Friday, October 10, 2008

A Biblical Pattern For Expository Preaching

There is a powerful and exquisite pattern (not prescription) for the exposition of the Word of God seen in Nehemiah 8:1-18. Nehemiah records a preaching event that marked the temporary end of the "famine...for the hearing of the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11), bringing revival in Jerusalem. Stephen F. Olford suggested in his booklet "Preaching the Word of God" (Encounter, 1984; p.36) that Jesus Himself would have been familiar with this preaching pattern, and followed it in His preaching - the Master modeling the method! Olford shows these same points from Jesus' Emmaus Road conversation in Luke 24:25-35.

Without giving the entire exposition here (but let me assure you, this will preach!!), let's observe some high points from the chapter to help us think about biblical expository preaching. I've organized these high points into three - (1) The People's Motivation, (2) The Preachers' Method, and (3) The Power Manifested.

(1) The People's Motivation (v.1-6)

  • (a) desire - v.1
    -the people gathered of their own desire "as one man...and they asked bring the book". Wouldn't you love to have that happen when you preach?
    We're all here! We're ready! Bring us the Book!

  • (b) attentiveness - v.3
    - "all the people were attentive to the book"

  • (c) honor - v.5
    - "all the people stood up" when Ezra opened the book to read it

  • (d) praise - v.6
    - agreement with the Word, "Amen, Amen!" with lifting of hands (at the Scripture reading, without music!)

  • (e) worship - v.6
    -humility in worship

(2) The Preachers' Method (v.2-10); the whole method can be taught from just v.8!

  • (a) Read the Text!
    - he "brought the law before the assembly" (v.2) Use a Bible!
    -he read it standing "at a wooden podium/pulpit" (v.4)
    - he "opened the book in the sight of all the people" (v.5) Let them see it!
    - he "read from it" (v.3,8)
    - he read it with praise and prayer (v.6 "Ezra blessed the Lord the great God")
    - cp. First Timothy 4:13

  • (b) Restate the Truth!
    - they "explained the law to the people" (v.7)
    - they "translated to give the sense" (v.8)
    - this is the exposition

  • (c) Relate the Thrust!
    - "so that they understood the reading" (v.8)
    - "This day is holy" (v.9). Now is the time for response!
    - "do not . . ." (v.9,10) - direct application

(3) The Power Manifested (v.9-18)

  • (a) repentance (v.9)

  • (b) joy (v.10)

  • (c) celebration (v.12)

  • (d) continuation (v.13-18)

  • (e) rejoicing (v.17)

  • (f) daily obedience (v.18)

We will look at some other examples in the Bible itself in future articles, but I hope you will consider this one along with my prayer for you as a preacher of the Word of God.


  1. Pastor Keith,

    I appreciate that you pointed your readers to actually reading the text. If I may humbly give a link to a recent entry on one of my blogs, I believe it may also be of interest. God Bless!


  2. Thanks Zach,

    Thanks for the comment, and your link is quite appropriate!

  3. steve lawson preaches a wonderful message on Nehemiah 8 called "Bring the Book." Draws out many of the points you've made here.

    What a wonderful passage to look closely at!

  4. Thanks Danny,

    I have no idea who Steve Lawson is, but I'm glad he preached Nehemiah 8.


  5. Steve Lawson.

    very solid ministry. expository genius of John Calvin is a must read.

  6. Hey Keith,

    Of course, the outline is perfectly constructed. I would argue that the "Preachers Method" although accurate to what he did and what he used was not intended in my opinion to be the 'pattern' for preaching. I have no problem with fact I find it easier. I do believe he may have NEEDED a big wooden 'something' to hold his 'Bible.' (It may not have fit into his hand.

    I agree that the Word of God should be held in high esteem and not taken lightly.

    I wonder if when I sit and preach from the Bible from a stool, or when Jesus preached from a mountain top, if he did not just share a 'Truth' from scripture and expound upon it as he interacted with the real people he ran into on his journey through his short life on planet earth.

    I see 'expository' preaching as important and one very good method of teaching, but would argue that there are equally other good and helpful methods.

    Just thinkin' out loud!

  7. Hi DanO . . .

    A few responses: (1) I think my use of the phrase "expository preaching" may be a lot broader than yours - if you scroll back through my previous blog articles on exposition you'll notice this - the point is to "expose" the Word to people and people to the Word, (2) I called this "a" pattern, not "the" pattern, (3) I tried to clarify that this is a "pattern" not a "prescription".