Friday, May 30, 2008

Reading the Bible - Where Expository Preaching Begins

I remember clearly the statement by S. Lewis Johnson in one of our summer classes at Grace Theological Seminary: "Most problems of interpretation would be resolved if people would just slow down and read the Bible." Yes, I know that's from the "old days". But it is a practical statement that has served me well over the years.

When I'm asked, "What is the starting point for becoming an expository preacher?", this is my reply - "Read the Bible. Read the Bible a lot. Read it carefully and prayerfully." Now, of course, I'm assuming that I am speaking to someone who is born-again and has the right spiritual receptors in place - if you are not born-again, that is where you start. Assuming you are, though, and have a desire to be an expository preacher, "Read the Bible" !!!

Many of you probably have "Read Through The Bible In A Year" charts - some of you even have them printed in your Bible. If you are not doing at least that already, reading through the Bible this year might be a good place to start. If you read four chapters per day you will make it through in a year (actually in 305 days which lets you take a day off each week). If you "do the math" it is easy to see that eight chapters a day equals twice through in a year, twelve chapters equals three times, and sixteen chapters equals four times through in a year. I recommend that preachers strive for the sixteen chapters a day.

What should we look for as we read? Let me suggest a brief "starter list" . . .

(1) Observe the context.
(2) Ask basic questions - Who?, What?, When?, Where?, How?, Why?
(3) Look for the relationships between words and concepts in a passage.
(4) Compare and contrast various statements with other statements all over the Bible.
The Bible is a unity, and this is a spectacular sight to see. When you touch the
Bible at any point, the whole Book "wiggles". But be careful, too, because not
everything that immediately looks the same is identical (usually related though).
(5) Look for Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, everywhere.
(6) Observe points of theology that exist in what you are reading.
(7) Note life applications that can be made from what you are reading. Often these
become future sermon titles or illustrations for what you are preaching now.

Please realize this list is not intended to replace your hermeneutical and subsequent exegetical work. This is a beginning. But, it is a really huge beginning. I am concerned that there are scholars, exegetes, professors, preachers, etc. who just do not regularly read their Bible. Some can talk a big talk about some point of relevance, or a doctrinal or exegetical conclusion, but they do not have the fragrance of Scripture (which is Christ) about them. Does this deal with how we preach? Well, meditate on Second Corinthians 2:14-17 and beyond, and I suspect you will see that it does. Make sure to relate verse 17 to what comes before it (the word "for" should make us do that).

So, here is my novel idea :-) . . . Read The Bible !!!


  1. i know this is the point of the post, but just wanted to place it bluntly out there as well...

    read for the sake of your own sanctification and growth in faith and not for the purpose of "teaching material."

    good list, thanks brother.

  2. it can become so easy to get wrapped up in the "academia" and sophistication of the process that this basic need of the expositor gets lots. great post.