This year at Cornerstone Community Church I’m preaching through Acts. We’ve titled the series, Unhindered: The Mission Continues. If you’re interested, you can find the first two sermons here, and more will be posted in the weeks ahead. This will be a twenty-eight-week sermon series, the longest I’ve done in my seventeen years of ministry. Though for as long as I can remember, my preaching has been primarily expositional. Most often I simply work through a book of the Bible or certain parts of a book (such as the signs of John’s Gospel) in a verse-by-verse or chapter-by-chapter manner. My conviction is that every Christian community needs a diet composed mostly of expository preaching. Why? In his book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller provides the following rationale. I’ve taken the liberty of restating his main points and adding some comments of my own.
- Expository preaching conveys the pastor’s conviction that the entire Bible is truthful and helpful. Pastors who preach only from the Gospels convey a Red-Letter Christianity. Those who never turn to the Prophets or the Psalms communicate that the Old Testament is outdated. What we want to do is declare the whole counsel of God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
- Expository preaching makes it easier for the hearers to recognize that the authority rests not in the pastor’s opinions or reasoning, but in God’s Word. Exposition takes pains to show that what is being said is not the product of the speaker’s own views or prejudices, but has come from this authoritative text. When preaching is done this way, the submission of the hearer is to the text, not to the preacher, and any beef is with the text, not with the preacher.
- Expository preaching allows God to set the agenda for the pastor and for the entire Christian community. Exposition is an adventure, both for the preacher and for the congregation. It’s one thing for a pastor to say, “I want to preach about (fill in the blank), because I’m really passionate about (fill in the blank), and by Jove I think our congregation needs to hear more about (fill in the blank).” It’s something else to say, “Let’s journey through Acts together and see what God has for us there.” Expository preaching means the pastor can’t completely predetermine what the congregation will be hearing over the next weeks or months.
- Expository preaching teaches the congregation how to study the Bible for themselves. Expository preachers serve as exegetical escorts, guiding their congregations through the text, helping them pay attention to the context, notice key theological terms, ask the right questions, and so on. Listening to expository preaching helps the people in the pew become savvier and more sensitive readers of the Bible themselves.
- Expository preaching leads us again and again to the one main biblical theme: the gospel. When the risen Jesus appeared to his followers on the road to Emmaus, he began with Moses and the Prophets and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). In other words, every book of the Bible points us to the person and work of Jesus. Every time a pastor preaches through a book–Old Testament or New–he helps the congregation see Christ afresh.