“Preach the Word.” I suggest to you that God could not have spoken more clearly. Pablo, the renowned believer, writing what could be his final letter to Young Timothy, reminds him of those responsibilities most important to ministry. There are 25 imperatives in this short book (the greatest imperative to verse ratio in all of the Epistles except Colossians), and none are more important for Timothy and us than this command in verse 2. “Preach the Word.”
Now I must say that preaching, biblical preaching, expository preaching is under attack. Certainly the secular world opposes preaching. They have itching ears, demanding to be entertained while refusing to pay close attention to a detailed study of the Word of God. Although this may surprise some, preaching is also under attack by the same churches and evangelical preaching that would seek to promote it. As Haddon Robinson says, “It is true that expository preaching severely suffers in pulpits of men that proclaim to be its ally.“ (Robinson, 17)
David Helm, in his book La Predicación Expositiva: Cómo predicar la Palabra de Dios hoy, mentions two common types of evangelical preaching in todays church that illustrate this danger:
- Impressionistic preaching – this is the proclamation of personal impressions that one infers from the text. According to Helm’s description, in a period of 15 or 20 minutes of reading and light study, bypassing the exegetical process, the preacher arrives at certain impressions regarding the texts meaning, which form the skeleton of his sermon. With outline in hand, no additional study is needed. He can now pass directly to the writing of the message, its application and illustrations. Nevertheless, as Helms says, “Impressionistic preaching is not controlled by the reality of the text… it takes what the eye sees, it exaggerates it, ignoring some parts, ultimately distorting it.” (Helm, 22)
- Lamppost preaching – Helms says, “Some preachers use the Bible like a drunk uses a lamp post – more for support than for light.” This type of preaching only points to the text to provide support for the message that the preacher wants to give. With this method the pastor arrives at the text with his message already determined. There is a question, an issue, or a problem that he wants to address. So he points to the text to provide support for his message instead of expositing the message that emerges from the text.
These two common methods of preaching do not constitute the type of preaching to which God has called us. Paul says, “preach the Word. So what does that mean?
A. Biblical evidence
1) In 2 Timothy 4:2 the Greek Word that is translated “to preach” is κηρύσσω – which means to preach, to proclaim or better to announce. (Used 61 times in the N.T.). This verb is derived from the noun κῆρυξ. A κῆρυξ was a herald. It was a public messenger. Their task was to receive the authoritative message and to announce it in the public square. It was not their job to write or to embellish the message, but to simply announce what had been decreed. This is consistent with our passage. Timothy was not called to simply refer, point to the text or to elaborate interesting messages about it. He was called to publicly announce the unadulterated message of the inspired text. He was exhorted to expository preaching.
2) Nehemiah 8:1-8
a. The Law was read to all with sufficient age to understand, 8:1, 2.
b. After the Babylonian exile (language, culture, geography), many Jews could not understand the reading of the Hebrew text, even when it was read slowly and with clarity.
c. The Levites were strategically placed between the multitude to “give the sense,” that is, to give the interpretation for those that did not understand, 8:7.
d. The historical, linguistic, cultural and literary breach between the readers and the text was eliminated so that they could understand, 8:8.
“The type of sermon that best transmits the power of divine authority is the expository sermon.” (Robinson, 17)
B. Definition: Notice the following definitions that correctly communicate the idea of expository preaching.
“Present the true and exact meaning of the biblical text in a way that is relevant to the contemporary listener.” (Sunukjian, 8)
Perhaps it is better understood by the testimony of Charles Simeon. “My job consists in drawing from the text what is there y not inserting what I think could be there. This is a great challenge, to never say more or less than that which I believe is the mind of the Spirit i the passage that I am expositing.” (Handley Carr Glyn Moule, Charles Simeon [London: Methuen & Co., 1892], 97 in Helm, 12).
1) Expository preaching begins with the biblical text and not with a human problem or contemporary situation. There are two possible sources of the central theme of the message – the preacher can supply it or the text can supply it. In which source do you have more confidence?
2) Expository preaching is directed to one biblical text. Although other texts can be mentioned, they are subordinated to the primary text. The primary purpose is to communicate the teachings of the text that is being studied. Really there is more information within each text than one could ever communicate in only one message.
“The preacher is first an exegete, before being a communicator of the Scripture.” (Richards, 21)
“Such preaching will be the most difficult labor that we do, but also the most excellent. It is the most difficult because it requires the most rigorous discipline and mental ability that God has given to us.”(Sunukjian, 13)
4) Expository preaching assures that the text controls both the content as well as the structure of the message. The message must treat the totality of the text, following the flow of thought. I repeat, the text controls the sermon and not vice versa.
5) Expository preaching seeks to apply the original message to the specific situation of the hearers.
“Without application it is only exposition and not expository preaching. It is information and not a message.” (Liefeld, 17)
A. We are responsible to God for each message, 2 Ti. 4:1; Stg. 3:1
Notice how Paul introduces the theme in 2 Ti. 4:1. I charge you seriously in light of the divine authority and son coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Preaching carries serious consequences.
“If you plan to be lazy in your preparation and only speak with at the moment power, can you do us the favor of resigning from the ministry now?” (Donald S. Whitney, “A Tiempo y Fuera de Tiempo”, en Dumas, ed., 60).
B. Power resides in the Word of God and not in our thoughts concerning it, nor in our experience or wisdom, (Ro. 1:16; He. 4:12). Only the Word of God has the authority and the ability to “teach,” “reprove” and “to correct.” Our method of preaching indicates where we place our confidence!
1) The preacher is human and susceptible to every type of distraction as are those of the congregation. I am capable of confusing my concern for the will of God.
“The preacher always approaches the text and preaching with many interests and priorities in his mind, many of which are totally legitimate and important to him. Nevertheless, if a genuine exposition of the Word of God is going to succeed then all of these interests and priorities must submit themselves to the central and comprehensive task of explaining and presenting the biblical text.” (Dumas, “Ministerio Expositivo”, en Dumas, ed., 24)
2) Our tendency is to try and control
“The first danger is the temptation to believe that the preacher can or should manipulate the human heart. The preacher is responsible to communicate the eternal Word of God. Only the Holy Spirit can apply the Word to human hearts and even open eyes to understand and receive the text.” (Mohler, “Lo Centro en el Culto Cristiano”, Dumas, ed., 26)
3) The Bible is sufficient for every human need, 2 Ti.; 3:16, 17.
If we systematically walk through the biblical text, we will eventually touch upon every problem, question or difficulty.
C. Expository preaching guides the congregation to correct interpretive practice. One vital task of the pastor is to equip his church with the necessary tools to personally read and interpret the text. Sadly, much preaching provides them with improper interpretive examples.
“The tsunami of topical preaching that we see today has stained the evangelical journey. Such problems are inevitable when topical messages are the principle nourishment of the congregation. Pastors that preach messages divorced from their context invariably produce congregations that interpret texts divorced from the Author’s intent. The result is that too many Christians tend to treat the Word of God as their own theological mishmash.” (Cameron Buettel)
DOWNLOAD A FREE corresponding PowerPoint presentation, student and teacher notes (all in Spanish) HERE.
Braga, James. 1990. Cómo Preparar Mensajes Bíblicos. Miami: Editorial Vida.
Dumas, Dan. ed. 2012. Una Guía para el Ministerio Expositivo. Louisville: SBTS Press.
Fee, Gordon. 1983. Exégesis del Nuevo Testamento. Miami: Editorial Vida.
Helm, David. 2014. La Predicación Expositiva: Cómo predicar la Palabra de Dios hoy. Washington D.C.: 9Marks.
Liefeld, Walter L. 1990. Cómo Predicar Expositivamente: Del texto al sermón. Miami, FL: Editorial Vida.
MacArthur, John Jr. ed. 1996. El Redescubrimiento de la Predicación Expositiva. Nashville: Caribe.
Richard, Ramesh. 1995. La Predicación Expositiva: Siete pasos para la predicación bíblica. Argentina: Ramesh Richard.
Robinson, Haddon W. 2000. La Predicación Bíblica. Miami: Logoi, Inc.
Sunukjian, Donald R. 2010. Volvamos a la Predicación Bíblica. Grand Rapids: Portavoz.