Why I Preach Through Books of the Bible

Phil Newton: I had a conversation with a minister friend who had been involved in discussing what pastors were preaching in their churches. While most seemed to agree that exposition of the biblical text must have priority in the church, few thought it wise to preach consecutively through books of the Bible—particularly with series that extended beyond twelve weeks. I understand the challenge of longer series but also see the value in the long run. The forty-four sermons that I preached through Ephesians in 1990–91, literally transformed my life, theology, and congregation. Eight or ten sermons would not have sufficed to uproot faulty theology and set us on a right course. The fifty-two sermons in Hebrews in 2000–01, sharpened our understanding of the gospel and its application to the whole of life. What would you say had you been involved in the discussion? Here are a few thoughts that I’ve ruminated on since that conversation: (1) Pastors have the responsibility

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What is expository preaching?

Erik Raymond: I can think of five different but equally interesting conversations over the last couple of years where I’ve discussed expository preaching. They were interesting because those I talked with had such different understanding of what exposition is. This is one of the byproducts stemming from the rise in the popularity of exposition; people hear a lot about it but don’t necessarily know a lot about it. For example, people characterize expository preaching as a running commentary. Others label it out-of-touch doctrinal preaching fit for the ivory tower. Still others think of it as a launching point for systematic theology (whether or not it’s in the text). So, what exactly is expository preaching? I have culled a sampling of definitions from some prominent authors who define exposition in their books on preaching. Although the list has a variety of definitions, I trust you will see many common themes emphasized here. John MacArthur: The message finds its sole source in Scripture.

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The Priority of Preaching the Word

Steven Lawson: Understanding the fiery preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones requires an apprehension of the exceedingly high view he possessed of preaching. He believed that the chief business of the church is what Paul charged Timothy with his dying words, to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preaching must come first in the life of the church before anything else can find its rightful place. With compelling clarity, he stated, “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Nothing, he maintained, must ever supplant the primacy of biblical preaching in the pulpit. The Doctor believed everything in the life of the church is defined and directed by the proclamation of the Scripture. Through the many challenges Lloyd-Jones faced, the public exposition of Scripture consistently occupied the central place in his ministry in Wales and London. In his estimation, the pulpit held the chief place in his ministry, and it was here

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The necessity of expository preaching

  Derek Thomas: According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become. One such rule, put succinctly in English prose that now sounds dated, but which is as needful now as when it was first penned, comes from the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, written in 1645 by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. When raising a point from the text, the directory says, preachers are to ensure that “it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence.” In other words, preaching must enable those who hear it to understand their Bibles. In laying down this principle, the divines were following the first book on homiletics to

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Biblical theology and expository preaching

Gavin Ortlund: How does a preacher “know nothing but Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) when preaching through Leviticus or Lamentations? What does it mean to be “gospel-centered” when you’re leading a Bible study on the locusts of Joel, or the false teachers of Jude? We all want to be Christ-centered in our teaching and preaching. But it’s not always obvious how each particular text of Scripture gets us to Christ. One of the most helpful tools for connecting the dots—and simultaneously one of the most neglected—is biblical theology, which (in evangelical circles) refers to the art of reading thematically across the entire Bible as one story. To learn more about biblical theology, and its relevance for expository preaching, I corresponded with Graeme Goldsworthy, former lecturer at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, and author of numerous helpful books on biblical theology, including Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Eerdmans, 2000) and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and

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Preaching As Expository Exultation

Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application. And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God. The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and

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Preaching today?

Ray Ortlund: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best — An all-out effort measured by who you are, not by who you are not and can never be.  But by God’s grace you can do your best with who you are. to present yourself — He may put you before masses, or he may put you before a few.  But you are available to him for whatever role he thinks is most strategic for the redemption of the world in your generation.  You are “ready for every good work” (verse 21). to God — Not to people, primarily, but to God, who knows quality work when he sees it. as one approved — By God’s standards, which will wonderfully satisfy your own conscience, though your divinely approved work will inevitably dissatisfy some people. a worker

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Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Ray Ortlund: “My wife always says the most important thing about the man as a preacher was, you didn’t notice him.  He came quietly into the pulpit, started quietly, and then something seemed to happen, and then you became absorbed in what he was saying. . . . ‘We beseech you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Spirit-filled preaching — the preacher is in the background.  And something happens.  The worshiper, by the grace of God, is being spoken to by God and by the Word of God.  So Lloyd-Jones would often say, the difference between talking about Christ and preaching Christ, or talking about the gospel and actually preaching the gospel.  It’s a comparatively easy thing to talk about the gospel, but to really preach it is another thing. . . . So many preachers have to start their sermon with a nice little anecdote or something interesting, to catch people’s attention.  That is

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Avoiding Legalism and License in Preaching

Kevin DeYoung: Wise words from John Witherspoon’s farewell sermon in Paisley, the bustling Scotland town the famous Kirk minister left for America in May 1768: If you preach the free forgiveness of sin through Christ, without at the same time showing the necessity of regeneration and sanctification by his Spirit, it will either not be embraced at all, or it will be turned into licentiousness. And if you preach the duties of the law, without at the same time displaying the grace of the gospel and the vital influence that flows from the head to the members, you will either build up men in a destructive system of Pharisaical religion and self-righteousness, or bring them under the Egyptian bondage of making brick through they are not furnished with straw. The privileges and duties of the gospel stand in an inseparable connection; if you take away the first you starve and mortify the last. (“Ministerial Fidelity in Declaring the Whole Counsel

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We are what we love

Tim Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (releases June 9), pages 159–160: What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God. What makes people into what they are is the order of their loves — what they love most, more, less, and least. That is more fundamental to who you are than even the beliefs to which you mentally subscribe. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do. People, therefore, change not by merely changing their thinking but by changing what they love most. … So the goal of the sermon cannot be merely to make the truth clear and understandable to the mind, but must also be to make it gripping and real to the heart. Change happens not just by giving

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Never Offer the Benefits of the Gospel Without the Benefactor Himself

Sinclair Ferguson, in Feed My Sheep: There is a center to the Bible and its message of grace. It is found in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Grace, therefore, must be preached in a way that is centered and focused on Jesus Christ Himself. We must never offer the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself. For many preachers, however, it is much easier to deal with the pragmatic things, to answer “how to” questions, and even to expose and denounce sin than it is to give an adequate explanation of the source of the forgiveness, acceptance, and power we need. It is a disheartening fact that evangelical Christians, who write vast numbers of Christian books, preach abundant sermons, sponsor numerous conferences and seminars, and broadcast myriad TV and radio programs actually write few books, preach few sermons, sponsor few conferences or seminars, and devote few programs to the theme of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We give our best and

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What the greatest preachers recognize

“Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful word. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, “This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!” Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.” — Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (p. 82). (HT:

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Preachers, Keep A Close Watch On Your Life and Illustrations

Jared Wilson: Sermon illustrations. They can make or break your message, or so we’re told. In my time at Docent Research Group, working as a pastoral research assistant, I remember the high premium put on killer illustrations. One client I worked for only wanted sermon illustrations, pages and pages of them, no exegesis, no reference excerpts. I think over the course of several months, having filed numerous research briefs full of newspaper clippings, movie ancedotes, literary references, assorted fragments of pop culture detritus, and even some original creative stories, he eventually used one illustration that came from the briefs. We all know a good illustration when we hear one in a sermon. But I for one think sermon illustrations are way overrated. Yep, I said it. I think too much emphasis is put on illustrations in how we train preachers and in too many actual sermons. You shouldn’t trust your illustration to do what only God’s word can. And that’s

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Protect Your Church in One Simple Step

Tim Challies: A few days ago I tried to demonstrate how a church self-destructs. There is a sad progression that begins with the people growing weary and ashamed of truth. No longer able or willing to endure sound teaching, they get rid of the truth-tellers and accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Inevitably, they soon turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. All of this is laid out in chapter four of 2 Timothy. In the face of this kind of assault, Paul juxtaposes the simplest solution: Preach. It’s as simple as that one step, that one commitment. The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God. The healthy church is the preaching church. Here, as I see it in 2 Timothy 4:2, are Paul’s specific instruction for the kind of preaching that glorifies God and protects the church. Preach Expositorily It is

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Seven Qualities of Expository Preaching

By Wayne McDill: Among evangelicals, the term expository preaching has come to stand for authentic biblical preaching. However, exactly what constitutes expository preaching varies from writer to writer and preacher to preacher. I have talked with preachers who described themselves as “expositors,” and I believed them until I heard them preach. For many, exposition seems to mean taking a text and preaching on the subject the passage seems to address. For others exposition means defining some of the words in the text. For others expository preaching seems to mean giving a history lesson on a text with most of the sermon in the past tense. The word exposition is from the Latin, expositio, meaning “a setting forth, narration, or display.” As applied to preaching, the word has come to mean the setting forth or explanation of the message of the biblical text. In expository preaching the sermon is designed to communicate what the text says, including its meaning for the contemporary

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