Often I find myself in conversations with prospective members about why we are committed to expository preaching. Many churches have a different approach to preaching which is usually topical or series driven so that it presents itself as ultra relevant. In an age of relevant driven approaches to “doing church” — why would we remain fixed on a style of preaching that sounds so antiquarian and outdated? I want to be clear about why we are committed to expository preaching and it’s not an attempt to tradition or traditionalism. In fact, it has nothing to do with going against the grain of modern trends or staying connected to some historical approach. It’s much deeper than that and in his brief article, I’d like to explain why we believe expository preaching is the best approach.

First, a definition of terms would be helpful. What exactly do we mean by the term expository preaching? In his classic book on expository preaching, Haddon Robinson provides the following definition, “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 the preacher applies to the hearers.” [1]

Words

When talking to people about church, you may often hear people describe their church as the “non-preachy” type of church where the pastor really gets down on the level with the members and doesn’t try to use big theologically focused words. While that may be attractive to a certain segment of our culture, the statement itself fails to understand the importance of words. If we’re afraid of words such as propitiation, atonement, predestination, and sin—we are forced to drive people away from the Scriptures in order to avoid the biblical language itself. The most foundational words in Christianity have meanings and if we minimize the necessity of words and definitions—the foundation of our entire religion will crumble away.

Words serve as windows into a world of meaning that’s necessary for knowing God. If he had so chosen, God could have revealed himself to us in pictures or through verbal tradition alone. However, that is not the way God chose for us to know him. He revealed himself to us by the use of vocabulary—specifically the languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. From this original set of words—the sacred Scriptures were translated into other languages in order for people to know God through their native tongue.

When it comes to music, we learn very quickly that words matter. In fact, the words of a song can make it or break it. In poetry, words matter. Why did David write, “The heavens declare the glory of God” in Psalm 19:1? Why didn’t he simply state, “God is glorious—just look at the sky and see for yourself” or something along those lines? The answer—because words matter. The very moment that a person claims that theology is for the seminary classroom and that sermons need to be simple—they reduce their window into God’s glory down to the size of a peephole. Therefore, expository preaching enables us to focus on the key words that serve as large windows into God’s revelation and this leads us to greater worship. Through expository preaching, we aim to cover all of God’s Word—because God has not wasted any words in the Scriptures.

Winds

Cultural winds are constantly blowing. In fact, they never stop. Ideas are constantly blowing through our culture and such ideas bring with them serious ramifications. Just as a sailboat navigates the wind in order to move in a specific direction, we too must be watching the winds and setting our sails in such a way that we are not moved off course. Even if we are moved off course just a fraction today, that distance will only grow over time. Sailors are not lazy minded people. They are proactive—constantly watching the skies and making adjustments so as to stay on course. Christians can’t afford to be lazy in our approach to the Bible—both personal Bible study and corporate worship.

Christians need to be people who are not looking to capitulate in the smallest area of life. Precision is necessary, but if you minimize the importance of God’s Word and maximize your attention on culture—you will find yourself gripped by the opinions and ideas of the culture rather than God’s inerrant and sufficient Word. Therefore, expository preaching drives at precision and enables a person (and a church) to navigate the stormy seas of culture without being driven off course. Listen to the way Paul explains the purpose of the gift of the pastor-teacher in the life of the church in his letter to the church at Ephesus. Paul explains the pastor’s purpose is:

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:12–14).

Cultural winds come and go and so do the latest trends of church growth experts. Rather than being blown around by such gimmicks, expository preaching grounds the elders in God’s Word and allows them to trust the Spirit of God to do his work on a weekly basis.

Worship

Preaching goes far beyond delivering information for people to pack into their heads. Preaching is not teaching. Preaching involves teaching and it certainly involves the delivery of information, but the church is not merely an academic setting where people are gathered as learners. While the church is learning each week—we are gathered together on the Lord’s Day (and any other time we gather for corporate worship) for the purpose of worship. According to John Piper, in his excellent book, Expository Exultation:

Exposition and exultation are never separated in true preaching. It is possible to do exposition of texts that you don’t even believe, let alone exult over. So I do not regard exposition per se as the defining mark of preaching. The Devil can do biblical exposition—even speaking true propositions about the text’s meaning. But the Devil cannot exult over the divine glory of the meaning of Scripture. He hates it. So he cannot preach—not the way I am defining it. [2]

As the church gathers for worship, we should ask why we worship in the way we worship each week? Do styles matter? Why use a specific order of worship with prayers and preaching as opposed to other cultural inventions of our modern day? The answer is based on the parameters we find in the Bible itself. As we study the Bible verse-by-verse, it enables us to structure our worship in such a way that uses the different aspects of worship that we find in the Scriptures.

Finally, in preaching, I’m convinced that we must be modeling before the people how they too can study God’s Word. The mother who opens the Bible with her children can learn from her pastor how to rightly divide holy Scripture by watching his preaching methods. The father who works as a mechanic and leads in family worship for his family in the evenings can learn the model of Bible study by observing the techniques used in the pulpit week-by-week. In his excellent book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever explains:

Expositional preaching is not simply producing a verbal commentary on some passage of Scripture. Rather, expositional preaching is that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture. That’s it. The preacher opens the Word and unfolds it for the people of God. [3]

People gather each week with thirsty souls and hearts that have been damaged by the effects of sin. The world’s system, fueled by the father of all lies (John 8:44), has tried to seduce them and often it has been successful. Each week, as the church gathers, people assemble with anxieties and worries, doubts and fears—and what they need is not more cultural psychology, political ideologies, or funny jokes. They need to hear the voice of God. That’s why we’re committed to expository preaching because we desire to unleash the Word of God on the souls of hurting, hungry, and needy people. The Word of God is sufficient and God is worthy of glory.


  1. Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 21.
  2. John Piper, Expository Exultation, (Wheaton: Desiring God Foundation, 2018), 53.
  3. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 26.
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