Why Do We Love Expository Preaching?

In reference on April 18, 2008 at 10:36 pm

A definition first from the 9Marks website:

Expositional Preaching – a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon

Kind of short but it gets the point across if you have never heard of expositional preaching. I would think most people are familiar with topical preaching, where the preacher picks a topic, loving your neighbor for example, and then finds supporting verses in the Bible that back up his argument. Expository preaching differs in that the preacher picks a text and then opens up the meaning of that text for the duration of the sermon. We have an early example of this in Nehemiah 8 when Ezra read through the Law from early morning until midday and gave sense to the reading so that the people could understand (verse 8). So topical preaching would answer the question what does God’s word have to say about xyz and expository preaching would answer the question what does God’s word say?


The pastor at my family’s church is difficult to categorize but he is typically textual (he begins with a text but that text is not always his main point). A few weeks back his Easter sermon (audio/video) was an exposition of Luke 24 (The road to Emmaus). I have heard so many people say how great a sermon it was over the past few weeks. It was a great sermon no doubt, but I suspect the reason for all the buzz is that we really love expository preaching and here’s why I think that:

  1. Not from man, but God – Nehemiah 8:8 said they read from the Law of God. When a preacher opens up a text his hearers know that they are hearing from God’s word and not just a topic. They know that for the next 30-60 minutes they will be hearing what God has to say.
  2. Digging down, not across – usually in a topical sermon, the preacher needs multiple references to make his point. You’ll typically bounce from place to place in the Bible without really dwelling on any one particular text. Expository preaching parks you on one text for the majority of the sermon, it says in Neh. 8:3 that they read from morning until midday, that’s a long time to be in the word. When the sermon is finished, you have spent all that time in one spot, pondering what God is saying and digging deeper into one text rather than skimming the surface of a few.
  3. Fellowship in the word – next time you’re listening to a sermon, listen for a phrase like “and then it says in verse 3…” and watch the congregation. You’ll see a wave of heads drop down in unison to look down at their Bibles and see what the next verse says. It’s a great sight. But the best part is knowing that you’re all reading the same text, struggling through it, questioning its meaning and application for your lives. Neh. 8:1 tells us that the people gathered as one man in the square to hear the reading of the word of God. They were unified in their desire to hear the word and later on (verse 17) they were unified in their application of it.
  4. Great worship results – after hearing the word, the people went away to eat, to drink, to celebrate a great festival because they understood the words which had been made known to them (verse 12). The word convicts, it pierces, it breaks down pride, it divides but it in the end it always brings about worship. The people mourned first (verse 9) but were soon brought to a place of thankfulness and joy in God. We thank God for His word and the wisdom and truth found in it.
  5. Application is given – in verse 14 it says they found written in the Law what they should do. When we spend time searching through a passage, the application of it to our lives is easily found. There is no question as to the application when it comes directly from the text and no outside source.

Topical and textual preaching are necessary for the growth of the body and have their place on Sunday mornings. Expository preaching has such an impact and lasting effect because of the length and breadth spent directly in God’s word, searching for its meaning and application for our lives.

I’d like to hear from you, do you prefer one type of preaching over another? Is it important one way or another? Would you add to my list of 5 reasons? Thanks!

John MacArthur‘s personal claim is that he is committed to expository preaching and is one of the finest expositors of God’s word today if you would like to hear more.

  1. Very interesting analysis.

    I know this isn’t the main point, but I wanted to give my two cents on our pastor. First, he’s one of the best teachers I’ve heard, and probably the best I’ve had a chance to sit under regularly. But I don’t think it’s his textual/expositional style that makes me like him.

    I like him because he 1.) Says what he’s going to say, 2.) Says it, repeatedly, developing it as he does so, but always pounding the same thing home, and then 3.) Says what he just said.

    It’s a very simple formula, but he does such a good job of it that it doesn’t seem formulaic.

  2. Good point Andrew.

    Probably a good time to point out a resource to Mike’s preaching for anyone that would like to hear more.

  3. […] on 1 Timothy 6 from Ed Nalle, Executive Pastor at Reston Bible Church. A good example from my previous post. […]

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