Preaching is an art and a science. One’s personality, gifting, training, ministry context, and countless other variables comprise the art of homiletics. The science of preaching is far more objective, theological, and certain. While the art of preaching can vary widely, the science of preaching is far more fixed, and should be far more settled. And, as I have argued, it should be settled in a commitment to preach the Word, a commitment to expository preaching.
In part one of this series, I conveyed my personal journey into biblical exposition and offered a charitable, yet distinct, definition. In part two I shared six reasons why I am committed to biblical exposition. In the final installment of this series, I want to offer six more reasons why I’m committed to biblical exposition.
Seventh, expository preaching ensures the sermon’s relevance. Though perhaps counterintuitive at first consideration, there is often an inverse correlation between biblical relevance and attempted cultural connection. Nothing dates a sermon like being chock full of pop-cultural references. Sermons that are text-oriented, speak to the perennial needs of the human heart. And when they are amplified by cross-references, historical illustrations, and pointed application they enjoy no “sell by” date.
This reality occurred to me shortly after I became a believer. While in college, I listened to the local Christian radio station. I often heard sermons by John MacArthur and J. Vernon McGee. At that time, I had no idea who these men were or that Pastor McGee had been deceased for many years. In my naiveté, I assumed the broadcasts were their previous Sunday’s sermon. After listening for quite some time, I still remember my surprise when hearing McGee reference Khrushchev and shortly thereafter hearing MacArthur reference Watergate. The sermon series I had been hearing were decades old, but it took me weeks of listening to detect they were so dated. These men’s commitment to exposition enabled their sermons to be evergreen, perennially relevant.
Eighth expository preaching most consistently presents Christ and a robust gospel message. Paul’s ambition to preach Christ and him crucified should be ours as well, and we can best accomplish this by not just preaching “gospel” messages, or by tacking on the gospel at the end of our sermon. To rightly interpret any text is to draw lines from that text to the broader, biblical metanarrative of Christ and him crucified. Therefore, to preachan Old Testament narrative or a New Testament epistleshould not be a detour from the gospel. Rather, every sermon based on Scripture is a sermon where Christ can be prominently featured.
Ninth, expository preaching most matures me as a man of God. Biblical exposition isn’t easy. It takes time to interpret the passage in its context, to build an exegetical outline, and to fashion it all together in homiletical form. Year after year, the rigor of preparing sermons has deepened by Scriptural knowledge. Thethousands of hours wrestling with texts have been incalculably sanctifying. Moreover, preaching verse-by-verse through books in the Bible forces me to confront difficult doctrines, grapple with knotty texts, and apply the full compliment of Scripture to my own life. All of this, and more, facilitates spiritual growth and maturation.
Tenth, expository preaching gives me confidence in my sermon. The confidence I have in my sermon is derived from the confidence I have in the truthfulness, authority, and power of Scripture. Sure, the full effectiveness of a sermon can vary for a host of reason, but grounding the sermon firmly in the text ensures a certain baseline fruitfulness. The text itself serves as a homiletical safety net, guaranteeing at least a minimal return on the sermon and that no sermon will ultimately fail.
Eleventh, expository preaching most optimally stewards my time. In my earliest forays into preaching, determining which text to preach was often nerve-wracking. After much prayer and Bible-page turning, I would often still be unsettled. On some occasions every verse seemed to scream “preach me,” while on other occasions every verse seemed silent. In either event the problem was the same—how do I determine which verse to preach?
With expository preaching, you typically just preach the next verses. This saves time in the passage-selection process. It also saves you time in your sermon preparation process, as you can carry forward your week-to-week study.
Twelfth, expository preaching ensures balance in the pulpit. As God’s divine Word, the Bible is perfectly balanced. God’s chosen emphases are superintended and impossible to improve upon. Expository preaching naturally lets God speak what he has spoken, and emphasize what he desires to emphasize. It prevents hobbyhorse preaching, dodging difficult passages, or reverting to sugar-stick sermons. Biblical exposition lets the text speak, which lets God himself speak.
Great preachers master the art and science of preaching. While artistic diversity is appropriate and expected, the science of preaching not so much. And when it comes to the science of preaching, I’m sold on biblical exposition, and I hope you are too.topicsExpository Preaching, Expository Preaching Series, Preaching