The importance of expository preaching was impressed upon me early in my ministry. I surrendered to God’s call upon my life at age seventeen. About the same time, I was introduced to one of the most noted expository preachers or our day, Dr. Stephen Olford, who at the time was pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.
I met Dr. Olford at a Keswick Christian Life Convention in Birmingham, Alabama. I was awe struck by his preaching. It was Stephen Olford who introduced me to the method of expository preaching and who modeled anointed expository preaching. There was born in my heart a desire to be an expository preacher and for the past forty plus years I have endeavored to follow the pattern of my mentor.
WHAT IS EXPOSITORY PREACHING?
A few working definitions of the term Expository Preaching will enable us to better understand its importance.
Stephen Olford said, “Expository preaching is the Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical, and doctrinal significance of the given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ-transforming response.”1
Phillips Brooks in his lectures on preaching, delivered before the divinity School of Yale College in 1877, stated, “It is not hard to find a definition (for preaching). Preaching is the communication of truth by man to men. It has two essential elements, truth and personality. Neither of those can it spare and still be preaching.” 2 Phillips Brooks saw a unique and important relationship of the man to his message. He said, “Truth through personality is our description of preaching. The truth must come really through the person, not merely over his lips, not merely into his understanding and out through his pen. It must come through his character, his affections, his whole intellectual and moral being. It must come genuinely through him. 3
Haddon Robinson says, “Expository preaching is the communication of biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality of the preacher, and then through him to his hearers.” 4
The Apostle Paul states the biblical mandate for expository preaching in Second Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (NKJV)
WHY IS EXPOSITORY PREACHING IMPORTANT?
An expositor of God’s Word is someone with a moral responsibility to and to man. To God he is responsible for handling the Word of God correctly and in a manner which makes him, the preacher, the mouthpiece for God.
The expository also has a responsibility to man to preach the truth of God’s Word. People are looking for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.
I disagree with the idea that the preacher determines the needs of his people and then selects a biblical text from which to address the needs. The preacher cannot accurately discern the needs of people. Only God can do that.
I believe it is better to move from the Scriptures to the issues of life. If a pastor is a disciplined expositor, preaching his way through the Bible in a systematic manner, he will eventually address the problems his people face.
Dr. Jerry Vines gives another reason why expository preaching is important. “Thousands of churchgoers throughout America are desperately hungry for good preaching. They are looking for a Bible study, a church or some service where their souls can be fed from the Word of God. Much of the preaching of our day is dry, irrelevant, and deadening. 5
May we never under estimate the importance of expository preaching of God’s Word. Strongholds are torn down, families are put back together, lives are changed, and hope is restored as a result of anointed expository preaching.
John R.W. Stott, a noted author and expositor clearly states his view on the importance of expository preaching. “I believe that preaching is the key to the renewal of the church…If it is true that a human being cannot live by bread only, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God. I have seen congregations come alive by the faithful and systematic unfolding of the Word of God.” 6
I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Stott. Any pastor who faithfully preaches the Word of God will value the impact of the preached Word. He will have the joy of watching the transforming power of God’s Word in the lives of his people. This leads me to my last point.
WHAT DOES EXPOSITORY PREACHING DO?
Expository preaching has many positive effects on both the preacher/pastor and his people. The personal benefits to the preacher in terms of preaching materials, time management, and sermon preparation are numerous. However, I want to address the benefit of expository preaching for the person in the pew.
I am troubled by the trends of our day that replace the Bible with projection screens, and listening guides. There is nothing wrong with these or any other teaching tools, as long as they do not displace the use of the Bible.
Expository preaching helps people to know their Bible. It enables them to see the Bible as a whole, and in its context. It also equips Christians to grow and mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The pastor as an expositor has a golden opportunity to take his people deep into the things of God.
One of the great joys of my life and ministry is to watch people over a period of time as I systematically preach the Word of God. I love to watch their spiritual metamorphosis as they change more and more into the likeness Christ. I love to hear the “rustling of the leaves” (turning of the pages) on Sunday when the sermon text is announced. I love to see people enter the House of God with Bible and notebook in hand. I love to see the gleam in their eyes when discover the great truths of God’s Word for the first time.
I believe in expository preaching. May we who are called to be preachers of the Word—PREACH THE WORD!
1. Stephen and David Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, p.69
2. Phillips Brooks, Lectures on Preaching, p.5
3. Ibid, p.8
4. Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p.20
5. Jerry Vines, A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation
6. Stephen and David Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, p.68