In addition to the biblical evidence, a few theological considerations suggest expository preaching to be the most biblical manner to preach. First, I would propose a “bibliological” justification for expository preaching. The very injunction given to Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), follows on the heels of a theological statement that the Scriptures are “inspired by God.” The inspiration of the Scriptures suggest that they are without error, completely sufficient for every human need (2 Peter 1:4, 5), and unrivaled in their authority. Why then begin by expositing a secular idea and finding a few biblical verses and secular quotations to illustrate that idea? Beginning with the Scriptures for the content of the message appears to be the best way to demonstrate that the preacher truly believes that the Bible is inspired, without error, sufficient and authoritative.
Furthermore, I would suggest a soteriological justification for expository preaching. Expositing the Scriptures, according to 2 Timothy 3:15 is what makes one wise to salvation. Peter states as much when he writes, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God . . . and this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23, 25). Just this past Sunday evening, I was told by a woman at the conclusion of our evening service that she believed she embraced Christ because of the expository preaching she was exposed to. She had heard too many topical sermons and basic moral truths throughout her life that left her spiritually empty. After being exposed to a healthy and consistent diet of exposure to the Word of God explained in its context, she came to Christ.
I have heard a number of people criticize expository preaching as being non-evangelistic. I would not disagree that some who say they espouse and practice expository preaching actually engage more in commentary regurgitation than healthy exposition. The gospel (more than a few cherry-picked verses from Romans) is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Exposing people to the God-intended meaning of the Bible (as opposed to the oft times super-imposed meaning suggested in moralistic topical messages) exposes them to the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:6).
A “sanctificational” justification for expository preaching is also clearly suggested in the Bible. It is the written word of God that is to be, not an illustration for, but the source of our teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Simply expositing the Scriptures is adequate to make the man of God complete and ready to do every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Scriptures alone, “the pure milk of the word,” is what we are to grow by (1 Peter 2:1, 2). Why then pursue a type of preaching that consists of a secularly stated need, interspersed with biblical allusions? If the Bible is sufficient and authoritative, if salvation is dependent on the Scriptures, if Christian growth is founded upon the Scriptures, we should feel obligated to exposit biblical texts every time we enter the pulpit or have the opportunity to preach the gospel. To begin in any other place, with any other means, or any other approach is to devalue the Bible and elevate human ingenuity and relegate ministry to mere cultural popularity, not spiritual power (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Tomorrow I will give a few thoughts about topical preaching and what I think are some valuable uses of such sermons.