Expository Preaching

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 Sermons

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 discovered.


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 the Bible.


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,” notes Criswell.


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 studying.


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 good balance.


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 and study.


You may want to adjust your outline with two, three, or more main headings. That depends upon the passage and your style of preaching.


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.


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