Why Expository Preaching? 20 Reasons to Preach Expositional Sermons

Why Expository Preaching? 20 Reasons to Preach Expositional Sermons

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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Leadership Resources International seeks to train pastors and church leaders in the US and worldwide to study the Word of God in depth using a variety of hermeneutical principles. Learn more about our Training National Trainers Program or how you can help the worldwide spread of God’s Word!


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Are Preachers More Like Lawyers or Doctors?

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In our pastoral training program Training National Trainers, we often illustrate one of the Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles called “Asking Good Questions” by contrasting the way doctors and lawyers operate.

lawyer preacherThe illustration goes as follows: A lawyer starts with a conclusion (whether a person is innocent or guilty) then sets out to prove it. Sure, he may look at all the facts, but he emphasizes only those facts that will help win the case and downplays those that will jeopardize it. He starts with a conclusion then points to, or proceeds to, the facts. Preachers can often act this way as well by imposing their preconceived ideas on the biblical text instead of letting the biblical text shape their outlook.

doctor preacherA good medical doctor, on the other hand, asks many questions about the symptoms, makes a thorough examination, asks more questions still, then arrives at his conclusion, the diagnosis, and ultimately decides on a treatment. Even then, further investigation may sharpen or alter his prior conclusions. He starts with the basic facts then proceeds to a conclusion. Preachers should be like doctors and let Scripture give the diagnosis and lead to the substance of their messages.

In the video below, Allan, one of the men we train in Honduras, shared how much this illustration changed his perspective about studying the Bible and preaching. (He shares at 1:10-2:05 in the video.) You can read his words below.

“All this teaching and all this presentation makes me search my own heart. Another thing I learned that … every pastor was like ‘wow!’ was when Paul was talking about how the lawyer operates and how a doctor operates…

The way that [Bible study] is done mostly in Honduras, is that we draw a conclusion and then we start looking for things that support our conclusion (what a lawyer does). A doctor asks all the questions and [understands] details first so he can arrive at the conclusion. That is something the pastors said they hadn’t heard before. If they hadn’t heard it, they hadn’t done it.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

All part of training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart!

Not the book of Ruth! A Reluctant Teacher’s Encounter with God’s Living Word (Part 1)

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This post is a guest post written by Melanie Ingland, Assistant to the Leadership Resources President, about her opportunity to teach the wives of the men enrolled in the Training National Trainers program in Central Asia this fall.

I admit I never really cared for the book of Ruth.  It is a narrative so it seems harder to get lessons out of it.  I tried to glean a few things (haha…if you have ever read the book you would know that gleaning is a HUGE part of the story).  Mostly it felt flat to me.

I didn’t hate the book, I just felt ambivalent.  I never connected with it and frankly never saw the allure that so many people have with it.  We finished the study together and moved on to other passages.  I actually thought at the end of the study “I am so glad I will never have to teach this book.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin!  I don’t get anything out of it so I couldn’t pass anything along to people. “

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing for my trip to Central Asia when I got an email from our in-country coordinator.  He told me that he wanted me to do an inductive Bible study with the women he was gathering while I was there.  Well that blew my original plans up since I was not taking that approach.  He stated pretty emphatically he didn’t want something topical but something inductive.  He was leaving the passage up to me but he said “how about Ruth?”

I immediately thought… “There are 65 other books in the Bible.  I don’t think I am going to do Ruth.”

I immediately thought… “There are 65 other books in the Bible.  I don’t think I am going to do Ruth.”

I asked him if there was a particular reason that he wanted Ruth and he said that the husbands had studied that and really enjoyed it.  I know that in several other situations people have taught Ruth at LRI.  Well that was not the book for me!  I then was talking to Craig (and I didn’t mention the suggestion of Ruth) and I told him that our in-country coordinator wanted me to do an inductive Bible study.  He sat back and said “Why don’t you do the book of Ruth?  It is a beautiful story and it is short and about women.  I think that you would really enjoy teaching it and love learning from it.”

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I didn’t really respond because I was not going to tell my boss that I didn’t like a book in the Bible!

I sat there and glibly said that I was going to process all of my options and think it through.  In my mind I am thinking, “I think I am going to teach 2 Timothy or Jonah.  We have curriculum for that I like those stories better.  Ha ha…little does he know I am NOT going to do Ruth!  Stop asking!”

Well my next stop was a discussion with our curriculum writer.  Paul has been an AMAZING help to me as I prepare my materials.  I told him my situation and time frame and asked his opinion.  He said “Well you could do the book of Esther.  That is a good story and I would be happy to help you out with it.”  Finally!  Someone who is suggesting something OTHER than Ruth!

Esther appealed to me and I had actually been wanting to read through that and study it.  That was definitely a possibility.

Then the bombshell.  

Paul says “Well you could do Ruth as well.  It is short and it would fit in well with your time frame.  We have some materials already written for it but you would have to rework it for your purposes.”

Seriously?  Paul is really suggesting Ruth?  I said in a very Christian way “I will think it over and pray about it.”  Of course my prayers went something like “Lord what do you want me to bring to these women?  Since the book of Ruth isn’t an option, what else ya got?”

A picture of women in harvest.  I imagine this is what Ruth looked like

A picture of women in harvest. I imagine this is what Ruth looked like

Every Thursday morning we have a field report from a recent trip.  I had to do some scrambling in the schedule due to some conflicts and I asked Todd to talk about his recent trip to Central Asia.  Since it was late notice, he didn’t have the usual visual presentation so he was just going to do a small devotional and talk about the trip.  I love this time and always look forward to it.

So we are sitting there and Todd busts out his Bible and says “I am going to talk from the book of Ruth today.”

ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!!  Why is everyone OBSESSED with this book?!

Don’t they know that it is a flat narrative that gives no practical application?  I sat and listened to what he said and heard some good things. Not enough for me to formulate 5 lessons around it but enough to chew on for the day.

During the talk Craig leans over to me and says “You should be teaching Ruth!”  Really?  We are in a meeting right now…not appropriate to be telling me to pay attention to God whacking me over the head.  Can’t you see that I have made my decision not to do Ruth and move on to more exciting things.  Comprende?  The decision is done…finished…over…dead.  I am not doing Ruth.   Case closed.

Well …I now have to decide what book I am going to teach.  I have 65 books to choose from (remember…Ruth is out of the question).  Crunch time is here.  I have to come up with something and come up with it fast.  D-day is approaching and I have to get something to the translators.

So I finally said, “OK Lord…is this a coincidence or are you really trying to get my attention?  If you want me to do Ruth I am going to need an out-of-body experience.  I have NO CLUE how to approach this so how can I teach something that I myself don’t get?  How am I going to draw applications from a book where the most I see is that Ruth was a foreigner so…..be nice to foreigners?”  Silence.  No feelings. No message floating down from heaven.  No stork bringing me the answer.  But strangely that was the answer I needed.  I also didn’t feel that I shouldn’t be doing Ruth.  It was just my obstinance and close-mindedness that chose not to do Ruth.  So with serious faith and prayers I endeavored to  dive in and teach Ruth.  I wasn’t sure how all of this was going to work but I thought this must be the Lord’s direction since he seemed to be putting a lot of neon signs  in my path.

That Tuesday I spent all day trying to put together materials and wrap my mind around what I am going to teach.  I made a lot of headway and waded through our materials.  At the end of the day I felt good at the amount that I had accomplished but at the same time I was discouraged that I wasn’t farther along.  I had put together a lot of the structure of the time but I didn’t have a good grasp on the book and the contents. I needed to flesh out the message of the book still.  I emailed Paul and asked if he would spend some time with me on Wednesday working it through.

Paul and I spent all day on Wednesday fleshing out the material.  It was an amazing day.  Paul is so patient and a great teacher.   He taught me the principles and then we worked through the book together.  He had not taught or dug into Ruth before so this was just as new for him as it was for me.  It was fun going chapter by chapter as digging around to find messages, themes and main ideas.

As we talked the beautiful story of Ruth emerged!  I saw connections I had not seen before!  I began to understand and appreciate the story of faithfulness, joy, redemption and restoration.  I felt that I had a much better picture and idea as to what the connections were.  I could see beautiful themes weaving through all four chapters.  I am so grateful to Paul for showing me the principles to find the gems in this story.  He sacrificed so much of his time to work through material with me.  The Lord grew in my heart an appreciation for this story and the lessons He put there through the author.

**Originally posted on Melanie’s Blog**

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