by Wil Pounds
The greatest contribution a pastor can make is
consistent Biblical preaching.
The proclamation of God’s Word is His chosen method of
dealing with men.
What I am here pleading is for a return to the
preaching of the Bible itself. That is the preacher’s divine assignment.
Does God have anything to say? What does God say?
Define Exposition of God’s Word
The most effective Biblical preaching is expository
preaching because it confronts modern man with God’s truth. It comes
entirely from the Scriptures.
In expository preaching the preacher examines the
grammatical, historical context of the passage of Scripture. You cannot be
lazy in the study and do effective Biblical preaching.
This kind of Biblical preaching derives its content
from the Scripture directly. It seeks to discover the divinely intended
meaning to those who first received it, and it seeks to apply its teaching
to those who seek its guidance in life today.
If you want an academic definition: Expository
preaching is “the presentation of biblical truth, derived from a transmitted
thought, a historical, grammatical, spirit-guided study of a passage in its
context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and
then through him to his congregation” (unknown).
Saturate Yourself in Preparation of
The most enjoyable part of Biblical preaching, apart
from the preaching event, is the preparation for preaching. The effective
Biblical preacher saturates himself in God’s Word and prayer.
Prayer is an essential part of the preparation of the
effective sermon. With a prayerful spirit, the student yields his mind and
heart to the Holy Spirit to illumine his mind, convict his heart, and guide
him. It is as much preparing himself spiritually with the Word of God as it
is in having something to preach Sunday morning.
Every preacher of expository sermons finds himself on
his knees with his Bible in hand confessing sins, appropriating some great
spiritual principle, pleading with God over great promises he has
Expository preaching is like a diver in a rich area of
the sea who dives in and comes up with hands full of beautiful pearls. Each
time he comes up he fully realizes there is an infinite quantity of more to
discover from where he has come.
The Holy Spirit applies the passage of Scripture to the
preacher long before He applies it to the congregation through the preacher.
Choose a Bible book
Let the Holy Spirit lead you in the choice of a book in
I am convinced the best ministry comes when a book of
the Bible is preached through from its beginning to the end. This was the
manner of W. A. Criswell, Ray Stedman, Chuck Swindoll, D. M. Lloyd-Jones, J.
Vernon McGee, Richard Halverson, G. Campbell Morgan, Alexander Maclaren,
James Montgomery Boice, Stephen F. Olford, John R. W. Stott, Harry Ironside,
and many more effective preachers.
Choose a book of the Bible. It is ok if it has some of
your favorite passages. This way you will be forced to deal with some of the
more difficult passages as well. One of the great advantages is it helps
keep the great Bible doctrines in balance in your preaching ministry. This
way we declare the “whole counsel of God.”
W. A. Criswell said, “There is so much to preach, and
so much God has said that I am afraid I am going to die before I have
delivered the messages that I see in God’s Book.”
The great advantage for the preacher is, “When the
preacher is expounding a Bible book, this text is automatically stated. All
he need do is find out what the text says and what it means to us today,”
Read – Read – Read
Read the chosen book of the Bible over and over again.
This is the most enjoyable part of Biblical preaching. Read the Book! Read,
read, read, and read it again.
G. Campbell Morgan’s own standard was to read a book of
the Bible fifty times before he began to pick up another book on the
subject, or a pen to write in preparation of his sermon.
He was a man who never knew what it meant not to feel
the need to know more. And you can see that freshness in his preaching.
Trust your Bible to produce results.
Fresh preaching comes from long hours of reading and
Read the book through several times in various
translations. This will help you to get a feel for the author and how the
Holy Spirit led him to write as he did. It helps to begin creating an
overall outline of the book that will later guide you in the preaching of
the book. Note the major changes in the subjects.
You will begin to love the Bible with a devotion born
of intimate knowledge. Your love for God and His Word will grow over time.
Morgan, the prince of English exposition, called this
“the telescopic—the taking in of large areas at one view, in order to see
the relation of part to part and system to system.”
He described it as “the result of a serious and honest
attempt to grasp the general movement and consequent content of each book by
the reading of that book without any aid other than that of the actual work
of the writer, the unhindered by the usual division of the book into
chapters and verses” (The Analyzed Bible).
Select a paragraph
Choose a short enough passage with a single theme for a
sermon. Make a choice that will easily fit into the allotted time you have
for the sermon.
In the preparation of your sermon, bring to bear all of
your understanding to the passage of Scripture. Study it in Hebrew and Greek
if you have these skills. If not, use an excellent English translation and
compare it with various other translations.
Outline the passage of Scripture
I find it helpful to get a large sheet of paper. Even
plain white butcher wrapping paper on rolls is great. Tear off a large piece
and begin brain mapping the passage. Look for the key words, main clauses,
and phrases. Jot them down. As you study the passage of Scripture, look for
how different words and ideas fit together. Circle the major ideas. Draw
arrows to linking words and write down other words that develop those main
ideas. Search your cross-reference on the passage as you read. Add these to
your worksheet. This is a fun time as you see before your eyes how it
develops. I often find from this exercise I get my main outline of the
passage, and the sermon develops before me. It is simply the flow of the
passage of Scripture I am seeking.
I find that illustrations and practical applications
come to mind as I see the passage before me.
From the rough diagram you have sketched out in front
of you on the large sheet of paper, you can gather up your ideas and put
them in an organized form.
This outlining helps to develop a detailed exegetical
outline of the passage. It helps to put the textual truth into your own
words, yet be consistent with the author of the passage of Scripture. This
helps to maintain clarity and faithfulness to the Biblical text.
Select commentaries, dictionaries and sermons
Only after I have thoroughly studied the Scripture and
outlined it do I turn to other valuable resources.
Read everything you can find on this subject. Use Bible
encyclopedias such as International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE),
Bible dictionaries, sermons by great expositors, commentaries, etc.
Everything you read is grist for the preacher’s mill.
This additional reading helps to check to make sure our
understanding is correct and consistent with historical, evangelical
Biblical theology. It helps to ensure we are not headed off in the wrong
direction or off on a theological tangent.
The Bible studies and expository sermons on Abide in
Christ are the personal study notes that have come out of sermon
preparation. I take only a bare outline into the pulpit.
Campbell Morgan said, “Prepare as if everything depends
upon you. Preach as if everything depends upon the Holy Spirit.” That is a
Final preparation for preaching
Ask the Holy Spirit to form in your soul the message
that He wants you to preach. He will not fail you in this matter. The
message you will preach will form in your heart as you pray over God’s Word
You may want to adjust your outline with two, three, or
more main headings. That depends upon the passage and your style of
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you drive home the final
appeal as you write down your main points and sub points.
In the delivery of your message, always drive toward
the final appeal of the passage of Scripture. The Spirit will work with, in
and through you.
Be faithful in the expounding of the Word of God, and
He will bring the blessing in your personal life and your ministry.
Preach it to yourself. I find it helpful to get off by
myself and run it through my mind.
It has been said many times the best sermons are from
preachers who write out their sermons. This forces you to polish your
sentences and the choice of words you use.
Added freshness in preaching
The great secret of G. Campbell Morgan’s freshness to
his preaching was simply another hour or more in additional preparation of
the theme or passage of Scripture that he had already spent many hours of
reading and studying. No matter how many times he addressed a passage in the
Bible, it was always fresh and new everytime.
The exacting work of expository preaching calls for
deliberate and systematic hard work.
Never lose sight of the one thing—preaching the Word.
“This one thing I do”—I must preach His Word.
A man alone with God is a man of the Word.
Wil Pounds (c) 2005. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the
author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American
Standard Bible (c) 1973, 1995 Update, The Lockman Foundation.