The Priority of Expository Preaching
At Harvest Bible Chapel Fresno, we believe the proclamation of God’s Word found in the Bible is the primary function of Sunday Worship. Many people think worship is music. Preaching, prayer, Scripture reading, and offerings are other parts of the Sunday service, but not the worship portion. The truth is that music, preaching, prayer, Scripture reading and the offering are all elements of worship. However, it is the preaching of God’s Word which should have priority during worship service.
It is not uncommon to find many churches, even in Fresno, to have pastors preach 15 minute sermonettes so that there is more time for music, drama, and promotion of programs. The elements of entertainment are given priority over the preaching of God’s Word. The priority of preaching is derived from Scripture itself (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 14:17; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:1ff.)
God Commands Church Leaders to Preach the Word
“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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:1-3).
Preaching is at the Center of the Church
Timothy was to read the Word, explain the Word, and exhort people to apply the truths contained in the Word. This is preaching of God’s Word. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13)
It is the Focal Point of a Church Gathering
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
The focal point of expository preaching is often missing in many churches today. The emphasis of entertaining the audience or giving people a false sense of spirituality through mysticism or the manipulation of their emotions through music, lighting and the tenor of the worship leader’s voice is commonplace.
The Method of Expository Preaching
Webster’s dictionary defines exposition as “a discourse to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand.” Applied to expository preaching, a preacher explains the meaning of Scripture, which may be difficult to understand.
Expository preaching is not a running commentary of Scripture. It is not a topical study of Bible texts loosely connected by a theme. It is not a message where a scripture is used as a launching point or gateway into whatever subject the preacher chooses to address.
Expository preaching focuses on a particular Scripture in light of its context. It contains a main proposition, an outline based on the text of Scripture, illustrations, and application of the meaning of the text. Haddon Robinson defines expository preaching as:
“The presentation of biblical truth derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, Scripture guided study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and then through him to the congregation.”
The essential elements of expository preaching from John MacArthur’s book Rediscovering Expository Preaching are the following:
- The message finds it sole source in Scripture
- The message is derived from Scripture after careful study
- The message entails interpreting Scripture in its normal sense and its context
- The message clearly explains the original God intended meaning of His Word. Not what does this mean to you or me.
- The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today
Expository preaching is represented in Nehemiah 8:8, where the prophet writes: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
To accomplish the desired result of understanding the meaning of Scripture, the expository preacher first begins with exegesis and ends with exposition. The term “exegesis” comes from exegete, which means to draw out from the text the truth that is in it. The opposite is “eisegesis” which means to put meaning into a text.
To illustrate this method, Nolan Howington describes the relationship between exegesis and exposition in the following manner: “The exegete is like the diver bringing up pearls from the ocean bed; an expositor is like the jeweler who arrays them in orderly fashion and in proper relation to each other.” (Rediscovering Expository Preaching, p. 17).
The Purpose of Expository Preaching
What is the purpose of preaching a sermon? The purpose of preaching is not to make everyone happy and feel good. Nor is the purpose of preaching to solve your problems. The purpose of preaching is to educate God’s people about what God says in His Word.
It is through the hearing of the truth of God through His Word combined with the power of the Holy Spirit where one becomes transformed by that truth and conformed to that truth. Inducing biblical change—being conformed into the image of Christ is the purpose of all biblical preaching.
This is based on a believer’s true need as determined by God. Renewing your mind comes from hearing the truth of God contained in Scripture. Paul writes in the Book of Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
The expository preacher’s goal is to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse. As one author writes, “An expositor cares little if his audience says, ‘What a great sermon’ or ‘What an entertaining speaker’.” What he truly wants is, ‘Now I know what this passage means,’ or ‘I better understand God and what he requires of me.’ At Harvest Bible Chapel Fresno, we are committed to expository preaching and seeing its power change people’s lives.