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4 Benefits of Expositional Preaching

August 17, 2017

 

What kind of preaching is needed in our churches today? What kind of preaching will feed God's people with good, rich food week in and week out? What kind of preaching will not only help men and women mature in their love for God and people, but will also help prepare them to deal with the challenges and trials of life in a God-honoring and hopeful manner? I would argue the only kind of preaching sufficient to do this kind of work is faithful, expositional preaching of God's Word. What exactly is expositional preaching? Expositional preaching is preaching that desires the inspired words of Scripture to determine the foundational and core substance of the sermon. In expositional preaching, the preacher seeks to put himself under the authority and message of the text he is seeking to preach, not over it. The benefits of this type of expositional preaching are many. Let me briefly share four of them.

 

Benefit #1: Expositional preaching forces the preacher to be a student of God's word. Alistair Begg observes that after seminary, serving in their first church, pastors study to produce a variety of sermons for their people. But some, having preached them all, then move on to give another congregation the benefit of their study.[1] By contrast, “when a pastor is committed to the systematic and consecutive exposition of Scripture, he will never come to an end of his task. If we are not learning, we are not growing; and if we are stuck, we can be certain that our people will be stuck with us.”[2] As a result, it is absolutely vital to keep coming to the Scriptures “in the spirit of discovery. We must learn to look for the surprises in the passage. We should not assume that we understand just because we have spent time in this passage before."[3]

 

The Scripture must first take root in the heart of the preacher and do a mighty work inside of him before he ever enters the pulpit. Unless preachers have been transformed by the text they are preaching, exposition will fail to have the life changing power that it should have. As the great Puritan theologian and preacher, John Owen, states, "a man only preaches a sermon well to others if he has first preached it to himself. If he does not thrive on the food he prepares, he will not be skilled at making it appetizing for others. If the word does not dwell in power in us, it will not pass in power from us."[4]

 

Benefit #2: Expositional preaching forces preachers to deal with and teach the whole counsel of God for the edification and growth of the flock. J.W. Alexander wrote, "all the more cardinal books of Scripture should be fully expounded in every church, if not once during the life of a single preacher, certainly during each generation; in order that no man should grow up without opportunity of hearing the great body of scriptural truth laid open."[5]

        

It is not a stretch to say that biblical literacy in the evangelical church in the United States is at an all-time low. This can make the job of shepherding God’s people very difficult in this day and age. This is all the more reason why expositional preaching week in and week out is critical to feed the sheep well. Sadly, the reality is that not only do most of our congregants have an insufficient knowledge of the Scriptures, but many seminarians today are just as ill-equipped. Jim Shaddix observes how this scenario “leaves the preacher with two options: either resign to the generation by minimizing the role of the Bible in his preaching or determine to change the generation by systematically teaching the Scriptures. Systematic exposition, especially, enhances knowledge of the Bible. By careful, exegetical study through books of the Bible you will become a master of the Scriptures, and your listeners will become knowledgeable students.”[6]

 

Benefit #3: Expositional preaching provides needed accountability to the preacher and his pulpit ministry. Here are two primary ways in which expositional preaching helps to bring about needed accountability to the preacher. First of all, expositional preaching holds the preacher accountable to be faithful in proclaiming what God says in his word and not what the preacher simply “wants to say.” Shepherd-preachers are called to be faithful to preach all of Scripture and not avoid difficult passages in order to appease the congregation. A congregation must be fed the whole of the Bible, being exposed to difficult passages as well as the favorite passages of a preacher. This assures that the preacher will study and teach both difficult and easier to understand passages with needed pastoral precision and insight. Secondly, expositional preaching holds the preacher accountable to work hard in his study throughout the week. As opposed to other forms of preaching methodology, expositional preaching takes much time, thought, study, and prayer every week. This is good for the preacher, as well as for the congregation.

 

Benefit #4: Expositional preaching provides protection both to the congregation and the preacher of God's word. For example, expositional preaching helps to guard against using the Bible as a weapon to bring pain and hurt. Jim Shaddix puts it this way,

 

sheep are known to be less than prim, proper, and brilliant animals. Shepherding these creatures will periodically give rise to the temptation to find a Scripture to rebuke in airing one in the public arena. Clearly, that is not a proper approach to preaching God's word. Consecutive, expositional preaching its truths guards against that temptation. The expository method allows the word of God, rather than our own inclinations, to speak to the current situation. As you faithfully proclaim the word of God, the Holy Spirit will apply the truths to your listeners.[7]

 

 

 

            [1] Alistair Begg, Preaching For God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 1999), 34.

            [2] Ibid.

            [3] Ibid.

            [4] Ibid.

            [5] J.W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, [1864] 1975), 237.

            [6] Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1999), 34-35.

            [7] Shaddix and Vines, Power in the Pulpit, 35.

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