By Lucas Stoltz
The Necessity of Expository Preaching
Expository preaching is all about Sola Scriptura, meaning Scripture alone. As we see in Acts 17:10-15, Paul proves and explains from the Scriptures, he doesn’t go to tradition, he doesn’t suck it out of his thumb, he turns to Scripture – God’s Word alone, Sola Scriptura!
Expository preaching is to preach in service to God’s Word. It upholds to the authority of Scripture, that the Bible is God’s Word alone and that it is without fault. Therefore, Expository preaching means to commit to the context of every verse.
So when we come to God’s Word, whether it is to preach it or even read it, we should keep the context in mind! Context is a foundation for expository preaching. Look at Acts 17:3. The only way Paul could explain and prove anything from the Scriptures, was through the correct context.
Therefore, the Church needs expository preaching! Because, if we picked a topic every week, the sermons would be about what interests us most and we would learn very little, as we will only hear what we already thought before we opened the text.
Defining Expository Preaching
In Acts 17:22-31, we see an example of expositional preaching. So it is not a new idea! When you turn to Luke 24:17-47, you’ll see even Jesus preached expositionally. It is clear expository preaching involves the explanation of the Scripture. It presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.
This is why, week after week, the preacher should approach Scripture with these expectations:
1) The Bible is God’s Word. If every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6; 19:9; 119:140), then every word deserves to be examined and understood.
2) Men need divine wisdom in order to understand the Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
3) The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly, apart from personal preference.
4) The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from his hearers. What this last one means is this, we don’t care much when people say, “What a great sermon!” We want to hear is, “Hey, I better understand who God is and what He requires of me.”
The purpose, then, of expositional preaching is to understand the original author’s intention in a biblical text. And to explain it to the current generation so that we can understand it and apply it in our own lives. It’s simple, you read it – explain it – and apply it! That is what Ezra did during Nehemiah’s time. Nehemiah 8:8 tells us; “they read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
The benefits, then, of expository preaching is that it honours God and His name. It reveals to the listeners that the preacher trusts and relies on the power of God’s Word instead of his own Word. Also, because it is God’s Word being preached, He will endorse the message. It is Christ-centred from beginning to end. And lastly, it helps avoid the misinterpretation of Scripture.
Applying Expository Preaching
Preachers are to preach the Bible and the Bible alone. This is exactly what Paul urged Timothy, the preacher’s task is to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). In 2 Corinthians 2:17, we see Paul assuring the Corinthians that he and his companions were not “like so many, peddlers of God’s Word.” The Greek word Paul uses here, kapeleuô, is also translated as “corrupt,” or “deal deceitfully.” It suggests the practice of “blending, polluting, and giving bad measure.” Hence, Paul was concerned for purity and honesty in handling the Scriptures.
So much so, in 2 Timothy 2:15 we see Paul charge young Timothy to present himself to God “as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The word that is translated in many versions as “to handle” or “to divide” actually means “to cut”. Timothy was to drive a straight path through the Word of God and not move away to the left or to the right. He was to “preach the word,” meaning not only that he was to preach from the Bible, but that he was to explain the particular passage he was preaching on because Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Therefore, this means, Expository preaching is a necessary result of the doctrine of Scripture. The idea is not so much that God breathed into the Scriptures, but that the Scriptures are the product of His breathing out. This is why the preacher is to make God’s Word known and make it understandable. The preacher is to limit himself to adding or subtracting from God’s Word.
As a word-focused ministry fulfils four goals all at once: 1) it builds up the church in faith and knowledge; 2) it brings believers to maturity marked by spiritual stability; 3) it produces a people whose lives are full of integrity; and 4) it equips the church for service so that each member is engaged in ministry to others.
Expository preaching isn’t about style or preference, it is about glorifying God while rightly handling His Word, verse by verse and word by word. Hence, Paul writes to the Romans, “faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ” (10:17). And to the Colossians, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another will all wisdom” (3:16). And to the Thessalonians, “we also thank God continually because when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13).