Pastor Steve Weaver of West Broadway Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tennesseeseries of posts just completed a on his approach to expository preaching. Steve is a good friend I have come to know through the blogosphere. I had the privilege to meet Steve and have lunch with him last year. I found my own approach to be very similar and was grateful to see his eager approach to faithfully preaching God’s Word.

Another such series was written by Pastor Matt Waymeyer. Matt is another friend and fellow graduate of The Master’s Seminary. We used to work on the custodial staff together at Grace Community Church. He is a humble, faithful expositor of the Word.

Both of these men share my own heart convictions about the subject of Expository Preaching. Since my conversion and well before I knew it had a technical name I have always yearned to preach and teach the intended meaning of the Bible. This passion is what drove my eight 1/2 years of ministry before seminary. it was this drive that also helped me choose which seminary I was privileged to attend. This same desire has fueled me to pursue further training in expository preaching and is the impetus for my own involvement in helping to train others in expository preaching.

In light of my two brothers posting their approach to expository preaching and in light of a message I am about to preach to my own congregation, “Why We Should Love Preaching,” I thought I would throw out a few thoughts of my own.

My intention in the next series of posts is to describe a number of my convictions about what I believe expository preaching to be and demonstrate some of my own practices in this passionate ministry of which God has entrusted me to be a steward. My two brothers mentioned previously will be better sources than my own comments, but primarily for the sake of my congregation, I offer these thoughts.

Defining Expository Preaching

Fundamentally, I define expository preaching as the kind of preaching that takes a portion of the Bible and reveals the God-intended meaning of that portion of Scripture in such a way that the audience comprehends God’s expectations for their thinking and behavior. True biblical exposition is the kind of preaching where the text of Scripture determines the proposition and/or theme of the sermon as well as the sermon’s major structure; in essence, it exposes the congregation to the intended meaning of the stated biblical text.[1]

Elements Comprising Expository Preaching

My definition demands a number of essential elements upon the expositor if the message is to be genuinely expositional. The preacher must interact with the original languages of the biblical text including the meaning and usage of words in given contexts as well as the details of the grammar of biblical sentences (syntax). One cannot determine the intended meaning if there is no interaction with the specific words and ways the biblical author composed, under the Spirit’s inspiration, his message. Verb tenses, sentence construction and word order can all yield specific emphases made by a biblical author and thus should then become the emphasis of the biblical expositor. Word choices and usage are important to decipher especially in light of the fact that different authors may use similar words in different ways. It becomes incumbent then upon the expositor to unravel the author’s intentional use of his chosen words in order to determine the author’s intended emphasis in a particular biblical context.

Comprehending the context and the particular genre of a scriptural text is essential as well. This will demand that the expositor not merely understand a word, but the verse surrounding that word, the point of the paragraph in which that verse is located and the emphasis of the book in which the paragraph finds itself located.

Biblical books have specific contexts that must be understood as well. Biblical genre affects how a paragraph, verse and word will be interpreted. Letters have a different emphasis than poetry. Historical narrative has different intentions that biblical prophecy. Unless the expositor keeps these contexts in his mind then he is likely to misinform the congregation to whom he is preaching.

Furthermore, my definition of expository preaching implies that the expositor should also interact with how biblical passages have been interpreted historically. Entire denominations have been founded upon differing interpretations (i.e., infant baptism verses believers baptism). Church goers arrive each Sunday having been affected by numerous religious as well as cultural influences in how they think about and respond to biblical texts. Knowing how texts have been treated throughout major historical movements may help the expositor avoid mistakes made in previous generations and thus help him to equip his modern congregation. The expositor must resolve problematic issues and must be aware of the way certain texts have been historically treated.

Another element of expository preaching is that it forces the expositor to crystallize in a contemporary way the intended meaning of an ancient text. He must find clear, specific, pointed ways a Christian, a congregation or a non-Christian should think about and apply a biblical text. Application is not the sole focus of expository preaching, but it should be the intended end result for someone being exposed to a biblical text. Expository preaching must not merely comment on the details of a passage, it must clearly show and persuade the hearer to make personal use of the passage. God’s word must not only be understood intellectually, but also applied specifically.

In the next post, I’ll give a few thoughts on what I believe is the biblical justification for expository preaching.

[1] Others who similarly define expository preaching include the following: “Perhaps the simplest way I can describe it [biblical preaching] is to say that a biblical sermon is one in which the text shapes the sermon. The purpose, the theme, the structure, and the development of the sermon are to reflect the text.” Wayne McDill, The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 14. “An expository sermon may be defined as a sermon in which the subject and the structure of the preacher’s message reflect the subject and the structure of a passage of Scripture. In this type of sermon, the preacher is saying in his message the same thing that the biblical passage is saying. A commitment to the expository sermon requires that the preacher expose the meaning of a passage of the Bible in each sermon that he delivers.” Stephen Nelson Rummage, Planning Your Preaching (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel, 2002), 75. “An expository sermon is one which is occupied mainly with the exposition of Scripture. . . . the expository sermon may be defined as a sermon that draws its divisions and the exploration of those divisions from the text. In actual practice, the main points and the subdivisions of the sermon often come from the text.” John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons revised by Vernon L. Stanfield (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1979), 58. “Expositional preaching is . . . an explanation and application of a particular portion of God’s Word.” Mark E. Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church 4th ed. (Washington, D.C.: Center for Church Reform, 2001), 11. These are merely a brief representative selection of definitions for expository preaching.

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