Why You Should Listen to Expository Preaching
Does it matter what kind of preaching I listen to? Many well-meaning Christians may respond by saying, “No, what matters most is that you are with the people of God on the Lord’s Day and that you keep that day holy.” Others may say, “Experiencing God happens the best when we praise Him in song, so as long as you have that, whatever the preacher says is fine.” There is also a group that would say, “If the preaching takes away from helping the poor and caring for the displaced, then it is unnecessary.” Regardless of where you may land on the spectrum of views of preaching, one thing remains the same: there must be preaching.
There are three main kinds of preaching that you will listen to. The first is motivational preaching. It looks to tickle the ears of the hearers, building upon the ideas already there, and encouraging and pushing them to greater heights of self-actualization. Of course, this kind of preaching doesn’t have a high regard for the Scriptures since it originates from a humanistic, man-centred worldview. It has a higher view of mankind than it does of God. Their theology only goes so far as to believe that God is only there as a help to get us on our feet, make us better people, and make the world around us a better place. Motivational preaching will not get very far since it has shallow roots and weak substance.
The second is topical preaching. Its focus is to hone in on a particular topic and teach it. This kind of preaching has both a positive and negative side. It is positive in that we will learn what the Bible says on a certain topic, idea, or current event. Christians must have a grasp of what the Scriptures say about the ideas, topics and current events captivating the world today. Where the negative part comes in, and it so often does, is when the perspective and opinion of the preacher takes center stage. The Christians who hear this kind of preaching will often hear the opinion of the preacher over the truth of God on the topic. Sure, the Bible is used and the sound of pages often turning fill the congregation, but that does not mean the Scriptures are being taught. It is not difficult to look through the Bible and find enough verses (usually taken out of context) to support whatever idea is being taught.
The third kind of preaching is expositional, or expository preaching. The best definition of this kind of preaching could be summed up in one sentence: The point of the text is the point of the message. This kind of preaching seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures. It will seek to teach the verse or verses in the context of the passage it is found and in the context of the entire message of the Bible. It is not a verbal commentary analyzing the text of Scripture, but it is the expounding of the message found in the text. It is like a miner mining for diamonds. He digs and digs until beautiful diamonds are brought to the surface to be observed by those around. This type of preaching benefits the hearers. Here are five reasons why I think you should listen to expository preaching.
Gain a Biblical Worldview
As Ravi Zacharias put it, a worldview consists of four main parts: Where did I come from? What is my purpose? What is good and evil? And what happens to me when I die? The expositor will inevitably deal with all four questions. In fact, at least one of these questions will be addressed in every sermon since the exposition of the text will always trace a route to the gospel. Biblical theology, which is seeing the entire Bible in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, will always be the goal of the expositor. The expositor will always be gospel centred, and since the gospel deals directly with all four questions, the expositor will always be addressing the congregation’s worldview. Not only will the hearers gain a biblical worldview because the exposition is done in light of the gospel, but they will gain a biblical worldview because a true understanding of scripture is taught. Over time, expository preaching will drill the truth of the whole of Scripture into the listener that it will, as C.H. Spurgeon once said, make their blood “bibline.” The people of God who listen to expository preaching will inevitably find that they gain a biblical worldview, and not only that, but a biblical worldview they can articulate with increasing clarity.
Learn How to Read the Bible
Expository preaching will help the listeners to read the Bible for themselves. It teaches the listener how to properly interpret the Scriptures. They will be able to go home and use the same methods the preacher uses to teach the Bible to their children, neighbors, or fellow Christians in a way that stays faithful to the entire Bible.
When reading the Bible, it is easy to skim over the passage, apply it to yourself without the consideration of the genre, historical significance, or context; or to bring into the text an outside influence that distorts the message of the passage. We need preachers to teach us how to read the Bible by the way they preach the Bible. The example the expositor sets by submitting himself to the authority of Scripture will cause the congregation to have a high regard for the Bible and see the importance of it in daily living.
Impact the Whole Person
You are comprised of three parts that can be impacted by the preacher: the intellect, the emotions, and the will. These three aspects of every person are activated in expository preaching.
Expositional preaching is not a seminary lecture that deals solely with the theological significance of the text because very few people gathered to hear the sermon would be able to understand.
Expositional preaching is not a moving tale or story that is told in order to incite an emotional response, nor is it a string of analogies because there is no story or analogy that resonates emotionally with everyone present.
Expositional preaching is not motivational preaching to get people to do things because not everyone will want actually to go and do it.
Expository preaching deals with the theological aspect of the text in a way that answers the big questions. Why is this passage significant to the whole of Scripture? What is the genre of the text? How does this relate to the overarching narrative of Scripture? This kind of preaching then deals with the emotions. How does this relate to our lives today? What does it mean for our context? What does it mean for me? After these two areas are addressed and activated, the will can properly be taught. What must we now do because of this? Now every action that happens as a result of this text will be well-informed and relevant, and not only that, but it will be out of a belief that the Word preached is true.
Display Your Salvation
We live in a time of faith, but this will not always be the case. One day faith will give way to sight, and we will need it no more, but for now, we have faith. This faith comes from the hearing of the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Expository preaching seeks to faithfully teach God’s Word so that faith is imparted to the hearers. The expositor can never cause faith in his listeners, but by his faithful exposition of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit imparts faith through the Word.
God creates a people by His Holy Spirit through His Word. These people are people of faith, and they seek to grow in faith by continuing to listen to the Word being taught. This means that the importance of the preacher doesn’t lie in his personality, ability, or skill, but in his faithful preaching of the Word of God. The preacher is God’s mouthpiece to His people so that they grow in faith.
In our subjective, authoritarian-hating, opinion-embracing society, we need expositors to stand up and proclaim the authoritative, absolute truths of Scripture. We need for preachers to stand against the popular flow so that we might be helped in our Christian life. In light of our discussion oriented culture, we need to sit and listen to a person stand up and present to us a monologue. That alone displays to the world how radical our salvation is. How much do you who listen to a preacher deliver a sermon contribute to that sermon? Nothing. How much do you contribute to your salvation? Nothing. As I have already mentioned, we live in a time of faith so until faith is turned to sight, we need people who preach, and we all need to hear Biblically faithful preaching.
Grow In Faith
As we have already seen, God’s Holy Spirit gives faith through the Word. What better place to grow in faith than to listen to the Word being preached? Many would object and say that faith is grown when we exercise it by helping others or evangelizing, but the Scriptures disagree. The decline of faith is attributed to the failure of meeting with other believers to encourage each other through the Word (Heb. 10:24-25). If we take into account that the Epistles were written to churches, we will find that the emphasis is not placed on going outside the church in order to become a better church, but that the Word of God must be preached for the church to grow in faith. From this, missions and evangelism will eventually flow, and, if I might add, they will flow with much greater fervency.
The church has a chance to grow in faith from expository preaching because they will be able to mature to a higher level than the preacher. What I mean by saying that is when a preacher only preaches what he knows (topical preaching), the congregation will only be able to mature to the maturity of the preacher. The congregation, then, depends on the books the pastor reads or the conferences he attends, and do not rely on the Word to bring maturity. When the Word is central, we must include the preacher in maturity as well because he will have to deal with truths that he otherwise might not. Martin Luther was once asked about how he was so successful, and he responded by saying, “I did nothing; the Word did everything.” His perspective is the way to a healthy church with healthy Christians. A church that believes the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures is a church that believes it in both creed and practice.
A church that is matured by expositional preaching is a church where great faith will be found. It will be a church where Christ, who is our wisdom, redemption, sanctification, and righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30), will be exalted. Only then will the saints mature in their faith, and those who are new to faith will have a firm foundation to plant their feet and well-worked soil to establish their roots. A church who listens to the Word of God exposited will be a healthy church ready to take on the ills of the world around them.