Why Expository Preaching Is Jesus Centered

Why Expository Preaching Is Jesus Centered

At the center of Christian worship stands the pulpit. Anything less than authentic Christian preaching causes enormous and catastrophic problems in the life of the local church. The first mark of an authentic church is expository preaching. When substitutes are made upon the preaching of holy Scripture in attempt to become relevant, cool, and attractive to the culture—the church becomes less than authentic.

By way of summary, expository preaching is a verse-by-verse approach whereby the preacher sequentially works through books of the Bible in a systematic manner. While there are various forms of expository preaching that would include topical exposition where the preacher preaches a series of sermons from various texts in an expository manner—the normal approach is to preach verse-by-verse through an entire book of the Bible over a period of time.

In a more definitive manner, expository preaching is the communication of a biblical text derived from a literal, historical, grammatical interpretation. The preacher observes, interprets, and applies the text with hermeneutical precision and communicates the single meaning of the text with homiletical skill in such a manner that preserves the author’s original intent while pointing people to Jesus Christ.

If Christian preaching is expository preaching and if the first mark of an authentic church is expository preaching, it goes without saying that at the heart of a Christian sermon is Jesus Christ. Far too many sermons from the Old Testament within Christian churches on Sunday morning would not offend a Jewish synagogue if preached there on Saturday morning. Why is this the case? Because in many cases the preacher explains everything about the text itself from a micro-perspective including the central point and contextual background without ultimately pointing people to the macro-perspective or the canonical whole which will always lead us to Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon has been quoted as saying, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” However, Spurgeon never actually made that statement. It was Lewis Drummond, in 1992, who attributed it to Spurgeon in his biography, Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers. Although Spurgeon never made this statement, it is an accurate description of Spurgeon’s preaching style. He would make his way to the cross in every sermon—from both the Old and New Testaments.

As we make our way to the cross in our preaching, we must avoid the errors of allegorical interpretation along the journey. It would be wrong to take any random text in the Bible and make the interpretative claim that it’s a reference to Jesus Christ. That is certainly not true and such a pattern of preaching leads to massive error. It butchers the authorial intent and opens the door to all sorts of enemies of the cross who will gladly use that same hermeneutic to fulfill their postmodern attempt to harm God’s Church.

As we study the nature of Scripture, one thing we learn is that the Holy Spirit moved upon 40 different human authors over a period of some 1,500 years of history to bring about the biblical canon. It is the goal of the Holy Spirit to point people to Jesus. In Luke 1:35, it is the Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary. In John 15:26, Jesus said the following, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” If the role of the Spirit of God (who is called the Spirit of Christ in Romans 8:9) is to point people to Jesus Christ from holy Scripture, why would Christian preachers have any other goal in their preaching?

In the New Testament, Peter proclaimed the Old Testament text by pointing people to Jesus. He likewise made clear and pointed application about the guilt of killing the Son of God as he applied the text to the entire crowd. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 when Philip found him on the chariot in the remote desert region as he was returning to Ethiopia. Peter began at that same text and pointed the man to Jesus. This should be our goal in preaching.

In Romans 10:17, we hear these important words from the apostle Paul. He writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Evangelicals pool multiplied millions of dollars together each year in order to print Bibles into the languages of unreached peoples, plant churches around the world, and send missionaries to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must not be guilty of adding the gospel to the end of our sermon by way of conclusion. We must actually preach the gospel as the central part of our sermon and demonstrate how Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment and our eternal hope. If we are passionate about getting Jesus to the unreached peoples around the world and less passionate about getting Jesus to the people in our pews every week, we will be viewed as inconsistent in our gospel ministry. We never outgrow the gospel and we never out-know the gospel of Jesus.

We find these words of Jesus in Revelation 1:8, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” While Jesus is indeed the first and the last and demonstrated by his victorious resurrection—he was, is, and is to come the sovereign Almighty God—sadly he is not preached in many sermons on the average Lord’s Day. People preach about Jesus or around the gospel without actually preaching the gospel of Jesus. He is crowded out by moralistic therapeutic deism. He is replaced by American politics. He is overlooked by preachers who are intoxicated by church growth pragmatics as opposed to firmly committed to exegeting Scripture and feeding God’s sheep.

May the testimony of your church and your pulpit be that you preach Christ.

G3 Expository Workshops

G3 Expository Workshops

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n 2019, G3 Ministries unveiled a new area of ministry that will focus on the pulpit of the local church with the goal of producing more healthy churches for the glory of God. The G3 Expository Workshops were released at the 2020 G3 Conference and a schedule was unveiled for various regions throughout the 2020 calendar year. This all happened before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In this episode of the G3 Podcast, Tom Buck and I discuss expository preaching and why it’s essential—as well as unveil some important news about a virtual expository workshop that you will want to reserve a seat for in June with Voddie Baucham. 

Audio Only Option: G3 Podcast — Episode 25

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The Thrill of Worship Through Biblical Preaching

The Thrill of Worship Through Biblical Preaching

At the end of my first full year of seminary, after having moved away from our family and church family in Georgia, while sitting in our small apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I received an e-mail from my grandmother asking if we would like to go to Maui for a family vacation with our entire family—all expenses paid. It did not take me long to reply to that e-mail.

We arrived to an unbelievable family reunion in paradise. During that week, my dad and I would often go on morning runs together and talk. One such morning we went down this trail and took a route that was a fairly good climb up this hill. When we reached the top it was a stunning view of the ocean and shoreline of Maui. Off in the distance you could see the crater island Molokini and hundreds of feet below you could seek the jagged rock ledges that led into the pristine waters. As we stood there amazed at the beauty, we looked into the crystal clear water to see sea turtles swimming and humpback whales jumping.

As we looked below us, there was a lone man snorkeling on the remote section, and along the side of the cliff came a whale. They got really close and you could tell the diver was completely surprised by the encounter. He came up to the surface and screamed with joy and excitement. He had no idea we were anywhere around as we looked down from way above.

When it came time for us to return, we ran back down the trail and made our way back to our hotel. As we got together with our family, I continued to tell the story of what we encountered on the hill. It was a fairly difficult climb, but it was worth it. With all of the beauty and splendor, I had a hard time convincing everyone of how beautiful it was—so I finally said, “You just have to come with me and see for yourself.” The next day, we made our way to the trail and up the climb. To this very day my mother-in-law has not allowed me to forget how I convinced her to make that climb to the top.

As we got to the top as a group, it was a joy for me to experience that moment with the family. It was the closest thing to paradise on earth that I’ve seen. The beauty of the landscape, the shoreline of Maui beaches, the large cliff edges with jagged rocks that connect to the crashing waves below, the water, the sparkle of the sun across the expanse of the ocean, the birds, the turtles, the whales, and all of it was simply breathtaking. What I had experienced on the top of that hill—I was able to gather my family together and convince them to follow me up the hillside to see it for themselves.

In many ways, that’s what preaching is like each and every week. As I approached the doxology of Romans 11:33-36 this past week, at one point in the sermon I told this story about Maui and expressed to the church that I often feel this way in my study. It’s an amazing thing to climb to the top of these biblical hills and to see something far greater than the landscape of Maui—to see and experience the beauty and splendor of God. Each week I just want to grab the entire church and say, “Let’s go! Let’s climb to the top together. You will not regret it. The climb is worth it.” And then as we arrive there—I point to God and say, “Behold our God. Worship him!”

John Calvin described preaching as expository explication. It’s the Word of God carefully explained and applied to life. It’s the work of bringing to the surface the clear and true meaning of the Bible so as to be able to apply it to the life of the congregation. The Puritans would say, “Preaching is the primary ordinary means of grace.” It is the primary way in which God has chosen to make his truth known to the world and to his Church. The Scottish preacher James Stewart said the purpose of genuine preaching is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” [1] It was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who described preaching by saying:

What is preaching? Logic on fire! Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. [2]

When the preacher climbs to the top of the hills each week in his study and is overwhelmed with the God he experiences through the pages of the Bible—it’s both his sobering responsibility and his joyful privilege to take the church to that point with him to see, hear, and know God in a much better way than when they arrived. William Perkins once said the heart of all preaching is “to preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.” [3]

As a member of your local church, understand the importance of listening and engaging in the sermon each week. Don’t be left behind as your pastor passionately seeks to take you to the throne of God to see him and be amazed by him each week through the pages of Scripture. The hard work of prayer, Scripture reading, and expository listening will serve your soul well and will bring about much fruit in the life of your family and local church for God’s glory. When the church learns the thrill of worshipping God through biblical preaching—the gimmicks of modern day light shows, movie clips, rock concerts, and all of the goofy trends will become boring and sad imitations of the genuine worship of God that comes through real Bible preaching.

The Prayers of the Spirit

The Prayers of the Spirit

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching Romans 8:26-27 as we continue to walk through the eighth chapter of Romans. The text is centered upon the subject of prayer and Paul explains how the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness. 

Prayer is one of those subjects that goes unaddressed by many pastors and consequentially it becomes ignored by many believers. Bad habits often continue on from a child through adulthood without being corrected. This can lead to severe problems regarding the spiritual walk of a believer along with an ongoing pattern that’s passed on from one generation to another. 

Consider the prayer life of James, the half brother of Jesus. He became a follower of Christ after Jesus’ resurrection and rose to the leadership role of the church in Jerusalem. He was martyred for his faith in Christ, yet, what we often don’t hear about James is that he was a prayer warrior. He was known by many as “camel knees” since he spent so much time on his knees they were rough and tough like that of an old camel. 

Another man that we learn a great lesson from in church history is George Muller. He loved the orphans and cared for thousands of them during his lifetime—however, it was his relentless prayer life that propelled his ministry forward. George Muller once said, “I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.”

According to Romans 8:26, we are weak. Often we pride ourselves in our strength or we live life remembering how strong we once were in the past. We think that if we really worked hard, we could get back to that level again when in all reality it’s simply not possible. Perhaps you remember the days when you once lifted weights or competed in various athletic disciplines. To decline physically is considered normal, but it’s the exact opposite spiritually. So, why do we think about our Christian life in the same way? We think about how we once memorized verses of Scripture, searched the pages of the Bible soaking up the doctrine, and longed to pray to the Lord. But, over time that pattern declined and today your spiritual life parallels your physical life – both are in a state of decline.

According to Paul we are weak and stand in need of the help of the Spirit of God. When we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit of God helps us! This is one of the unique roles of the Spirit of God—as helper he brings us to a place of prayer and encourages us to remain steadfast in the faith during seasons of difficulty and challenging trials. Leon Morris observes, “It is not only that we do not pray very well; it is also the case that, while we often think we know what we need, we are not always good judges of that either.” [1]

The Spirit of God not only helps us in our weakness, but he intercedes for us in prayer. In other words, the Spirit of God prays for God’s children. When we read the Bible, we find that Paul and Moses struggled in prayer at times, so none of us can pray a perfect prayer. However, the Spirit of God prays with perfection. The third person of the Trinity praying to the first person of the Trinity without the slightest error or sinful motive. This should be of great joy to our hearts. John Knox once said, “Our needs go far beyond the power of our speech to express them.”

Paul says the Spirit groans in our hearts. John Murray explains that the groanings “are the intercessions of the Spirit and the groanings are but the way in which these intercessions are registered in the hearts of God’s children.” [2] As the Father searches the heart (vs. 27), he receives the prayers of the Spirit that are registered in our hearts. The Spirit of God knows what we need and he likewise prays in complete union with the Father.

When we pray, we often conclude our prayers by saying, “if it be your will.” The Spirit of God has no need to conclude his prayers in such manner. He prays in complete unity with the Father and knows the will of the Father before he prays. In other words, the Spirit prays in complete perfection unlike us in our weakness. 

Life magazine photographer, Cornell Capa, once asked Elisabeth Elliot if she was fearful to go live with the Aucas after they had killed Jim. The photographer was asking her if she was concerned that God would not answer her prayer for safety since he didn’t answer her prayer for Jim’s safety. Her answer came back without hesitation: “I prayed for the protection of Jim, that is, physical protection. The answer the Lord gave transcended what I had in mind. He gave protection from disobedience and through Jim’s death accomplished results the magnitude of which only Eternity can show.”

Remember in your weakness to have confidence that the Spirit of God is near and he will help you to pray. Whatever you do—don’t neglect your prayer life. 

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – pray without ceasing.

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  1. Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 327.
  2. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), 312.

 

The Prayers of the Spirit

The Eager Anticipation of Glory

In the summer of 1941, C.S. Lewis was asked to give an evening sermon at the Oxford University Church of Saint Mary. His sermon was titled, “The Weight of Glory.” In his sermon, he described the longing that humans experience as we await the return of Jesus. In the sermon he described that eager longing as “a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.”

The only thing that will bring about true satisfaction in this life is the coming glory of God that will be ushered in as Christ returns. Yesterday as I preached Romans 8:18-19 in our ongoing series through Romans—it’s clear that these verses serve as the prelude for what Paul will further develop in verses 20-25. However, it’s likewise clear that both Christians and the non-rational (sub-human) creation as a whole is groaning with expectation for the return of King Jesus.

The children of God live in a broken world filled with sin and suffering. The suffering (πάθημα) can include both persecution and general hardships of life. However, after Adam fell in the Garden and Paradise was lost—sin entered the world and death came as a result of sin (Rom. 5:12). Anyone who desires to live a godly life will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) and as a result of this broken world—both Christians and non-Christians will endure hardships. The rain falls on the just and the unjust—and so do the results of the curse. If you visit a hospital will you find both believers and non-believers who are occupying the rooms on any given day.

The children of God long for the return of Jesus because such hardships and suffering do not compare to the glory that will be revealed in Jesus. When Christ returns, he will make all things new. The results of Jesus’ future glory for the lives of God’s children include:

  • Glorified humanity
  • Perfect life without sin
  • Food without decay
  • Street of gold
  • Gates of pearl
  • No more sin
  • No more disease
  • No more pain
  • No more death
  • No more tears

That’s why it is said of Abraham, he “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Not only do God’s children wait with eager expectation for Jesus to return, but so does all of God’s creation. Both the animate and inanimate creation (sub-human and non-rational) creation. This includes the trees, hills, animal life, and everything that has life. The creation knows that there is a curse upon this earth. The very best day in this life cannot compare to the Garden of Eden. It was a lush and perfect paradise without decay, disease, and death. Yet, after the fall—everything changed. Just look at the location where the Garden of Eden was located in the Middle East region—it’s largely a desert today.

Paul uses personification to describe creation moaning with expectation for Jesus to return. Today, even creation knows that all is not well. Both the animate and inanimate creation feel the curse of this present evil world.

  • Disease
  • Decay
  •  Wildfires
  •  Tsunamis
  •  Earthquakes
  •  Tornados
  •  Hurricanes
  •  Landslides
  •  Floods
  • Desert land
  • Famines
  • Lack of water
  • Diseased animals
  • Bugs that devour plans
  • Diseases that kill flowers and fruit and trees
  • Polluted water
  • Polluted air

One day, the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) will return in glory to usher in his visible Kingdom and he will make all things new! William Hendriksen observes, “Beautiful and very meaningful is the phrase “the revelation of the sons of God. It indicates that not until the day of Christ’s Return will it become a matter of public knowledge how much God loves them and how richly he rewards them.” [1] In his sermon in 1941, C.S. Lewis described our anticipation by writing the following:

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

Are you ready for Christ to return? Has the Holy Spirit caused you to find assurance of your salvation and a longing for the return of the King?

 


  1. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, vol. 12–13, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 267.
The Prayers of the Spirit

The Blessings of the Doctrine of Adoption

Yesterday I preached from Romans 8:15-16 on the doctrine of adoption. As we’ve already noted numerous times in our study of the eighth chapter of Romans, this entire chapter centers on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, one of the main aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to provide assurance that a person is a true Christian. In this text, we learn about how we’re blessed as a result of our adoption into the family of God.

Fear is something that plagues many people in this life—and sometimes that’s the case for those who profess Christ as Savior. If we’ve been adopted into the family of God, we do not have to live a life of fear and anxiety. Instead, we can live a life of assurance because we’re no longer slaves to unrighteousness and held in bondage to the law of God with the inability to fulfill the righteous demands. We can fear the Lord without being terrified of the judgment of God (see Exodus 19:16).

Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

As adopted children, we are called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. We have received the Holy Spirit who indwells us as believers. Although the Holy Spirit is referenced by several different titles in the Bible, we see here that he’s referenced as the Spirit of adoption. The doctrine of adoption is central to the Christian life. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love for his people. That’s one reason adoption is a great practice in our day as well. When I speak with people who have been adopted, I often tell them that their adoption is a picture of how God chose us. It’s a human illustration (although imperfect) of God’s love for fallen humans.

  • Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s family for a divine purpose!
  • Esther was adopted by her uncle Mordecai.
  • 2 Samuel 9 – David adopts the son of Saul – Mephibosheth.

The Greek term used by Paul here in this text is huiothesia which means “to have an installation or placement as a son” and serves as the technical Greek term for the process of adoption. Not only was the child transferred from one family to another or from no family to a specific family, that child was given the full rights of a son. The adopted child received full rights of an heir and could never lose it.

Another blessing that comes as a result of our adoption is the intimacy that we enjoy with our heavenly Father. If you look at the language surrounding verses 15-16, you will see that it’s centered on the language of family relationships.

  • In verse 14, you see the terms, sons of God.
  • In verse 15, you have the language of adoption as sons.
  • In verse 15, you see the emphasis on Abba Father.
  • In Verse 16, you see the language of children of God.
  • In verse 17, you see the language of heir.

In terms of salvation, we view God in different functions of his character. Regarding the doctrine of election, we think of God as Sovereign. When it comes to the doctrine of regeneration, we think of God as Creator. Regarding our status of justification, we think of God as Judge. However, as it pertains to the doctrine of adoption, we think of God as Father.

We often fail to realize how revolutionary Jesus’ words were in the model prayer. At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry—there was a vast chasm between the people and the personal name of God as Father. For instance, the great name for God is YHWH and is usually translated Jehovah or Yahweh and was protected by the Jews. It was so fenced off from the people that we don’t truly know how to pronounce it to this very day. The reason why is that it was not pronounced and there was no indication for how it should be pronounced.

In the Scriptures, the vowel pointing for Adonai (which means Lord) was substituted for the divine name Jehovah which was to remind the readers to say Adonai instead of Jehovah. In many ways – like the Jewish laws that were added to God’s law in order to protect the Sabbath from violation or from becoming common place. So the way they approached the name of God was the same way — they were seeking to protect God’s name from becoming common among the people. Jesus comes along in his earthly ministry, and as God in human flesh, he points the people to pray, “Our Father…” which was revolutionary.

Paul walks in Jesus’ footsteps and as an apostle – points people to pray to God as Abba FatherWhy Abba? We must recall that Jesus spoke Aramaic. So, when he was praying, he was not speaking Greek. The New Testament is written primarily in Greek language. So, as Jesus prayed, he would have called God Father in Aramaic which is Abba. So, Paul and the apostles remembered that and wrote it down even when they were writing in Greek! Unlike the other world religions that depict a deity who is far off and detached from the common man or woman—we come to God as “our Father” who is interested in his children.

The final blessing that we see in this section regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit is his work of assurance. It’s not the work of a pastor to provide members of the church with assurance of their salvation. According to Romans 8:16, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. If you want to know that you’re a true Christian, depend on the work of the Spirit who indwells all true Christians. That’s his work.

In 1654 the Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote, “Assurance is the believer’s ark where he sits, Noah like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions…. [However] most Christians live between fears and hopes, and hang, as it were, between heaven and hell. Sometimes they hope that their state is good, at other times they fear that their state is bad: now they hope that all is well, and that it shall go well with them for ever; [then] they fear that they shall perish by the hand of such a corruption, or by the prevalency of such or such a temptation …. They are like a ship in a storm, tossed here and there.”

That’s not the way we should live our lives as followers of Jesus. We are given the Spirit of adoption to assure us that we belong to our heavenly Father. In fact, in 1 John, we find these words:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). 

As a child of God, you should live a life of assurance as the Holy Spirit confirms and convinces you that you are indeed the child of God. As you live with such assurance, your walk and your worship will be full of joy and purpose each day.

Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood