Why We Teach Bible Exposition
When considering the many teaching methods and styles used by 21st century ministries, the choices can become quite bewildering. As a ministry, we wish to alleviate the potential communication tension between teacher and listener.
The apostle Paul unequivocally declares the Church to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NIV). That’s a daunting responsibility for teachers to accept and live up to. In today’s amoral world, it’s more important than ever for Church teachers to strive for the same degree of integrity as the apostles. Paul explained to the Church in Corinth that “we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV).
That said, the leaders of Bay Bible fellowship choose to emulate the teaching model found in Nehemiah 8:1–8, where the Law of Moses was brought before the assembled congregation and read. The priests then “helped the people to understand the Law …and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
- The priests did not give their opinion or personal interpretation. The meaning came from the text itself, allowing people to understand.
- All the priests worked from and explained the same text of Moses. There was unity in their ministry as they exposed God’s people to God’s Law.
- All the priests “helped the people to understand,” signifying a humble attitude working to elevate the people’s realisation of God.
Put simply, expository preaching involves the comprehensive explanation of the biblical text. It’s explaining the authors intended meaning at the time of writing in such a way as to be understood today.
G. Campbell Morgan, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel (1886-1919 & 1933-1943), taught that a sermon is limited by the text it is covering. Every word from the pulpit should amplify, elaborate on, or illustrate the text at hand, with a view towards clarity. He wrote, “The sermon is the text repeated more fully.” A sermon’s primary function is to present the text.
As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching and textual preaching. With a topical sermon, the preacher starts with a topic and then finds material or passages in the Bible that speaks to that topic. For example, if the topic is “Laziness,” the preacher may refer to Proverbs 15:19; 18:9, possibly touching also on Romans 12:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. None of the passages are studied in depth; instead, each is used to support the theme of laziness.
Topical sermons use a Bible passage as support material for the topic. Whereas expository teaching uses the Bible passage as the topic, with other support material, including other Bible passages, being used to explain and clarify the biblical text. Whereas continual topical preaching brings out the preachers pet subjects and in effect, even unknowingly, it can end up discipling the congregation toward the preacher instead of Christ.
While exposition is not the only valid method of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain sense of the Bible. Expository preachers and teachers usually approach Scripture with the following prerequisites in their thinking:
- The Bible is God’s Word. Since every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6; 19:9; 119:140), every word deserves to be examined and understood.
- Men need divine wisdom in order to understand God’s written Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
- The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly and apart from personal bias.
- The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from the hearers.
- An expositor cares little if his audience says, “What a great sermon.” What he truly wants to hear them say is; “Now I understand what that passage means.”
Biblical expository teaching educates God’s people sequentially, which is God’s design for discipleship. Primarily, God’s people need to grow their understanding and experience of Jesus Christ through the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit intended. Biblical exposition covers all the required topics needed for the job of discipling believers to maturity and service, just as God intended.
Further reasons and benefits for expository preaching:
a) Expositional teaching seeks to deliver the Word of God in the same revelatory sequence and groupings of truths that God delivered them in the original Scriptures.
- Expositional teaching follows the Holy Spirit’s order of subjects.
- Expositional teaching recognises the contextual, grammatical, and subject boundaries.
- Expositional teaching recognises where and how the passage fits into the overall scheme of the book or letter, as well as Scripture as a whole.
- Expositional teaching best integrates truth with the human listening factor. That is, the Holy Spirit has maximum exposure through the scriptures, which He authored (2Pe 1:20-21), His work of conviction within the hearers is potentially maximised.
- Expositional teaching limits the human vulnerability of teachers having hobby-horses or pet subjects.
- Expositional teaching best provides for expositional listening and expositional prayer by the hearers.
b) Expositional teaching covers more themes and topics than if you relied on the preacher’s creativity for choosing topics or themes.
- By the design of God the Holy Spirit, He dictates the order (sequence) of truth to be learned by the hearers via the ebb and flow of biblical text.
- It also helps restrict the domineering people in a congregation from dictating the teaching schedule.
c) Expositional teaching submits the teacher to the sovereignty of God for the Holy Spirit’s work of applying His truth into the hearer’s lives.
- Expositional teaching best heightens a sense of dependence upon the Holy Spirit, rather than the preacher hoping that he chose the right topic for the occasion.
- It naturally takes the teacher and hearer alike on the Lord’s exploration of truth.
- It raises the hearer’s appreciation for the genius nature of Scripture, and the grace of God in giving it to His people.
- It accelerates the hearer’s exposure to consecutive truth, application, and accountability.
Expositional teaching considers the grammatical, historical, and geographical content, causing the Bible to become an exciting adventure as hearers increasingly discover God. The Bible comes alive, allowing the fascinating truth of God to speak for itself, from the text itself.
As the apostle Paul reminded Timothy; “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is this Word of God that saves, changes, and grows believers, not the preacher’s cleverness.