Why Expositional Preaching? – 9marks (Mark 1)


The purveyors of technique in today’s marketplace of ideas cringe to think that anyone would still be lauding the sermon as an effective pitch. Times have changed. Truth itself has changed. What communicates to the postmodern mind is narrative, journey, epic, vignette; not linear arguments, objective conclusions, or exclusive truth claims. The days of expounding the meaning and implications of a text are long gone. Meaning, like beauty, is now in the eye of the beholder. Universally binding morality is thereby supposed to be a mere myth, and so the authority of the preached Word of God is brushed aside as obsolete. Winning the culture means playing on their new field. So we are told.

But God’s Word has something to say about what we preach and how we preach it. What you’ll find on the following pages is a brief Biblical rationale for the primacy of expositional preaching in the local church. But that’s not all. You’ll also find some practical resources to encourage and facilitate the continuing development and increasing fruitfulness of your own expositional ministry. We’ll even walk you through the sermon preparation process. Learn what expositional preaching really is (and is not), and discover the difference between expositional sermons and other kinds of sermons. Learn how you can plan for feeding people a healthy diet of expositional meals months ahead of time, and thereby free yourself from worrying about what to preach on this week. Download audio samples of expositional preaching at its best.

What are the different kinds of preaching?

The Lay of the Land

The Definitions

  • Anecdotala sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson.
  • Biographical – a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications.
  • Topicala sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that address the topic chosen beforehand.
  • Textuala sermon that refers often to a particular Biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own.
  • Expositional – a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon

The Biblical Background for Expositional Preaching

The Biblical Primacy of Exposition

God’s Word gives clear primacy to exposition.

  • Many preachers and pastors today question whether the Bible really gives us any reason to think i that expositional preaching is the best way to preach.
  • But the prophetic nature of preaching and the performative nature of God’s Word reveal exposition to be best suited to unleashing the power of the text.

Exposition is primary because preaching is prophetic.

  • To say that preaching is prophetic is not to say that it is either predictive or ecstatic utterance – preachers are ambassadors, not prognosticators; and their source of revelation is God’s mediated written word, not His immediate verbal word. It is rather to say that preaching is about receiving God’s word and communicating it to God’s people in a way that is faithful to God’s intention.
  • Preaching is prophetic because it conveys God’s Word to God’s people. Exposition best handles the prophetic nature of preaching because the expositional sermon is unique for taking the point of the passage as the point of the message. It is therefore the best way to remain faithful to the content and intent of God’s Word in any given text.

Isn’t there only one kind of expositional sermon?

Ditch the disposable; Invest in Telephoto

  • Telephoto Preaching
    • Our preaching often becomes like taking pictures with a disposable camera – no zooming, no panning, focus isn’t guaranteed, and panoramics are unlikely.
    • Expositional preaching is like graduating to a telephoto lens – it gives you the ability to take a wider diversity of Scriptural snapshots from new angles and more perspectives with higher resolution, richer texture, and variable scope.
    • Since an expositional sermon is one in which the point of the passage is taken as the point of the sermon, we are just as free to ask “what is the point of Romans?” in one expositional sermon as we are to ask “what is the point of Romans 8:1a?” in another.
    • Proceeding from panoramic to microscopic, then, we may legitimately preach a single expositional sermon on the whole Bible, a whole testament, a whole book, a whole narrative or parable, one paragraph, one phrase, or a single word – as long as we are preaching the intended point of the selected meaning unit.
  • What are the Benefits of Expositional Preaching?

    The Benefits Package

    Benefits for the Pastor

    • Releases the pastor from Saturday Night Fever – the dreaded dilemma of what text to preach tomorrow morning.
    • Increases the likelihood of the pastor preaching the whole counsel of God over time.
    • Increases the pastor’s command of the Word by forcing him to study difficult or often-neglected texts for himself.
    • Increases the Word’s command of the pastor by giving him a broader exposure to the probing sword of Scripture, deepening his continued repentance and faith, incrementally increasing his knowledge of God, and therefore enhancing his Spirit-produced ability to please God in every way (Heb 11:6; Col 1:9-12).
    • Increases the pastor’s God-given prophetic authority in the pulpit by grounding his preaching in the divinely intended meaning of the text.
    • Increases the pastor’s God-given blessing in the pulpit by remaining faithful to the intention of the One who sent him to preach a specific message.
    • Increases the trustworthiness of the pastor’s preaching in the eyes of the congregation.

    What Should I preach, and when?

    Time Lapse

     “I want to preach the whole counsel of God, but that’s a pretty big counsel. How do I start, and is there a tool I can use to keep me on track?”

    • The principle to follow is to consistently expose yourself and the congregation you serve to all the different genres (types of writing) in Scripture. This way you won’t get stuck preaching Ephesians three times in five years.

    How do I Prepare an Expositional Sermon?

    Planning and Preparation

    Planning the Menu – Dietary Balance

    • The best sermon preparation doesn’t wait until the week (or day) before you preach. It starts months ahead by taking time to think through what you’ll be preaching over the next, say, four months.
    • So think big picture at the outset. What Scriptural food group has been lacking lately in your congregation’s diet? What part of God’s Word might go neglected if you’re not intentional about planning to preach it?
    • Think also about varying the type of expositions you do over this four-month period. For example, follow up a ten-week in depth study of Ephesians with a three-week overview series in the minor prophets.
    • Again, think in terms of providing your hearers with an objectively balanced diet of Scripture, not just in terms of what you think they need to hear based on their subjective circumstances, or of what your favorite books or passages are.
    • If you’re young or in a new pastorate, think about weighting the schedule with overviews so that you can provide a framework for later detailed expositions. But be warned: overview sermons are a LOT of work, so don’t overdo the overview.

    About John
    A follower of Christ and sinner who needs his grace everyday.

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