by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Having preached sermons for over forty years, I have tried the various sermonic forms and concluded that expository preaching is best. Why?
l) Expository preaching stays close to the revealed Truth. There is no other book like His Book. Therefore, to drift from it is to slide into relativism and personal opinions. To stay close to it is continually to come under its eternal light.
More and more, the revealed Truth is being sidelined for flash and fake. Cute and cunning are being substituted for it. Nevertheless, God never set out to communicate such cheap “gospel.” He was born and died to set before the mortal mind the divine mind. Therefore, to make a life-long expounding of that heavenly thought is the commission of every Christian pulpit.
2) Expository preaching opens up heavenly creativities that originate with the Holy Spirit Himself. To go week after week into the pastor’s study in an attempt to come up with one’s own imaginative lore and luck is to trudge into eventual boredom. Rightly so. We mere mortals simply do not have in ourselves what it takes continually to manufacture that which nurtures the eternal soul.
Therefore, we must be humble enough as preachers to admit that we need to come under the divine fire. It is that flame which ignites the energies to produce a sermon that can truly bring one’s hearers indeed into the Holy of Holies. It is that igniting from above which evidences an on-going Pentecost within the truly obedient.
3) Expository Bible preaching opens up spiritual nurturing theme upon theme, never to be discovered in any other literature. One inspired chapter after another overloads the earnest preacher with enough material to spin into numerous sermons each week. These truths abound, for they unfold the divine nature Himself.
To study the Scripture’s passages with fresh zeal at each sermonic preparation is to uncover treasures from above. These are what each generation must feed upon in order to find the daily strength to overcome the trials of our sojourn.
4) Expository preaching honors the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word. He is its Author. He is the One who superintended the Mystery. Therefore, the preacher approaches humbly that written Word in an attempt to pray for the incarnate Word to speak anew. With such petitions heavenward, the incarnate Word never disappoints. In fact, He stands at the preacher’s door and knocks.
The Holy Spirit will move the preacher’s human spirit, verse upon verse, unmasking concept upon concept, frequently rushing the preacher’s brain into such glad excitement as to stir his soul beyond measure. Such a privilege is given only to the studious pastor who gives his best to each sermon prepared and preached.
5) Expository preaching lifts the Word to laity who seldom read the Word for themselves. We wish it were otherwise; but even in the most biblical environs, the rush of today’s lifestyle truthfully leaves a biblically-illiterate people.
The stories of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul—how they need to be told and retold. The themes of redemption, hope, sanctification, heaven, and grace need to be laid continually before the waiting congregation. This is best carried out by preaching expositorily, jewel upon jewel upon jewel from heaven’s coffers.
6) Expository preaching grows the preacher himself. When the pastor spends more time in his secular reading than he does in the sacred reading, his pulpit and prayer closet show it. The leanness is not worth it in the end. In short order, the sensitive pastor realizes what is occurring, then hopefully flees back to the Book.
Living a lifetime with the Scriptures deepens the preacher’s own wells for divine understanding. More and more this secular age cries out for Christian pulpits who are mounted by men and women who truly know the timeless Truth which sets us all free. These preachers first know the Truth in their own experiences; then they relate its vitality to their hearers.
7) Expository preaching outlasts the sermon. Hearers take home the Word of God, not simply a current event or a tickling bit of humor or a flighty bit of zesty “wisdom.” Marinating in the sermonic themes from Scripture continues throughout the hearer’s day, hopefully throughout the next week until the next sermon is heard.
When the pastor opens the Word to expound upon it, verse by verse, theme by theme, the people hear, not so much from the human behind the pulpit, but from the Lord Himself. The ever-present Holy Spirit remains faithful to His own revelation. He then works far more meticulously within the souls of the hearers than any onlooker could ever detect—on Sunday and beyond.
8) Expository preaching brings excitement to the pastor himself in preparing and preaching the text. It is an adventure that weekly becomes especially alluring. There is a captivation about his work that is beyond description.
While other clerical labors may grow stale, expository preaching enlivens with its own magnetism. In other words, the preacher knows that he indeed has hold of something formed in the forever—it has come from “out there” and will return to the “out there.” Such timelessness converts the soul. It cleanses church life. It brings heaven down to earth.
Expository preaching reveals itself to be its own blessed reward.
Grant Swank pastors the New Hope Church, Windham ME, where he also teaches at-risk youths at an alternative learning school. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Copyright 2002 by the Chalcedon Foundation. Copied with permission from the online edition of the Chalcedon Report, Issue No. 447, December, 2002.