7 Reasons in Support of Consecutive Exposition of the Scripture

By Clint Arnold Sep. 7, 2011 11:32 a.m. Biblical Exposition, New Testament, Old Testament

Consecutive expository preaching entails preaching through whole books of Scripture passage-by-passage.  In recent years, more and more pastors are moving away from this kind of expository preaching.  Some people complain that it is boring, lacks relevance, and is not sufficiently application driven.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  There are some very good reasons for maintaining (or adopting) consecutive expository preaching as the principal manner of preaching in your church.  Here are seven.

        1.  It is the best way to feed the sheep a balanced diet.   This method enables you to work through large portions of Scripture that cover a vast array of theological and ethical topics.  I am convinced that authentic Christians are hungry for this kind of preaching—preaching that helps them gain a better understanding of their Bibles and regularly challenges them on what they believe and how they behave.

        2.  It enables you to treat hard topics without being second-guessed.  Because the Scripture treats the hard topics in many places, you can preach and admonish your congregation without them wondering why you have chosen to address them on that topic.  For instance, if your sermon covers the issues of sexual immorality and adultery, the congregation doesn’t need to wonder whose marriages may be falling apart in the church.  It also forces you as a preacher of God’s word out of the “safety” of only dealing with “comfortable” topics.  This method let’s God’s word speak to all issues.

        3.  It helps to insure that you preach the Scripture and not yourself.  It is tempting for a preacher only to preach on familiar and “pet” topics.  We all have areas of interest that we have invested a great deal of time in and have passion about.  It takes a lot of work to prepare in many other areas, but it is the most healthy and well-balanced approach.  In a similar way, it is easy for a pastor to put together topical messages that are more rooted in one’s own ideas and understandings than on the basis of Scripture.  Staying rooted in one passage helps to increase the likelihood that the people will hear from God rather than from you.  In short, this method helps to let God set the agenda, not you.

        4.  It doesn’t have to be boring and lacking in relevance.  This criticism of expository preaching, in my estimation, is more of a criticism of an individual preacher and not a critique of the method. 

        5.  Expository preaching is and should be application oriented.  Perhaps expository preaching hasn’t been sufficiently application oriented in the past as it has been represented by a variety of preachers.  I think it should be very application oriented.  This is in the very nature of the nature of the incarnation and the Scriptures themselves.  Ample time should be given throughout the sermon (not just at the end) for drawing out the legitimate implications of the text for faith and practice in a practical and relevant way.

        6.  Expository preaching models how to read Scripture in context.  One of the dangers of some other approaches to preaching is that it models a “grasshopper” approach to the text—finding a verse here and there all over the Bible.   If the texts are properly interpreted, that may be OK.  But there is a distinct danger insofar as it models a “prooftexting” approach to Scripture.  Expository preaching, on the other hand, develops an understanding of a passage in its larger book context within the Scripture and draws out the social-historical background of the passage.

        7.  There is a long history of this kind of preaching in the church—with great impact!  Read up on the role of expository preaching in the ministries of people like John Chrysostom, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin.  And more recently, look at the ministries of leaders like J. Vernon McGee, Charles Swindoll, Kent Hughes, John Stott, Richard Bewes, and many more.

Comments

  • Ernest Chu Sep. 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    I think I've seen this in my Intro to Exegesis coursepack!

  • Joe Hellerman Sep. 7, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    ...'cause it belongs in an exegesis coursepack!

    Great post, Clint.

    :)

  • John Dunne Sep. 7, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Good stuff, Dr. Arnold. I really appreciate this!

  • Joe Brown Sep. 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm on Chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes. blehhhh.... I mean, Yay!

  • Aslan Sep. 7, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Dr, Arnold, thanks for these reasons for rescues biblical exposition.

  • Robert Sep. 8, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Good list! I hadn't considered #2 before. While I tend to alternate between topical and expository sermons it is a good reminder about the importance of the latter.

  • Randal Kay Sep. 8, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Amen!

    Scripture is neither irrelevant or lacking of personal application. But, I sure have heard some pastors who are! ;o)

    The problem is not with Scripture but how we handle it. If there's work to be done, it's not in making God's perfect Word "practical and relevant" the work is to be done in me.

  • Steve Sep. 8, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Great article. The only point I would add is:
    Expository preaching, done well, comes with the Authority of God.

    I hear too many preachers say--"I want to share with you something that God has "put in my heart." They then proceed to use a text or texts to convey their ownsubjective thoughts and agenda. For me, I want to hear preaching that has a "thus saith the Lord" authority to it.

  • Clint Arnold Sep. 8, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Excellent point, Steve. It should be at the top of the list.

  • John Goodrich Sep. 11, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    I believe there is also the added practical benefit of saving time. In the past, I have wasted many precious hours simply trying to decide what to preach on, often changing my mind numerous times late in the week. But consecutive exposition spares the preacher the hassle of finding the "perfect text" for that week and even second guessing one's initial decision. And related to #6, it saves the preacher time in the study, for the historical-cultural and literary contexts of a passage are not being studied for the first time. Rather, the preacher's knowledge of the text and context build on the studies of the previous weeks. Life and ministry are busy enough. Consecutive exposition, I believe, makes for good time management.

  • Richard Zuelch Sep. 12, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    It's interesting that Charles Spurgeon was completely against consecutive expository preaching (although I've never read his reasons. One reason might be that he thought of himself primarily as an evangelist.) In the set called "Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia" there are nearly 700 sermons from 57 books of the Bible (I know - I've read them all). In his sermons, he'll use his text as a springboard to preach on the theology that comes from the passage, with a great deal of application. With him, you might not get a full explanation of the text, but you will probably (Spurgeon, like all preachers, had his good Sundays and bad Sundays) get a pretty good dose of theology.

    I, too, believe in consecutive exposition. I just think it's interesting that the most famous preacher of modern times did not.

  • Craig Sep. 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Would you differentiate between expository and exegetical preaching? If so, how?

  • Steve Jul. 9, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    “Expository preaching is the 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. 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 world view of the church as the people of God.” Taken from He is Not Silent, By Al Mohler

  • Ken Wiens Nov. 23, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    I fully concur, Dr. Arnold! While I was reading your blog I was thinking of expository preachers I have heard in person like Dr. Swindoll and J. Vernon Mcgee. My wife and I went to the church Swindoll was pastor of in Fullerton while I was attending Talbot.

    Keep up the excellent blogs! I learn a lot from them. I often think back on our years as students at Talbot. I remember sitting next to you in advanced Greek class.

  • Christopher Scott Jan. 14, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    Thanks for sharing this post. Our pastor used to teach passage-by-passage through Scripture, but now has shifted to teaching "series." For me personally (maybe I am the minority) I found exposition teaching easier to follow because there was always a passage the message was centered around. In the "topical series" sermons I find myself getting lost because I don't know where we are or where we are going. In my opinion exposition through Scripture is best.

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