Friday, March 21, 2008

Preaching The Word Or Mere Application?

This will be the last of the "distinctions" articles I've been on for a while, but I think it provides a good transition to some discussions about expository preaching which I would like to get into next.

It is possible to not be preaching an exposition of the biblical text, but instead be preaching your exegesis of the text. Thus, a very cognitive, fact-oriented presentation of what is in the text may be given (assuming you got your exegesis right), but not with much power or vital spiritual/conceptual insight. Sometimes this has even degenerated into the preaching of old college/seminary classroom notes. Such a preacher may truly be working very hard and being very faithful to the text of Scripture, but seeing little progress in terms of growth into Christlikeness in the lives of his listeners.

Reacting, perhaps, to the above "dry as dust" kind of preaching, others can tend to go rather far the other direction. Some do not even do any exegesis of the biblical text in preparation for their messages. Maybe they only use a text that they feel says what they want to say to their church. Maybe they get their messages from some other source, like downloading them from their favorite big-name impersonal mentor's website, or from a homiletical lectionary, or book of sermons. Maybe they don't even crack a Bible in their church at all. Maybe they resort to "skyscraper sermons", one story after another. At worst, these may not be preaching the Bible in any real sense at all, and at best they are merely preaching applications (whether legitimate or illegitimate) of the Bible, either of their own choosing or from borrowing.

I'm not about to propose a middle-ground approach, but rather suggest that true expository preaching is a 3rd way, or different way, from the two scenarios I have described above.

Expository preaching is not a lecture about your exegesis of the text. Neither is expository preaching a lack of exegesis that just relates application and stories without serious attention to the text. Expository preaching is the proclamation of the results of your biblical exegesis done in a way that exposes the listener to the accurate meaning of the text in context, and is the proclamation of the results of humble, Holy Spirit controlled meditation that has already produced the results of faith and obedience to the text in the life/application of the preacher.

Study and prayer should not be separated. Exegesis and application should not be separated. Preaching and obedience should not be separated. Doctrine and concept should not be separated. Biblical accuracy and loving, compassionate, bold, warmhearted spiritual fervency should not be separated. Expository preaching is biblical truth set on fire by the Spirit through the lips of a godly man. Those who think they do not like expository preaching have probably never really heard any. Expository preaching is truth, love, beauty, power, holiness, grace, salvation, conviction, wonder, and praise all flowing as one stream out of the heart of a Christ-enthralled man. If you know Christ, what is there to not like about that?


  1. amen brother!

    i think the flaw in the two proposed style is they neglect to exalt the Incarnate Word.

    one form, looses that the passage is meant to reveal Christ and can get lost in technicalities. the other form, spends so much time laying out what you should do, it ignores why.

  2. Your post reminds me of some quotes from EM Bounds, "Power Through Prayer."

    "Truth unquickened by God's Spirit deadens as much as, or more than error."

    "Nothing is as dead as dead orthodoxy - too dead to speculate, too dead to think, study, or pray."

    "Letter-preaching may be eloquent, embellished with poetry and rhetoric, sprinkled with prayer, spiced with sensation, illuminiated by genius, and yet these may merely be the chaste, costly mountings - the rare and beautiful flowers - which coffin the corpse."

    "Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much - death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own soul. Only crucified preaching can give life. Crucified preaching can only come from crucified man.

  3. Thanks, Steve. Great quotes !!!