What is Expository Preaching?
(taken from Got Questions.org)
Answer: Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose— the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.
As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching and textual preaching. To prepare a topical sermon, the preacher starts with a topic and then finds a passage in the Bible that addresses that topic. For example, for the chosen topic of “Laziness,” the preacher might refer to Proverbs 15:19 and 18:9 and touch on Romans 12:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. None of the passages is studied in depth; instead, each is used to support the theme of laziness.
In a textual sermon, the preacher uses a particular text to make a point without examining the original intent of that text. For example, someone could use Isaiah 66:7-13 to preach on motherhood, although motherhood is only peripheral in that text, being merely an illustration of the true theme, which is the restoration of Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.
In both topical and textual sermons, the Bible passage is used as support material for the topic. In expository sermons, the Bible passage is the topic, and support materials are used to explain and clarify it.
To prepare an expository sermon, the preacher starts with a passage of Scripture and then studies the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of that passage in order to understand the author’s intent. In other words, the expositor is also an exegete—one who analyzes the text carefully and objectively. (See our article “What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?”) Once the preacher understands the meaning of the passage, he then crafts a sermon to explain and apply it. The result is expository preaching.
G. Campbell Morgan, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel and known as “the prince of expositors,” 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.
While exposition is not the only valid mode of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain sense of the Bible. Expositors usually approach Scripture with these assumptions:
1) The Bible is God’s Word. If every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6; 19:9; 119:140), then every word deserves to be examined and understood.
2) Men need divine wisdom in order to understand the Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
3) The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly, apart from personal bias.
4) The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from his hearers.
An expositor cares little if his audience says, “What a great sermon” or “What an entertaining speaker.” What he truly wants them to say is, “Now I know what that passage means,” or “I better understand who God is and what He requires of me.”
Here are a few more definitions:
John MacArthur: The message finds its sole source in Scripture. The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis. The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context. The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture. The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today.
Bryan Chappell: The main idea of an expository sermon the topic, the divisions of that idea, main points, and the development of those divisions, all come from truths the text itself contains. No significant portions of the text is ignored. In other words, expositors willingly stay within the boundaries of the text and do not leave until they have surveyed its entirety with its hearers.
John Stott: Exposition refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor opens what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed.
Alistair Begg: Unfolding the text of Scripture in such a way that makes contact with the listeners world while exalting Christ and confronting them with the need for action.
Haddon Robinson: The communication of a biblical concept derived from and transmitted through a historical-grammatical and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher then through him to hearers.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire and that the chief end of preaching is to give men and women a sense of God and his presence.
David Helm: Expositional preaching is empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.
John Piper: Expository exultation.
Albert Mohler: 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 issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text.
Mark Dever: Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.
Tim Keller– Expository preaching grounds the message in the text so that all the sermon’s points are the points in the text, and it majors in the texts’s major ideas. It aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible (being sensitive to systematic theology). And it always situates the passage within the Bible’s narrative, showing how Christ is the final fulfillment of the text’s theme (being sensitive to biblical theology).
(article from Gospel Coalation)