Why Expostional Preaching

WHY EXPOSTIONAL PREACHINGLast week I was at the ReFocus Canada Expositional Preaching seminar lead by John Neufeld and Marty Culy at Willingdon Church. It was a great week of insight, training, fellowship, and gathering around God’s word as preachers. I was reminded of the value of expositional preaching. The following are my thoughts that I’ve adapted from John Neufeld’s session on The Justification for Expositional Preaching.

What is Expositional Preaching?

In Expositional preaching, the point of the passage is the point of the message. The choice of what we preach on is determined by the Bible as we usually preach through books of the Bible. While on occasion I do preach a topical series made up of expositional messages, I believe that the main diet of the church needs to be expositional series’ preaching through books of the Bible.

I am horrified when I see preachers not only not preaching expositional messages from the Bible, but instead are preaching someone else’s topical series. Instead of doing the work themselves, they just download someone else’s sermon series. I know it happens all the time, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying it, but I believe it to be both lazy and unfaithful.

7 Reasons for Expositional Preaching

1. It’s not my house, therefore I cannot choose what I do in the pulpit

When you are in someone else’s home, they set the agenda, they decide when we’ll eat, where we’ll sit, what we’ll do. It’s their house. As preachers, we are stewards in God’s house. He sets the agenda. His word must lead the way.

2. I do not presume to judge the wisdom of God

If I’m always picking my own topics, I presume to know more about what my people need than God. We might ask the question, “what does my church need to hear?”, but I would argue that God already told us and he wrote it down for us. We may think we know what our people need, but God knows better. I’m regularly amazed at how God ordains things in such a way that a passage I would never have picked connects with the specific needs of individuals that morning. God knows better.

3. If I preach expositionally, I have a sure promise. I will maximize effectiveness

We know that that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, and that faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. So we can preach God’s word with confidence, believing that he will empower the preaching of his word. My words don’t come with the power to transform lives, but God’s word does.

4. I will preach the full counsel of God, and be innocent of the blood of others

It’s near impossible to preach the full counsel of God if I pick the topics. My favourite topics and hobbyhorses will be overemphasized while others will be de-emphasized. I don’t trust myself and neither should my church. If I want to preach the full counsel of God, I should preach through whole books of the Bible.

5. I can stand behind the word. That will be my defense to my critics

If I’m picking my hobbyhorse topics, my critics can claim I’m picking on them or using the pulpit to bully people. But when we preach through books of the Bible and keep the point of the text as the point of the sermon, the critics’ complaint is against God and not me. I’ve had people say “I don’t like what you had to say”, to which I can always respond, “which part of the passage did I misinterpret?” If my words are God’s words, and my interpretation is sound, my critics’ argument is with God and not me.

6. I will always have something to say

If I’m preaching my own hobbyhorses and favourite topics, I’ll quickly run out of things to say. An expositional preacher never wonders what next week’s message will be on. God sets the agenda. God determines the next passage. An expositional preacher will never run out of material.

7. I will bring health to my church and unity to the people of God

In preaching expositionally, I am teaching my church how to read the Bible and to submit to it. Our church will experience unity and health around God’s word.


6 thoughts on “Why Expostional Preaching

  1. Hi Pastor Kroeker. I came across this entry on my friend’s social media posting. I agree that expositional teaching is important, but I do not agree with some of your reasons for putting expositional teaching on a higher level than topical teaching. I will address your reasons one by one:

    Reason 1: It is true that one cannot choose what to do in the pulpit. But I disagree with your suggestion that only expositional teaching is based on God’s agenda. While there are examples of expositional teaching in the Bible (e.g. Nehemiah 8:8), the scriptures abound with topical teachings where the teacher strings together various passages in order to teach a topic: (Jesus in Luke 24 going through the Bible refering to “things concerning himself” (the topic was “Messiology”), Peter and Paul in Acts preaching by referring to various passages and even brief mentions of secular writers (the topic was “salvation”)). The epistles of the New Testament could just as well be thought as examples of sermons (they are remotely given teachings). Each epistle has a few major “themes” or “topics”, chosen to address particular problems of the church or the circumstances, and the author uses fresh revelation as well as Old Testament passages to support the teaching of those topics. New Testament teachers often piece together various passages to support the topical teachings. While we are not inspired and cannot include new doctrine, we can safely follow the New Testament writers’ teaching format of referencing scriptures to address particular issues.

    Reason 2: You assume that only topics need picking and books to be expositioned need not be picked. But unless you teach from Genesis straight to Revelation, you are doing some “picking” of which book to teach at a given time. I am sure that some books get picked based on their general themes. Besides, the order of the books is not divinely mandated so even IF you go from Genesis to Revelation, you are following an order instituted by man. One way or the other, there is no excuse for a teacher not to use his discernment to teach what he is led by the Spirit to teach. You need discernment whether you teach topically or expositionally.

    Reason 3: I think the main misunderstanding you have is that you equate “topical teaching” with “teaching one’s own words.” This misunderstanding is revealed in your statement, “My words don’t come with the power to transform lives, but God’s word does.” A topical teaching supported only by scripural passages, soundly interpreted, is just as much God’s words as an expositional teaching. Joel Osteen isn’t the only example of topical teaching. You also flirt with superstition by thinking that expositional teaching comes with a “sure promise” whereas topical teaching does not. The only sure promise is in the Gospel and the preached word. But the Gospel and the word can be delivered topically as well as expositionally.

    Reason 4: Ensuring full coverage is actually a valid reason for expositional teaching. This I agree.

    Reason 5: If you teach a topical lesson and the only supporting sources are scripture and not your own words, then even for topical teaching you can lay claim to the same defence against the critics. Again, I think you incorrectly equate “topical teaching” with “teaching one’s own words”.

    Reason 6: Whether you run out of things to say or not shouldn’t be the criteria for which format of teaching you should choose. There is no biblical prohibition against repeating important topical lessons. In fact, in doing expositional teaching you are in effect repeating many of the same topics. So it turns out that the same topics get repeated regardless of which method you use. Thi is ok.

    Reason 7: Your last reason is not a reason exclusive to expositional teaching as it applies to topical teaching as well. You can just as well say: “In preaching topically, I am teaching my church how to read the Bible and to submit to it. Our church will experience unity and health around God’s word.” Proper topical teaching requires proper exegesis and understanding of context. Topical teaching demands the listener to submit to what the Bible says about the issue. As the entire Bible is referenced in regards to each issue, the church will experience unity and health around God’s word.

    I think your comparisons between topical and expositional teaching is based on a view that sees topical teaching as “Joel Osteen” and expositional teaching as “John Piper”. I don’t think this is fair to biblical topical teaching.

    • I don’t deny that it’s possible to preach faithful and biblical and true sermons that are topical in their composition. Likewise it is certainly possible to preach unfaithful and biblically inaccurate sermons that take an expositional form. In either form, bad interpretations, bad theology, and bad communication can result in bad and unbiblical sermons.

      I’m not saying that a topical sermon is wrong. I have preached some over the years. I’ve also preached topical series’ though each message was an exposition of a chosen text. But I believe that to ensure greater faithfulness from the preacher the main diet of a church ought to be expositional sermons.

      And I understand that a preacher is still choosing when he chooses books. His bias’ may still result in an imbalanced diet for the church. It seems obvious to me that the role of the preacher’s choice is less if he is choosing a book or two to preach through in a year, rather than choosing 52 texts to preach from. You don’t eliminate the preacher’s choosing, but it is minimized.

      On the whole it seems that your comment is getting at the possibility for faithful topic sermons. I would concede that it certainly is possible. I have preached some myself over the years. But when I consider my calling and responsibility as a shepherd and steward of God’s word, I am convinced that the best route to ensure my faithfulness is to commit to using expositional preaching as my primary method of preaching.

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