In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul seriously charges Timothy with one command which is to “Preach the Word.” However throughout our nation we have preachers that carefully and systematically create messages that are consumer-driven, feel-good, funny talks that scratch the listener directly where they itch. But that does not fulfill the simple and yet profound charge to “Preach the Word.”
Expositional preaching is that type in which the preacher exposits or explains the Word of God. It is taking the entire counsel of God, word for word, in grammatical and historical context, and explaining it to his sheep. It is first simply reading what the Bible says, then what it means by what it says, and then the implications of what it says on one’s life. Any man who stands in the pulpit has one clear duty – to bring the people the truth of God revealed in Scripture by explaining its meaning.
5 Reasons to Preach Expositionally:
1) Who’s the Boss?
Almost every evangelical pastor will believe in the infallibility of Scripture or the inspiration of Scripture or the inerrancy of Scripture. Many will also tout that the Bible is the foundation for their church and their lives. Many believe but their actions are not evidential of that belief. What you believe is always followed by your actions. In many of these churches that hold these doctrinal beliefs you will see people sitting without their Bible in church, only a few out-of-context favorite verses used and reused over the years, and the entire message being the pastor’s stories, thoughts, and ideas being backed up with a verse. It is more of a motivational speech, a moralistic self-esteem seminar, or business meeting than true preaching.
And it begs the question of who is the real boss in the church? Who is the head of the church? 1 Peter 1:23 states that we have been made born again by the Word of God. The Spirit of God works through the Word, He saves through the Word, He sanctifies through the Word, He comforts through the Word, He instructs through the Word, He edifies through the Word. To have any spiritual progress at all one must have God have total authority over one’s soul and mind and to do that one must have God’s Word reigning over your life and bringing to bear its authority on your life.
If the pastor is giving his stories and his insights and his thoughts, then it is his church and he ultimately believes that he “makes or breaks” a “decision for Christ” for someone. If the pastor is explaining every word of God consistently and faithfully, then it is Jesus’ church and he ultimately believes it is God who saves and regenerates a sinner.
2) Press Here to Submit
If a preacher is not willing to submit to the authority of God’s Word it reveals an inferior, inadequate love for God, understanding of His glory and authority, and understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. It reveals an apathetic attitude toward the Bible in that your words have more power than God’s words. This is exactly what the Reformation was all about – Luther was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church did not submit to Scripture. Still today within that church, tradition is on par with Scripture.
R. L. Dabney is quoted as saying “The great power of the Great Revolution that we know as the Reformation was the restoration of Scriptural preaching. It came with the authority of God. It came with the power of the Holy Spirit. It came under the clear leadership of Christ and people submitted to the word of God in the pulpit and people followed and submitted to the Word of God in the pew.”
Dabney believed that preaching should be “Scriptural truth in Scriptural dress.” Otherwise it removes spiritual depth, cripples worship, and has no real power. It may be relevant and funny and creative and clever, but it has no real power. The worship may be rockin’ and sound great, but it severely hinders worship to our Savior. It gives the message to your congregation that the Bible does not really matter and you have started with the premise “I have a great sermon; I just need a few verses.”
Non-expositional preaching ultimately takes a consumer-centered model and edits God. It skips over the hard verses, trims down the message, muzzles God, and ultimately makes the person listening sovereign. Expositional preaching takes God word for word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book and does not gag God. It gives the entire council of God to the people and submits to His sovereignty.
3) I’ve fallen and I can’t get up
For the unbeliever that walks into church or has been sitting in the pew for years or for even possibly the pastor, the only true source of help is God. They may have great marriages, having success at work, being great parents, and living a morally acceptable life but unless they are born-again and regenerated, the Bible is clear to state that they will suffer an eternity in Hell. They may have this perfect life due to the fill-in-the-blank message notes they get every week, but they need to be pinned to the wall by the truth laid out in the Word of God and then when they have the full understanding of their wretched state before God, the gospel is clearly presented to them allowing them to respond correctly in repentance and faith. This full and unadulterated good news is only presented by an expositional approach to preaching. Other forms of preaching usually result in the manipulation of emotions, removal of words like repentance and holiness, and the production of false conversions.
Only preaching on Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 and having your people dependent on your stories, your analogies, your clever insights, your creative programs, and your superficial emotionally-stimulated worship will do nothing positive for them eternally. It is as Jeremiah states in 8:11, a treatment of the people’s wounds superficially. It increases the number of false converts and leaves people with false assurances of salvation.
And for the believers in your church, when they go to be filled by God’s Word on a daily basis, they have no model if the preacher does not preach expositionally. If the preacher does not have to do it on Sundays, why should it be important for me? How do I create this big Sunday production spectacular on Monday morning? When the person faces real crises in life, what will they have to stand on – a three point message and a funny story? When the person faces temptation in their life, will they feed on the Word of God or feed on the world? Whatever you save them with is what you will have to keep supplying them on a weekly basis. If it is the Bible, they will desire the very words of God; if it is movie clips and huge programs, it will be DVD group studies and the need for bigger and better programs to keep them.
4) Riding the Wave
It is interesting that people used to pick a church to become a member of due to its theology, but now it is because of the methodology. The word theology in our churches has become a taboo. A bad word. Theology is seen as divisive, narrow-minded, not practical, and not relevant. Theology is not bad but is simply the things that are true about God. If you can not stand up for sound theology, then what can you stand up for? Paul continually states to Timothy and Titus to stand up for sound doctrine.
The push in today’s modern church is for unity. Unity above all else is preserved. Although unity is extremely important and clearly expressed in the Bible, unity never takes a backseat to theology. There is also a push in the modern church to have the ends (people making professions for Christ) to justify the means (pragmatism and cultural contextualization). As R.W. Glenn states:
So instead, let’s say this: “I am glad that people are being genuinely converted even through inappropriate methodology and impure motives. What a testimony to the gospel’s power!” But let’s also say, “Nevertheless, let us never adopt the methods or motives that function to undermine the very gospel we are called to preach.
Clear Biblical exposition allows for the people to develop correct theology, cultivate strong Biblical unity within the church, build strong conviction in their lives, and prevents against jumping on every new fad or wave in Christianity.
A well-known evangelical leader who does not believe in expositional preaching encouraged the preachers who follow him to be like surfers and recognize a “wave of God’s spirit and ride it.” This is pragmatism in a nutshell and these churches will ultimately become self-centered, enamored with their own success, willing to follow whatever new method of success, and driven to please men. We are all commanded to not “ride waves” but have our feet firmly fitted on God’s Word.
5) The Golden Glove
If the Bible is truly inerrant, without errors, than why would a man cleverly devise his own thoughts for a church service that may be filled with errors. If the Bible is not preached expositionally, the shepherd also opens his flock to perverse men and grievous wolves both inside and outside of the church. The church leaders, members, and attenders will be easily manipulated into error and follow an array of teachings.
It ultimately leads to no discernment. Without the truth in their hands being sanctified by the Words of God, the leadership and people will not be able to tell truth from error. It is interesting that those who specialize in finding counterfeit currency study the real thing, not the fakes. The more they know the truth the easier it is for them to pick out the false. And without the feeding on God’s Word, the people are like little children crawling around sticking anything in their mouth.
So let Christ and His Word’s be the head of your church, let His Words be preached to your flock, submit to the authority of the Bible, give the people their real source of help, have your feet firmly fitted on the rock that is His Word, and let it save and sanctify all who hear it.
There is simply nothing that I feel more strongly about than standing on His Word alone. I stand with Peter who in John 6 stated “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”