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Session One: The Introduction to Expository Preaching

What happens when we have a lack of expository preaching. In two words: people starve!!!

Some of the preaching coming across our pulpits is only superficially satisfying.

-- It has little or no nutritional value.
-- It does taste good, at least sometimes.
-- It won't immediately destroy us.
-- But it is ultimately leading to spiritual starvation and it spoils our appetites.

On the other hand, I believe if expository preaching is done right,

-- It will not only taste good,
-- It can also deliver people from their addiction to junk food!!!


I. What does the bible say about expository preaching?


A. Expository preaching can be capsulized by a number of vocations which are alluded to and/or described in Scripture.


1. A Miner--Proverbs 2. This passage gives us a piece of the picture that describes the process involved, if we are to mine the truth of Scripture.


a. As a miner, we must have the persistence and dedication of one who digs under the earth for ore or metal--Acts 17:10-11; II Tim. 2:15.


b. Proverbs 2 says we are to look for understanding as if we are looking for silver--Prov. 2:1-11.


1) The condition: Prov. 2:1-4
2) The promise: Prov. 2:5
3) The reason: Prov. 2:6--"From his mouth comes knowledge and understanding."


2. A Sage--Ecclesiastes 12:9-13
a. Note the wise teacher/expositor's impact in verses 9-10.
b. The older and wiser teacher has the potential to instruct the younger with knowledge and truth.


How should that be done?
1) Care should be taken to make sure the words are just the right ones v. 10--"The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true."
2) Care should also be taken, through a study of the Word, to make sure that the wisdom passed on to others is "upright and true ."


c Wise words given by a loving person can have tremendous sticking power with others. v. 11--"The words of the wise are likegoads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd."

Definition of goad: The goad was a rod with an iron spike at the end. It was used to drive oxen--Jude 3:31; Acts 9:5.

Question: How will this happen? What will assure its happening? v. 9b--"He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10a] The Teacher searched to find just the right words. . . "

Application: This kind of impact happens when a teacher/pastor/ parent/wise person/sage is diligent in preparation and cooperates with the Divine Shepherd as to how he "nails" the truth.

Question: Wouldn't it be better to search all the books, e.g., the religious writings, the great philosophers and great literature of the world, and then decide what is true and how we will live our lives? Eccl. 12:12--"Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."

Solution: The Lord has given us the answers we need to the most fundamental questions of life, and He has brought them together into one book - the Bible--II Tim. 3:16-17.


3. A Scribe--Ezra 7:10.
a. As we know, a scribe is simply a student of Scripture.


b. Our model for a good scribe is Ezra.


1) His ministry and life are capsulized for us in Ezra 7:10.


2) This verse describes the two main areas of an Expositor's life:
The preparation and the process for becoming a Scribe.
-- The preparation focuses on the heart, i.e., a new heart (I Cor. 2:14); a positive and hungry heart (I Pet. 2:2-3); a desire to grow (I Pet. 2:2-3; Heb. 5:11-6:3); a desire to be obedient (Matt. 28:18-20; Ps. 119:98-100); a desire to be usefulII Tim. 3:16-17.
-- The process involves three central segments: study, observance and teaching, or, being a student, a doer and a teacher.


4. As a detective. Prov. 25:2; Eccl. 7:25--"So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly."


a. First, Investigation : To arrive at the meaning of a text, the teacher of Scripture will need to carefully investigate each passage and its context.


b. Second, Interrogation : In addition, all good detective work entails searching for answers by asking the right questions, and interrogating fully, all those who might have information about the crime. Likewise, the serious study of Scripture will give considerable attention to seven interrogatives: who, what, when, where, why, how, so what?


c. Interpretation/Implication : After sifting/searching through the clues and asking the right questions of the text, the interpreter must draw some interpretations from this raw data, then carefully state the implications of those findings. All this will hopefully lead to an understanding of what is happening in a given text, and how these facts might be presented to others for action.


With those pictures in mind:


II. What is a definition of expository preaching?


A. Many pastors aspire to be good expository preachers, good Bible teachers, but sadly, many have not attained their goal.
1. Expository preaching is not some narrowly defined method of outlining a text.


2. Expository preaching is not just following a passageclause by clause.


3. A preliminary definition based on the miner, sage, scribe and detective descriptions is as follows:

 "The Expository process is entered into by a person who has prepared their heart with a desire to grow, be obedient and be useful for their Lord. Thus they are engaged in three central steps that call upon the expositor to be a student, an observer and a doer. This will involve the expositor in serious investigation and digging into the text until the truth has been mined and the interrogation of all the key parties has been reasonably conducted.
 Once the preliminary findings have been gathered, the interpretation of the data and the implications will be carefully drawn. Putting together all the data, a wise and creative presentation of the case will be made so the jury can easily connect the facts of the case with the decision(s) they must make.
 The case will then be closed until new information deems it necessary to open it up again--to arrive at a deeper understanding of the truth."


B. A good way to add to the definition and lessen any confusion about expository preaching, might be to list the essential nature and characteristics of expository preaching and then illustrate the process with some examples.


1. First, and in a summary way, the essence of exposition is explanation.
Note: The essential nature of expository preaching then, is preaching which adequately explains the passage to the congregation, and then that explanation leads them to a TRUE AND PRACTICAL application of the passage.


2. Second, an expository message deals with ONE BASIC passage of Scripture.


a. References to other Scriptures that are relevant and supportive of this passage are brought into the teaching, but they are subordinate to our main passage.


b. Even in what is billed as "expository preaching," the verses can become launching pads for the preacher's own opinions.

Quote: One common recipe found in homiletical cookbooks reads something like this: "Take several theological or moral platitudes, mix with equal parts of 'dedication,' 'evangelism,' or 'stewardship,' add several 'king- doms' or 'the Bible says,' stir in a selection of stories, add 'salvation' to taste. Serve hot on a bed of Scripture verses" --Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 25.


3. Third, an expository message has HERMENEUTICAL INTEGRITY.
That means:


a. "It takes, at a minimum, one paragraph of biblical text (in prose narrative and other literary forms its equivalent)
-- and it derives from that text both the shape, i.e., the main points and subpoints of the sermon,
-- and the content, i.e., the substance, ideas, and principles of the message itself" --Preaching, September/October 1995, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., pp. 4-10.


b. In other words, it reproduces the significant elements of a passage in the same balance, and with the same intention as that of the original author.


4. The fourth characteristic is that the expository message has movement and direction.


5. Fifth, an expository message must have clarity and application


a. An expositor has four great objectives in the delivery of the message.
1) First, accuracy--II Tim. 3:15.
a) Is what I say accurate with the Scriptures?
b) Can a person say, "this squares with Scripture"?


2) Second, he wrestles with authenticity, e.g., "how does God want to change me personally"?


3) Third, the good expositor thinks about clarity--Col. 4:4.


a) "Does what I've said and the application I'm calling for make sense to the person who is not informed"?
b) "Can a guy come in off the street, sit down, and understand most, if not all of what I'm saying"?


4) Fourth, the expositor thinks of practicality--Matt. 7:24-27; 11:28; I Cor. 8:1: James 1:22-25; 4:17.


a) Dull expository preaching usually lacks creative application and evokes two complaints:


i) First, some will say: "it sounds like the same old thing ."


ii) Second, the other negative reaction is: "It's true enough, but so what? What difference does it make"?


b) Some of you are preaching too much and applying too little. You may feel good about all you are teaching, and your congregation may demand and appreciate it, but is it good for them to hear the Word without any opportunity for application?


Remind yourself of these Scriptures:

Matt. 7:24-27 *  Luke 11:28  * James 1:22-25; 4:17  *  Matt. 22:29  * I Cor. 8:1


I. Why must the sermon be based on at least one paragraph (or its equivalent in other literary form) of biblical text, and in most circumstances be the full teaching block of the Scripture?


A. There are two reasons this is necessary:
1. a paragraph (or its equivalent) is the simplest, most concise statement of a single idea; and
2. if the sermon is to have any authority in this day and age, it must have God's authority, claimed in the text, behind it.


B. With this authority, we can rule out the following:
1. bumper sticker slogan preaching, derived either from Scripture or elsewhere, that becomes little more than psychological boosters; and


2. preaching from market-driven forces that dictate what will and what will not "go over" with certain age groups, clienteles, or classes of listeners.


3. The Scriptures must be given priority in setting the agenda and the diet for our spiritual welfare.


II. We should ask, "why are both the shape and the content of what we are preaching being directed by the passage we are examining"?
It is because of two other deep crises in our age: 1) the crisis of truth, and 2) the crisis of authority.

Preaching from the Scripture, and very clearly showing our truth/authority comes from Scripture, can help turn the tide in the crisis of truth and authority in our country.


III. What are the Advantages of Expository Preaching?


A. The first advantage is that we will be more confident of preaching God's will when we present God's Word.


B. The second advantage is that we are confined to biblical truth. We can't unknowingly get off track.


C. The third advantage is that as we preach through Scripture, we proclaim "the whole counsel of God," rather than ride our favorite hobby horses.


D. Fourth, the context of the passage usually includes its own application.


E. A fifth advantage is that Scripture often provides a literary structure that can form the basis for a sermon outline.


F. A sixth and very helpful advantage of expository preaching is that it can include touchy subjects in the course of going through the book, without being obvious.


G. Seventh, expository preaching gives a pastor a chance to model Bible study.


H. Eighth, longevity in tenure as pastor is only possible if we are expositors.


1. It enables the pastor to continue to grow.
2. Thus expository preaching allows the congregation to grow too.


IV. What are the Goals of Expository Preaching?


A. Expository preaching is an excellent means of evangelism.


B. Another goal is to minister to human needs.


C. Another goal is to declare the whole will of God for His people, His church.


D. A fourth goal is that with expository preaching, we most naturally think and teach doctrine and theology.



V. What are the Difficulties?


A. The first and most obvious difficulty is that it requires a thorough study of the passage.


B. The second difficulty is, we need to observe sound principles of hermeneutics.


C. The third difficulty is, good exposition requires constant attention to the larger context of the book. and even the other writings by the same author.


D. The fourth difficulty is that in exposition, we have to be attentive to the literary form (narrative, parable, poetry) of the passage and its context.


E. The fifth difficulty is that of matching the passage to the needs of the congregation.


VI. What Expository Preaching Is Not.


A. First, an expository message is not just a verse by verse exegesis.


B. Second, expository messages are not a simple running commentary.


C. Third, expository preaching is not a caption survey of a passage.


VII. What is Expository Preaching? This is close to a definition:


A. First, it conveys the basic message of a biblical passage faithfully.


B. Second, it communicates the message well, using a structure and features that are appropriate both to the passage, and to the setting and goals of the sermon.


C. Third, it meets the real needs of the congregation in a way consistent with the purpose and function of this passage in its original setting.


D. Fourth, expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers --Haddon Robinson.


E. Fifth, biblical exposition is persuasively and ungently communicating the exact and full meaning of a text or passage of Scripture in terms of our contemporary culture, with the specific goal of helping people to understand and obey the truth of God--Howard Hendricks.


F. Sixth, expository preaching is preaching from a single passage, explaining its meaning, then applying it to the congregation --Grant R. Osborne.


G. Seventh, to expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor opens what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packaged --John Stott.





Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Preaching, September/October 1995, pp. 4-10.
Walter L. Liefeld, New Testament Exposition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), pp. 23-25.
Haddon R. Robinson, Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), pp. 15-30.
Robert C. Stone, Scribe School, Bellingham, WA, 1982.



Practical Suggestions
1. Make up your own work sheet of how you intend to do your expository process on a regular basis, e.g., steps you will take in your study, questions you will ask, rules you will follow, etc.
2. Develop a plan to tech inductive study to your congregation--e.g., Ray Stedman once told me "start with what you know and God will add to it." In other words, start your inductive study in passages you are familiar with and have already done in personal inductive study. Also, announce to your congregation the simple rules of inductive study and how you intend to interpret the passages you will be teaching. The reason you should do this is because it helps to reinforce your teaching, and it keeps you honest. Your inductive study students will hold you to the context if you violate it.
3. Find a model of expository preaching and get their tapes, books, outlines, etc. Mimicry is a good way to begin expository teaching, if you find a good model.
4. Buy commentaries that are not devotional, but expository in nature.


5. Pick a book of the Bible and become an expert in it.
a. Saturate yourself with the book, e.g., reading it over and over.
b. Get an overview of the book by giving titles to each chapter and paragraph. This will give you a beginning outline of the book and show you the flow. This is called a horizontal and vertical chart of a book.
c. Start a file system for each paragraph/teaching block
d. Learn to feed yourself by applying the study to your own life as you are teaching it to others.
6. Have arenas of application for each study. One good discipline is to come up with application questions for the passage that might be used for personal or small group study.
7. Make your own Acts 6 crisis and prioritize yourself, i.e., give yourself to prayer and study of the Word

What Does The Bible Say About Expository Preaching?

1. A Miner--Proverbs 2
a. The condition: Prov. 2:1-4
b. The promise: Prov. 2:5
c. The reason: Prov. 2:6
2. A Sage--Eccl. 12:9-13


3. A Scribe--Ezra 7:10
a. The preparation focuses on the heart, i.e., a new heart (I Cor. 2:14); a positive and hungry heart (I Pet.2:2-3); a desire to grow (I Pet.2:2-3; Heb. 5:11-6:3);
a desire to be obedient (Matt. 28:18-20; Ps. 119:98-100);
a desire to be useful (II Tim. 3:16-17).


b. The process involves three segments: study, observance and teaching.


4. A Detective--Prov. 25:2; Eccl. 7:25
a. First, Investigation
b. Second, Interrogation
c. Third, Interpretation/Implication

A preliminary definition based on the miner, sage, scribe and detective
  "The Expository process is entered into by a person who has prepared their heart with a desire to grow, be obedient and be useful for their Lord. Thus they are engaged in three central steps that call upon the expositor to be a student, an observer and a doer. This will involve the expositor in serious investigation and digging into the text until the truth has been mined and the interrogation of all the key parties has been reasonably conducted. Once the preliminary findings have been gathered, the interpretation of the data and the implications will be carefully drawn. Putting together all the data, a wise and creative presenta tion of the case will be made so the jury can easily connect the facts of the case with the decision(s) they must make.

The case will then be closed until new information deems it necessary to open it up again--to arrive at a deeper understanding of the truth."

Application Questions

a. Is this making sense to the common man?


b. Does this need to be illustrated so the layman can understand it in his terms?


c. How does this point relate to various situations among my listeners?
1) to those suffering?
2) to those struggling?
3) to the student, professional, homemaker, the confused, bewildered, doubting, the unbeliever?
d. Now that I see what this passage means, in which specific areas can I apply it personally?


e. Wrap up a message with 3 to 5 specific areas where your mesage may be applied. State them in a 1, 2, 3 manner. People seem to appreciate that.


Appendix 1

The question of this session is: what is expository preaching? It is my observation that many people in the pew don't understand expository preaching, nor do many in the pulpit. Some pastors are confused about how to approach a passage, and therefore, it is no wonder their flocks are, likewise, ill informed.


Bernard Ramm has written an article in Eternity Magazine which expresses, sadly, the dearth of good Bible teaching.


Scene I


I hurried to the morning hour hungry of soul. It would be the "Bible" hour. Amidst the high-pressure appeal of the conference for personal witnessing, world missions, and consecration, this would be one glad hour in which we would shut out the appeals of man and contemplate the inexhaustible Word of God. The Scriptures were opened and read. My soul now drew near, eager for the exposition of the Word of God. But down my open throat was stuffed another sermon! It was a good and proper sermon, but it wasn't Bible study. The speaker wheeled back and forth like an eagle over the text, but he never came to rest upon it. I left the hall as hungry as I came and quite sure that the speaker could not distinguish between a sermon and a Bible study.


Scene II


The honorable reverend stood before the audience and announced that he had the responsibility for the Bible study and would we all turn to a certain passage in the Old Testament. I thanked the Lord for a man who took his Bible study seriously, and eagerly anticipated a fruitful forty-five minutes of real Bible exposition. After the text was read, there issued a torrent of words exhorting us to five different things. God knows we needed at least ten exhortations, but God knows the relationship of the text to the exhortations was completely accidental. Although I left the auditorium completely equipped with exhortations, my added insight into the text was zero.

Scene III


I crouched low in the pew. It was eventide Bible hour and I was praying for grace to endure another sermon or a fist full of miscellaneous exhortations falsely known as "Bible" study. The first paragraph of the speaker brought me snappily out of my crouch. I was not going to get various and diverse exhortations but real, honest, undiluted Bible study! He opened the Bible and went after the text. But at the third paragraph I was dismayed. From Bible study we slipped into exegesis. "The jussive means this" was followed by "the aorist participle means that." The housewives present did not know the difference between the jussive and the lemon juice and their blank faces were rather faithful counterparts of their minds at this moment. For the first time in their lives the laymen heard the word "aorist" and surmised it was one of the pagan gods of the Hittites. Next we were hurriedly pulled past the opinions of Robertson, Denney, Cullman and Broadus. By this time most of the little group was wool-gathering or day-dreaming or thinking about the post-benediction chit-chat.


Scene IV


I mingled with a crowd of university students as we retreated from the hot sun into the cool auditorium. Certainly this crowd would put the speaker on the spot and force him to give out with good Bible study. The reputation of the Bible teacher preceded him like the runners preceded the ancient chariot. Away from the warm southern sun I sat smugly in my seat and said to myself, "This is it--real Bible study!" At last, no sermons, no sheaf of exhortations, but Bible study. The great Bible teacher strode across the platform like a great musician, and putting his Bible upon the pulpit, waited for the audience to quiet down before he played the first note. The concert began. Like the fingers of a pianist race up and down the keyboard, so his fingers raced through the Bible finding the relevant verses. Plunk, ping, plunk! It did not take long before I realized that we were not having Bible study, but a party line. The Bible was the keyboard and the teacher was playing his own tune upon it. The melody was not that of the Scripture, but one imposed upon it by the Bible teacher. When the last embellishments were over, and when we were assured with a certainty the papacy could envy that we had the truth, we were dismissed.

I did not feel blessed nor fed nor led deeper into the Scriptures. I felt brainwashed. I felt my share in the priesthood of the believers, as it pertained to Bible study, had been violated by the arrogant dogmatisms of a party line.1 It is obvious many don't know what expository preaching is all about.