By Jason Allen
Expository preaching is to rightly interpret and explain the text, in its context, and to bring the text to bear upon the lives of the congregants. This should be the preacher’s standard approach to the pulpit.
Granted, bad sermons come in all forms, including expository, but I’m convinced biblical exposition is the healthiest and most faithful form of preaching.
Why do I feel this way, you might ask? Consider with me these 12 reasons I’m committed to biblical exposition and why you should be too:
1. Expository preaching best fulfills the biblical commands regarding preaching.
The Bible has a lot to say about what preaching is to be. Prescriptively, passages like 2 Timothy 4:1–5 and 1 Timothy 4:13–16 call for a Word-centered ministry. These injunctions are straightforward.
There’s no question as to whose Word or which Word; we are to preach the Word. In fact, if Timothy and Titus got anything out of their Pauline correspondence, it was that they were to preach the Word with authority and faithfulness.
Descriptively, throughout the Bible, and especially in the book of Acts, we repeatedly see a model set forth for preaching. In Acts, for example, Peter and Paul explain the Old Testament and bring it to bear.
This is no coincidence. Implicit within the call to preach is the call to preach the Scripture, and expositional preaching best fulfills this biblical command.
2. Expository preaching affirms a high view of Scripture.
It’s one thing for theological liberals who disavow the inerrancy of Scripture not to preach the Word, but it’s altogether another thing for evangelical preachers to neglect the Scriptures.
To do so is illogical, and it undermines one’s claim to believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture. Consistent exposition affirms a Bible that is true, powerful, and life changing.
When it comes to preaching and one’s stated beliefs about Holy Scripture, actions speak louder than words. How we handle and preach the Bible reveals what we truly believe about it.
3. Expository preaching most honors the authority and status of preaching.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this point. Biblical preaching gives people a clear and certain Word. Preaching, if anything, is to be authoritative, and expository preaching gives the sermon a “thus sayeth the Lord” influence.
Conversely, to preach commandingly without the authority of Scripture is tantamount to pulling rank. Don’t settle for human authority when you can have God’s, as established in His Word. Personalize Paul’s instruction to Titus, “These things speak … with all authority” (Titus 2:15).
4. Expository preaching adds gravity to your ministry.
Biblical preaching puts the text of Scripture front and center in the sermon, thus bringing a level of seriousness to the pulpit. The great preachers of church history who truly made their mark—men like Bunyan, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc.—were men of the text and men of gravity.
They were cheerful but not goofy, happy but not trite. Their seriousness was rooted in their biblical preaching. We’d do well to emulate them.
This point comes with immense practicality. In your ministry, seasons of trial will come. Ethical quandaries, contentious personalities, scandalous sin, and other issues will require courageous pastoral leadership.
The pastor whose ministry is marked by joyful sobriety and evidences a respect for Scripture and a determination to preach it will be best positioned to lead the church through such a crisis—having long since earned leadership credibility and the congregation’s respect.
5. Expository preaching most matures your congregation.
In every church there’ll be a trickle-down effect from the pulpit to the pew. Over time, for better or worse, churches tend to reflect the personalities and passions of their pastor.
The church that receives a steady diet of biblical exposition will grow in their knowledge of the Bible and in their confidence to study, practice, and teach it.
Moreover, strong pulpits become a beacon in the city, drawing mature believers who desire to be fed and to be part of a maturing congregation.
Over time expository preaching leads to a healthier church. A weekly diet of theme verses or only teaching on topical subjects leads to a weak church.
6. Expository preaching teaches your congregation how to study the Bible.
It’s no compliment when a church member asks, “Wow, where did you get that?” Church members should be able to see the root of your application and how it’s derived from the preached text.
A part of preaching the Scriptures is to demystify the preaching and sermon preparation, thus educating our people on how to study the Bible.
Expository preaching does more than explain the text; it shows our people how to interpret and explain the text as well.
7. Expository preaching ensures your sermon’s relevance.
Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive, but there’s often an inverse correlation between biblical relevance and attempted cultural connection. Nothing dates a sermon like filling it with a bunch of pop-cultural references.
Sermons that are text oriented speak to the perennial needs of the human heart, and when they’re amplified by cross-references, historical illustrations, and pointed application, they enjoy no “sell by” date.
8. 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 meta-narrative of Christ and Him crucified.
Therefore, to preach an Old Testament narrative or a New Testament epistle shouldn’t be a detour from the gospel. Rather, every sermon based on Scripture is a sermon where Christ can be prominently featured.
9. Expository preaching most matures the preacher 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, this rigorous work has deepened my scriptural knowledge. The thousands 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 complement of Scripture to my own life. All of this, and more, facilitate spiritual growth and maturation.
10. Expository preaching gives you confidence in your 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 reasons, 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.
11. Expository preaching most optimally stewards your time.
In my earliest forays into preaching, determining which text to preach was often nerve-racking. After much prayer and Bible page turning, I’d 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 in the chapter or book of the Bible. 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.
12. 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.
Jason is the fifth president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He also serves as an associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry. He and his wife, Karen, have five children.