I am increasingly excited about preaching expository messages. This has not always been so. For a quarter of a century, I have preached mainly topical sermons. Nevertheless, I am now discovering the adventure of preaching expositionally on a continuing basis.
Andrew W. Blackwood stated: “A good sermon should be as exciting as a baseball game.” I have always regarded highly that bit of advice. There is nothing more monotonous than a boring sermon. Scores of laypersons deserve a bundle of credit for tolerating boring messages for many years. Yet, there finally is no excuse for that kind of state in the pulpit.
New life in the pulpit
Expository preaching is one answer to the dryness that is currently infecting much of our preaching. Why? How can a careful exposition bring new life to the pulpit?
(1) Exposition focuses on a new passage with each sermon. The divine insights within those passages yield their own variety.
For example, while preaching from 2 Corinthians, I marveled at the different dimensions of truth which Paul covered from chapter to chapter. Many of those truths which the apostle accented had never really been dealt with properly in any one of my sermons over the years. Expository preaching took care of that weakness.
(2) Exposition delves deeply. A superficial reading of a biblical chapter may appear at first to have little worth in the way of sermonic development. However, when lingering with that chapter for fifteen to twenty minutes, I found that each verse contained so much material worth sharing that it took a sensitive winnowing of the detail to keep in balance the overall accent desired.
In other words, it ended up that there was plenty of data to work with, much of it enticing for an in-depth exploration.
(3) Exposition suggests more powerful delivery in preaching. Because there is so much attention given to the actual Word rather than detours into personal opinion-giving or “cute” stories, the preacher senses within his own soul the power of the divine communication. That is, he or she is dealing with eternal material which begs for the telling.
Consequently, when delivering the message, the preacher can feel the drive within himself to proclaim. It is that urgency to get out the truth.
Oswald C.J. Hoffmann said that “without continued proclamation of the Good News in Christ the Church would never have gotten off the ground. In a generation it would have become extinct.”
There is a real need for sensible proclamation from the pulpit today. “Preaching is truth given through personality,” wrote Phillips Brooks. Therefore, when the preacher saturates himself with the biblical truth in sermon preparation, that dynamo will in turn grip the congregation because of the pastor’s own increased conviction. The result will be one message after another which is the bold proclamation of the Gospel.
(4) Exposition yields a biblically literate laity. When I preached topical sermons, the congregation usually closed the Bibles after the scripture lesson was read aloud from the pulpit. However, now that I am preaching mainly expository sermons, the laypersons keep their Bibles open throughout the entire message.
I even provide them with a brief outline of the sermon as printed in the Sunday bulletin; before the sermon is begun I invite the hearers to keep their Bibles open with the outline alongside the passage so they can follow verse-by-verse with me throughout the sermon.
Over time, there will be a certain percentage of laypersons who will keep those printed outlines as personal study guidelines. As the expositions increase, it is hoped that their knowledge of specific passages will deepen, too.
(5) Exposition brings out color in the sermons. Over the years I was finding myself using familiar phrasings and thought-concepts which were becoming too frequent. However, when I moved into expository preaching, I was forced to create other communication patterns in order to make a point of truth. Likewise, I was compelled to be more imaginative in tying in illustrative material to amplify the passage used.
Because new accents were being uncovered in a variety of biblical sections dealt with, new ways of carving out those accents became delightfully necessary.
(6) Exposition keeps the adventure of sermon preparation growing. As years pass, it is not uncommon for the preacher to become weary regarding the next Sunday’s sermon. What is there that is new? How can he say the old, old story in new language? Consequently, many preachers — often without realizing it — begin to drag; the momentum slows down. Therefore, a verbal doodling takes place from service to service when it comes to the delivery of those sermons.
Preaching expositionally, however, keeps the sermonic study hours alive. Each new biblical section contains its own life force. Therefore, when researching that section afresh, one comes upon brand new treasures never dug up before. In the discovering then is the vibrancy, the desire to get back into that pulpit to speak once again concerning the wonder of God.
Miguel de Cervantes said: “He preaches well who lives well. That’s all the divinity I know.” For the minister to live at his best he needs to stay close to the Word, especially in the sermon preparation segments of the work week.
(7) Exposition actually cuts out wasted time; it makes for more efficient use of sermon research. Instead of procrastinating relative to getting around to the next Sunday’s sermons, expository preaching entices the preacher to begin early in the week. The reason? Because he knows that he is going to come to biblical material which abounds, waiting for the molding into a sermon. The preacher is not left trying to scout around in a tired brain for some new brainstorm, some clever innovation to keep the people awake for another service.
Every minister knows about “the panic.” It is the tremor which takes hold when nearing Sunday with still no message burning on the stove. Usually this occurs because the pastor has run out of sermon themes; there is nothing baiting his imagination. The temptation then may be to resort to service entertainments to replace sermons or fill up the worship time with an increase in liturgy in order to abbreviate the minutes allotted for the message.
However, when the pastor comes faithfully to the Bible with the purpose of coming upon new material from a select passage, he will conclude that in efficient order he can uncover plenty of alluring content for still another sermon.
(8) Exposition lifts the Word into a pastor’s central priority. The laypersons, over a period of time, will come to know whether or not the pastor enjoys preaching. If not, the message will probably get the intentional shuffle. That is, it will be wedged in a little here and there, eventually treated as some necessary evil.
Yet, does an earnest pastor actually want this to happen? Certainly not. The genuine minister of the Gospel desires a zealous people who are totally committed to the Scriptures.
Expository preaching will keep the listeners close to the Word because the Bible will have been elevated to a lofty place within the worship itself. The Book will have received the honor due it, particulary under the wise leadership of the person in the pulpit.
(9) Expository preaching keeps the preacher under the integrity of God’s Word. Exposition cuts through criticism from those who would complain that the preacher is doing nothing more than peddling his own pet peeves or personal tirades. Whatever is chiefly preached during the sermons is straight out of the Book.
Johannes Albrecht Bengel wrote: “Apply yourself to the whole text, and apply the whole text to yourself.” The pastor who does that becomes a new person in Christ — afresh for each week’s duties. The people then pick up on that so that the sincere ones grow into that same aliveness. They make connection with the divine integrity.
Continued diets of even the preacher’s wise opinions are not enough for a congregation to grow spiritually. The same can be said for constant “specials” — visiting musical groups, gospel films and the like.
Humanity thirsts for the water from God’s well and that supply flows from His Word.
(10) Exposition makes for continuity for both pastor and laity. I have discovered that preaching from one of Paul’s letters or straight through one of the Gospels brings a healthy cohesiveness to the congregation. In other words, it keeps us in step together. There is not the lostness-in-thought that frequently comes to a listening body over the months when they are segmented by each brand new sermonic theme.
Furthermore, when informed of the Bible book to be dealt with in future sermons, the listeners may even find it convenient to use those same passages for their own personal devotional readings. Naturally, this lends its own depth.
(11) Exposition grows its own fruit of spiritual growth within the preacher. “Lay hold on the Bible until the Bible lays hold on you,” wrote Will H. Houghton. Over time, the preacher will thrill at the “laying hold.” We will naturally realize the deepening in our own soul because of spending more time in the Bible, not only in our daily quiet renewing but also in the sermon preparation hours.
The Word simply works its own harvest when given the chance. Too many times, however, we preachers are caught up in other things: community meetings, driving about town on errands, talking on the phone, arranging the weekly newsletter and bulletin. Consequently, we experience that awful lack. How can we beat it?
One way is to commit oneself to disciplined expository preaching. The determination to carve more biblical messages because of giving more attention to the Book will be blessed by the Lord in ways beyond our expectations.

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