If the teacher of God’s word does not trust God’s word and trust that it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish (Is. 55:10-11) they will struggle in their task. And may not be fit for their task. If the teacher does not trust God’s word to be God’s word they are unlikely to teach very well for very long.
So, serious trust in God’s word is foundational.
In Acts 6 we see there were a lot of important distractions for those who were tasked to preach the good news of Jesus. There were lots of important needs that were dear to their hearts and dear to God’s heart. And yet they resolved to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v. 4). They knew it was not right for them to be distracted from “preaching the word of God” (v. 2).
In fact, they were so committed to preaching about the glory and goodness of God as seen in Christ, that even when threatened with beatings and imprisonment they continued. They rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for the Savior and they continued teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42).
Ezra is an important model for every pastor and minister of the word. And really every Christian. Every Christian, in one way or another, should study the word of God, do it, and teach it (Ezra 7:10). It’s probably good to do it in that order too.
The teacher “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). And that requires studious study.
“There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible.”
A teacher could “understand all mysterious and all knowledge” yet if they have not love it is worth nothing (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Self-application is essential. James even tells us “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (3:1).
As we saw with Ezra, he did not just study God’s word, or just teach God’s word, he himself did God’s word. He applied it and lived it himself. That is vital.
It’s actually a qualification for Christian leaders. They are to be above reproach. They are to apply Scripture first to themselves. They are to not be hypocrites.
There is a place of course to adapt the message to the audience. Jesus and Paul themselves did that. That is good. Yet, we also want to give meat, even if we have to cut it up nicely and make it bite-size. Our desire should be solid teaching, not trivial trifles (see Heb. 5:12; 1 Cor. 3:2).
There is a time to give milk and not solid food. Babies need milk because they cannot yet take solid food. They, however, would be stunned if they had to stay with mere milk. So, solid sermons are essential.
It is important to read from the Bible clearly and explain it so that people understood what’s being read (see Neh. 8:8 cf. 1 Tim. 4:13; Mal. 2:7). That’s what expository preaching is. It exposes and reveals the meaning of the passage. That is why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:1).
Scripture has the power to “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). So, Scripture should be wielded with careful and intentional precision. It is “sharper than any two-edged sword” and pieces to the depths of our hearts (Heb. 4:12).
Scripture should be applied specifically and carefully. Scripture should call to action but not legalistic action. Saints should be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) but it should be through the truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:15).
So, the teacher of God’s word must “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). That is a high and challenging calling.
When we preach or teach we are not to use “eloquent wisdom” to make much of ourselves but we “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2). It is not us we proclaim. It is Him we proclaim (Col. 1:28).
We show Christ from every passage, Old and New Testament, knowing Scripture is about Him (Jn. 5:39) and every promise finds its “yes” in Him (2 Cor. 1:20).
8.Share the Gospel
Sharing the gospel is needed all of the time, for believers and unbelievers. We all need to be reminded of the best news there is. The Apostle Paul wrote Romans and Ephesians to Christians and yet he didn’t assume the gospel. He expounded on it and applied it.
Believers and unbelievers need the gospel. So we must share the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7; Lk. 25:45-49; Rom. 10:14-17).
 D.A. Carson, For the Love of God vol. 2, January 7.
*Photo by Carolyn V
“Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true… A careful expository sermon makes it easier for the hearers to recognize that the authority rest not in the speaker’s opinions or reasoning but in God, in his revelation through the text itself… Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community… Expository preaching lets the text set the agenda for the preacher as well… Exposition can prevent us from riding our personal hobbyhorses and pet issues… A steady diet of expository sermons also teaches your audience how to read their own Bibles” (Timothy Keller, Preaching, 32-38).
“Expository sermons help us let God set the agenda for our lives…. Secondly, expository preaching treats the Bible as God treated it, respecting particular contexts, history and style of the human authors” (Peter Adams, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, 128).
“An expository sermon may be defined as a message whose structure and thought are derived from a biblical text, that covers the scope of the text, and that explains the features and context of the text in order to disclose the enduring principle for faithful thinking, living, and worship intended by the Spirit, who inspired the text” (Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 31).
I really enjoyed Zach Eswine’s book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World, here are some highlights:
On the importance of illustration…
Eswine quotes Calvin Miller and says: “Jesus himself told lots of stories, and his sermons were full of images…. When asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus in effect does not say, ‘Let me give you three Hebrew roots on the word neighbor.’ What he does say is, ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho….’ In other words he follows the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ with an immediate ‘Once upon a time’ and then launches into a story” (p. 61).
“Those who are precision oriented must learn to tell the stories of the text. Those who are poetic must learn to surrender to the precision of the text” (p. 108).
On the importance of modeling how to think about reality…
“When we preach we publicly model for a community how a human being is meant by God to relate to reality” (p. 85).
This is a checklist that I put together to look over as I prepare to preach. There are, of course, other things that I could have put on this list. But these are the specific things that I need to be sure to check at this point in ministry…
- Am I preaching the good news of Jesus?
- Am I praying and pleading with God to bless my sermon?
- Am I working with a team in preparation to preach?
- Am I getting and listening to Leah’s feedback?
- Am I preparing far enough in advance?
- Am I preparing my sermon with specific people in mind?
- Am I going to bring people on the journey with me? (Am I going to peak people’s interests? Am I taking baby steps when necessary or am I making huge leaps in my logical reasoning?)
- Am I using the 6 Journalistic Questions (What?, Who?, When?, Why?, Where?, and How?) and answering what will be most helpful for the audience?
- Am I illustrating my point like Jesus would have? And am I getting the full impact from my illustrations?
- Is the sermon going to be “G rated”? (Is the sermon for a general audience or is it restricted to those with special training? Did I break it down like I need a mechanic to break it down for me?)
- Is the sermon going to create and relieve tension?
- Is my sermon focused, making one sustained point? (Am I considering what the one thing is that I want people to take away from the message?)
- Can I pass the 3am test? (If I was awakened at 3am and asked about the main point and structure of the sermon could I answer in a helpful way?)
- Will unbelievers understand and find the sermon appealing? (Not that we ever want to compromise the truth but we do want to intrigue unbelievers with the view of reality that the Bible gives)
In the future I’d like to write a blog post for each of the above points to further convince myself of their importance.
What is expository preaching? What are the duties of the pastor and the role of the congregation?
Expositional preaching has three main characteristics. First, the passaged that is preached on is a single passage rather than various passages put together. Second, the main point or theme of the sermon is derived from the theme or main point of the passage. That is, expositional preaching seeks to exposit the text that is preached. Third, expositional preaching is typically lectio continua—that is, it is preaching that consecutively works through passages of Scripture in their biblical context.
Here are two of my favorite definitions:
“Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the Word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text and makes clear how the Word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God” (R. Albert Mohler Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Post-Modern World, 65).
“To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and it expose it to view. The expositor pries open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is ‘imposition,’ which is to impose on the text what is not there. But the ‘text’ in question could be a verse, or a sentence, or even a single word. It could equally be a paragraph, or a chapter, or even a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification” (John Stott, Between Two World, 125-26).
Why are sermons such a big deal? The Bible tells us to sing as the gathered church. The Bible also tells us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptisms. But why are sermons essential?
Sermons are essential because they teach God’s truth so as to exalt Christ, encourage and build up, and exhort the gathered church.
First, the teaching aspect of the sermon is important. Its importance is seen all over Scripture (e.g. Neh. 8:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:2). God has spoken and so helping people understand and apply the revelation from Him is life-changing. God’s people, however, are able to understand His truth. This is because all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16), Jesus has made all those in Him priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), and Scripture is clear on the things which are “necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 1). Qualified teachers are still vital, however, because sound (or healthy) doctrine is vital. That is, in part, why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24) and defend the truth (2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9). We also see in Scripture that right teaching leads to maturity and the body of Christ being equipped for every good work. Believers may be able to subsist on milk but teachers are able to provide needed meat (2 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-13).
Second, communicating God’s truth in sermons is vital because the Bible is the authoritative word of God and it is uniquely profitable (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is our sole authority for faith and practice. Scripture is a light (Ps. 119:105,130), a sword (Eph. 6:17), a hammer (Jer. 23:29), and a surgeon (Heb. 4:12). Scripture is more essential than bread (Matt. 4:4), better than gold (Ps. 19:10; 119:72), and we need it to live (Ps. 119:144). Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7), true (Ps. 19:9), pure (Ps. 19:8), and eternal (1 Pet. 1:25). Scripture contains the words of life (Jn. 6:68) and the words that are breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture gives joy (Ps. 119:111; Jer. 15:16), makes wise (Ps. 19:7), equips (2 Tim. 3:17), guards (Ps. 119:9), guides (Ps. 73:24; 119:105), saves (1 Pet. 1:23), sanctifies (Ps. 119:9,11; Jn. 17:17), and satisfies because by it we know God (1 Pet. 2:3 cf. Ps. 16:11; Jn. 17:3).