The Expository Method
- Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Expository preaching is much more than a “type” of sermon or a “style” of preaching—it is, in its truest sense, a methodology resulting from a theology. In other words, expository preaching is the direct result of our high view of Scripture. Since the Bible is the Word of God—inerrant, infallible and inspired—then we must commit ourselves to the method of preaching that most honors God’s revelation in Holy Scripture.
Expository preaching by definition takes seriously the context and the content of God’s revelation. It is saying what God says in the Bible, echoing the text of Scripture, or as J.I. Packer says, “Letting texts talk.” The burning question on the heart of every expositor of the Word of God is: “How do I best get this text to talk?”
Yet before we look at the method of expository preaching, we must first consider what we are aiming for in terms of our preaching. For example, is the aim of expository preaching simply the exchange of information about the Bible? Is the aim of expository preaching to fill the mind with doctrine apart from life-application?
I believe the aim of all preaching is the glory of God through spiritual transformation. More specifically, the goal of a Spirit-empowered, expository ministry of the Word of God is to change lives through preaching that engages the mind, inflames the heart, moves the will and engenders faith in the hearer.
The expositor’s authority and confidence rests in the sufficiency and power of The Word of God to impact the mind, heart, will and faith of listeners (see Mat. 7:26; Luke 24:27-32; Acts 2:37; Acts 8:30-35; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:16). With transformation as the goal of our preaching, what process can lead me to preach faithful and engaging expository sermons?
Surrender Yourself to the Spirit’s Illumination
The words of the psalmist should be the beginning of any discussion of a process of exposition: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psa. 119:18). Jesus says in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”
As expositors, we must begin our work in a state of absolute dependence upon the Spirit of God. This is the “dynamic” element of preaching, where we submit to the authority of God’s Word, and prepare our hearts and minds to receive the Spirit’s illumination of the Scriptures. Through prayer and confession, we are surrendering ourselves to God and pleading for His Spirit to fill us and guide us into all truth. We confess our inadequacy and cry out to God for His help, His wisdom and His power.
Saturate Yourself in the Spirit’s Inspiration
Once we have spiritually prepared our heart to receive the Word, we must begin by identifying a portion of Scripture that will serve as our textual unit for our sermon. Preaching systematically and sequentially through a book of the Bible is advantageous for two reasons: 1.) the next textual unit to be covered flows from and builds upon the previous week’s text; and 2.) the expositor stays within the flow and development of the biblical writer’s thought.
Expounding a textual unit is often referred to as “paragraph preaching” in which the author of Scripture communicates a complete thought unit or textual idea. Textual markers are key words such as, “Therefore, since, because, for,” as well as changes in subject matter, verb tenses, audience, time, scenes or characters. Textual markers provide the clues to identifying complete units.
Once text selection is complete, we must be careful not to reach for our favorite commentary! At this stage of preparation, get alone with God, and just read and reread the text, the immediate context and the entire book several times. Soak in the Scriptures. Seek to identify the overall theme of the book, the flow of the writer’s argument, key sections or divisions and repeated phrases and words.
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