Monday, April 7, 2008

Expository Preaching - What is it?

J.I. Packer - "The true idea of expository preaching is that the preacher should become the mouthpiece of his text, opening it up and applying it as the Word of God to his hearers, speaking in order that the text may be heard, and making each point from his text in such a manner 'that his hearers may discern the voice of God' " (Westminster Directory, 1645, paraphrased).

John R.W. Stott - "It is my contention that all true Christian preaching is expository preaching. Of course if by an 'expository' sermon is meant a verse-by-verse explanation of a lengthy passage of Scripture, then indeed it is only one possible way of preaching, but this would be a misuse of the word. Properly speaking, 'exposition' has a much broader meaning. It refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor prizes open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is 'imposition', which is to impose on a text what is not there. But the 'text' in question could be a verse, or a sentence, or even a single word. It could equally be a paragraph, or a chapter, or a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether it is long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction, or falsehood. In expository preaching the biblical text is neither a conventional introduction to a sermon on a largely different theme, nor a convenient peg on which to hang a ragbag of miscellaneous thoughts, but a master which dictates and controls what is said. (Between Two Worlds, pp.125-126).

Haddon W. Robinson - "Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and 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". Robinson amplifies his definition with the following statements: "The passage governs the sermon", "the expositor communicates a concept", "the concept comes from the text", "the concept is applied to the expositor", "the concept is applied to the hearers". (Biblical Preaching, pp.20-30).

Stephen F. Olford - "Expository preaching is the historical, grammatical, and contextual examination and presentation of Scripture, in the power of the Holy Spirit, with a homiletical pattern and an evangelical purpose" (Preaching the Word of God, p.33).

Here is a recent attempt of mine - To do expository preaching is to speak in such a way that the Word of God is exposed to the hearers in its truth, accuracy, Christ-exalting richness, Trinity-focused theology, sense, context, spirit, clarity, and power, and that the hearers are exposed to the Word of God in faith, humility, need, joy, conviction, desire, and obedience, all for the glory of Christ.

What is your definition? Are you an expository preacher/teacher/speaker? Have you thought this through?


  1. i've come to your blog about 6 times, hoping someone else commented first. dunno why, just felt uncomfortable being the first guy. but, oh well.

    first, i would say i disagree slightly with stott's assertion that length of passage does not matter. personally, i preached a couple messages from one greek word and hindsight suggests it was more a topical sermon than a Biblical exposition. also, we certainly can push a sermon beyond the limits of Biblical exposition. (for instance, would you consider A sermon on genesis-revelation to be an exposition? of course, i'm willing to concede that stott could probably preach huge and minute texts as expostions...i'm just not a good enough preacher to do so!

    as for a definition. i feel the tension between a useful definition is usually kept brief, yet we live in an era where NOTHING can be assumed.

    here's my attempt:

    to allow the Biblical text--in its context--to determine the topic and content of the sermon, exposing how the text is first presenting Jesus Christ as God and as our Mediator to the Father. it is dependent upon the Holy Spirit to convert the sinner and transform the believer as they see Christ exalted in the Scripture. (insufficient definition...i know.)

    am i one? i pray that i am. though i feel like i'm not a very good one.

    have you thought this through? regularly. unfortunately, with the current pastor/ceo model that is out there, i imagine the sermon/preaching is often neglected from a pastor's thoughts.

    [thanks keith. good food for thought. i'm still waiting on your list of sequential exposition benefits for my blog!]

  2. Pastor Keith,

    This is the first time I have seen your blog. Guess I am a bit behind. I took a look through your posts so far and I just wanted to tell you how much I really appreciate them. The one on church discipline was very good. I would love to chat with you more on that at some point.

    Also I was just looking at the post from November 16 on Keeping Distinctions. EXCELLENT POST! I am so glad to hear your perspective on where culture comes to bear on the ministry of the Gospel. Too often these days it seems that culture takes a much higher place than it ought. Not to say culture does not play a part, but certainly not to take precedence over sound doctrine.

    I am also enjoying your posts on preaching the Word! I will look forward with eager anticipation to future posts! Hope to talk to you via phone soon. Thanks for your hard work and good thinking in the areas you have addressed in your blog.

    Scott Becker

  3. Welcome to Scott Becker and Mike Yoder !! Great to have you guys on board.

    Danny, I think my next couple posts will be dealing with some of your question re. Stott's definition. Can topical preaching be expository? I would say yes. Is most topical preaching in practice not expository? I would also say yes. Should evangelistic street preaching be expository? I would say yes. Can we preach through doctrines and still be expository? I would say yes. Can we preach biographies of biblical people and be expository? Yes.