
Bonus: Read Nehemiah 8:1-12 for Expository Preaching in the Old Testament or read 6 Characteristics of Apostolic Preaching in Acts
3. Expository preaching lets God speak for Himself in the way He has spoken.
God has communicated Himself in Scripture in a distinct way. The flow and arrangement of biblical material is intentional, and the more we can compellingly communicate God’s truth the way He communicated it the better. Sticking to the Scriptures also helps us focus on what God says is most important. This is why expository preaching sets the table for God to speak for Himself–it seeks to communicate God’s message the way He has already communicated, using main points and subpoints to communicate the original author’s intent and aim of a passage.
4. Expository preaching puts God’s Word in it’s proper authoritative and exalted place in the church.
Scripture should be the absolute authority for Christ’s church. Scripture is what trains us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), prepares us for ministry (2 Timothy 3:17), and leads us to the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 5:39-40). Churches need to desire more than anything to be Scripture-saturated and exalt God’s Word in the church at all levels: preaching, worship services, congregational singing, small groups, lobby conversations, and even interactions outside of the church. Expository preaching elevates God’s Word by making it the foundation and focus of attention for church life.
5. Expository preaching unleashes the transforming life-giving power of God’s Word.
Scripture calls itself “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) and “like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29). Expository preaching wields the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and let’s the power of God’s Word loose. Preaching anyone else’s word will not–and cannot–have the same power or impact. Only God’s Words are promised to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11).
6. Expository preaching teaches people how to read their Bibles.
Reading the Bible can be confusing. When a preacher faithfully preaches the Scripture and explains how he draws conclusions from the Scripture, the congregation sees faithful Bible reading modeled and are more equipped to do it themselves. This is the benefit of expository preaching: congregants will not depend on preaching as their only source of nourishment, but will over time grow in their ability to feed on Scripture themselves, and thus further their own Christian maturity.
7. Expository preaching teaches people how each parts of the Bible fit into the overall storyline of salvation.
Although it is made of 66 individual books, the Bible is a unified whole that tells the story of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. Good expository preaching explains how the biblical text for the sermon fits in the whole of the Bible. Listeners will know better how the Old Testament anticipates Christ and how the New Testament describes the life, death, and resurrection of Christ along with the birth and growth of the early church. Knowing how the story fits together will richly show the development of gospel themes across Scripture and give listeners a clearer sense of God’s work in the world through Christ.
8. Expository preaching gives listeners (and their pastors) a love for their Bibles.
The Scriptures are “more to be desired than gold” and “sweeter also than honey” (Psalm 19:10). When God’s Word is preached, applied, and understood; listeners grow to love their Bibles like they love food that nourishes and strengthens their body. “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97).
9. Expository preaching equips congregation members for a personal ministry of the Word.
When a church’s pulpit models a faithful reading of Scripture, congregation members are equipped to share the Word with others. Pastors and teachers’ God given purpose is to, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). This is one goal of the Fellowship of the Word program–for pastors we train in the Scriptures to create an expository culture in their church with many congregation members ministering to each other with the Word in the power of the Spirit (Learn More).
10. Expository preaching gives preachers confidence and authority.
Bryan Chapell comments: “Preachers minister with greater zeal, confidence, and freedom when they realize that God has taken from their backs the money of spiritual manipulation. God is not relying on the sufficiency of our craft or character to accomplish his purposes (2 Cor. 3:5). God certainly can use eloquence and desires lives befitting the sanctity of our subject matter, but His Spirit uses the Word itself to fulfill his saving and sanctifying purposes.”
11. Expository Preaching gives listeners confidence that the preacher is speaking with God’s authority and not their own.
Preaching Scripture gives congregations confidence as they listen to preaching: they realize the preacher stands upon God’s truth and not their own cleverness. A failure to preach Scripture comes with unintended consequences, as John MacArthur writes, “A failure to preach Scripture redirects people from a God-centered perspective to a man-centered perspective. It tends to undermine confidence… in Scripture.”
12. Expository preaching is common sense in its use of the Bible.
If you got a letter from a friend in the mail, you would not begin reading half-way through, or only read your two favorite sentences–you would start at the beginning and continue reading until the end. That’s the way each book of the Bible was designed to be read. We should treat each book of the Bible the same way in preaching.
13. Expository preaching arms the congregation for spiritual warfare.
We need the truth of Scripture to defend against the lies presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Expository preaching, by unfolding the Bible, equips the church to fight against the enemy by arming them with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and giving them the faith they need as a shield against the flaming darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16; Romans 10:17).
14. Expository preaching challenges the spiritual life of the preacher.
Preachers who seek to expound the truth of Scripture will apply it’s truth to their own lives. Expository preaching helps preachers watch their life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16) by immersing them the sanctifying power of the Scriptures (John 17:17) and allowing them to experience God’s transforming power. A preacher transformed by God privately can better communicate His truth publicly.
15. Expository preaching makes the task of preaching easier.
Instead of having to prepare fresh material week after week for years, expository preaching sets the agenda and makes sermon planning easier. In a sense, the heart of the message is already written–preachers simply need to study the text and write a clear message proclaiming and applying its important truths. This also makes it easier for preachers to serve a long tenure in the same place–there is always something new to preach. (Additionally, Scripture is filled with many powerful illustrations that are designed to stick in the minds of listeners and powerfully communicating God’s truth. Consider Psalm 1 or the parables of Jesus.)
16. Expository preaching forces preachers to touch on uncomfortable texts of Scripture.
Instead of avoiding difficult topics, expository preaching naturally brings up difficult texts with controversial topics that force preachers work to understand a passage. This is good, because all of Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The approach that tries to meet “felt needs” in the congregation falls short because, unlike God, every pastor has blind spots about the needs of their congregation.
17. Expository preaching values the whole counsel of God.
In Acts 20, Paul claimed to be “innocent of the blood of all” because he declared “the whole counsel of God” among the Ephesians. One can conclude that if Paul had failed to teach the whole counsel of God, he would be guilty before God for holding back truth. Expository preaching lets the Word set the agenda, and aids the pastor in declaring the whole counsel of God.
18. Expository preaching keeps the pastor from saddling up one of his hobby horses.
Many pastors have topics of interest that they talk about every chance they get. This becomes a problem when every sermon starts to sound exactly the same, emphasizing the pastor’s “hobby horse” and neglecting other weighty truths. Preaching consecutively through books of the Bible sets the preaching agenda instead of a pastor’s passion.
19. Expository preaching guards against false teaching.
False teachers are promised in Scripture. One of the purposes of teaching and preaching the Word is to lead to Christian maturity and that “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). A healthy diet of God’s Word from the pulpit is a needed preventative measure against false teaching (although shepherds always need to be on guard).
20. Expository preaching preaches Christ and results in the salvation of souls.
We cannot afford to stray from the Scripture’s simple gospel message: God saves sinners through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus made it clear in John 5:39-40 that all Scriptures testify about Him and that those who come to Him in faith will find life. When we preach the Scriptures in an expository fashion, we preach a Savior that needy sinners can come to and find eternal life. The apostle Paul said it another way to Timothy, warning him to watch his life and teaching closely, for “by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Preacher: Preach the Word! Souls hang in the balance. You cannot afford to rely on anything else. It’s what God wants, it’s what your people need, and it’s what will ultimately grow us all more like Christ and save our souls.
–Kevin Halloran is the Content Strategist at Leadership Resources and on the Latin America Training Team. Follow Kevin on Twitter.
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