It was December of 2008 when I began preaching through the book of Matthew, and now 18 months later, we find ourselves nearing the end of chapter 10. It has been a very nourishing study as we have worked our way through this gospel, closely examining the life and teachings of our Savior as recorded by Matthew.
There are many Christians in our churches today who honestly struggle with maintaining interest in such long sermon series through books of the Bible, and it certainly is not the norm in American churches to have such in-depth exposition of the biblical text. Some would say that such studies are tedious, that they lack excitement, that such sermons are not relevant today, and that we function in a media-driven culture that needs more variety, more pep, and more practical instruction delivered in a shorter, “devotional” manner.
There are many problems with this perspective, but here are two of the main ones. First, such contemporary notions are contrary to the model we are given in Scripture. The Word of God is powerful, living, and active (Heb 4:12), and preachers are called to faithfully preach the whole counsel of God and not succumb to tickling the ears of the masses (2 Tim 4:1-5). In Nehemiah 8, the Word of God was read and explained from early morning until midday (Neh 8:3), and the people gladly received it and responded with brokenness. Thus, Scripture does not support any idea of “softening” God’s clear teaching or of “shortening” people’s exposure to it. On the contrary, the early church delighted in gathering together “day by day” to sit under the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 2:42-47)
The second problem is that this method of preaching fails to accomplish the Great Commission. We are called to “make disciples of all nations,” and exchanging the pulpit for a brief group therapy session complete with entertaining sound-bytes fails to accomplish the goal. This kind of preaching has been prevalent in the American church for the past 5 decades, and the results speak for themselves: We have a drastic increase in unregenerate church membership, a stark decline in evangelism and cultural engagement with the gospel, an ever-growing biblical (and doctrinal) illiteracy among professed believers, and the radical onslaught of moral and theological liberalism in all denominations. According to the biblical standard, failing to faithfully preach and teach the whole counsel of God’s Word is the most cruel and unloving thing a shepherd can do to his congregation.
Thus, I preach expository sermons through entire books of the Bible because I love God and because I love you, my dear church family. I never want to be found guilty of withholding from you the nourishing meat of God’s Word which grows us, challenges us, equips us, corrects us, and ultimately brings us into conformity to the Person of Christ. If we ever find such studies too heavy or too boring, then we must check our own hearts, for we have allowed to the world to define our priorities rather than fostering appetites that only God can satisfy. Expository preaching is the best avenue for developing and satisfying such appetites. In fact, here are some specific benefits of it.
First, expository preaching holds the preacher to the text. If the preacher is truly practicing expository preaching, the sum and substance of his message is tied to a text that he has studied intricately and meditated upon carefully.
Second, and along the same lines, it gives the preacher greater familiarity with the text because he is forced to “mine” the text for all the precious jewels of truth. As a side-note, the preacher who preaches through books also doesn’t have to scramble each week to figure out what his next sermon will be – his next sermon will be from the very next passage.
Third, it familiarizes Christians with the Bible and with biblical doctrine better than any other form of preaching. By closely examining and understanding a text in light of it’s context and history and construction, believers learn to cherish God’s truth as they grow a greater knowledge of the Bible and its meaning. They also learn how to do in-depth study themselves.
Fourth, expository preaching allows all the truth of scripture to be treated. When you preach in this fashion, it is very noticeable and detrimental if difficult texts are skipped over. Thus, it forces the preacher and the congregation to wrestle with and understand all the truths of Scripture, even the doctrinally hard ones. Furthermore, Scripture is very practical and relevant to life today, and working our way through all of God’s revelation causes us to bring His truth to bear on every practical issue of life, not just the “pet” issues of the cultural moment.
Finally, expository preaching carries more authority because it allows God to speak. Christian preaching is eternal truth mediated through a human personality, but the text (and thus God Himself) must stand as the authority that informs, directs, and expresses itself (Himself) through the thoughts and tongues of men. When we make the agendas and insights of men the chief starting point and main substance of our sermons, God’s authority is veiled and the church is weakened.
These are all the main reasons why Morningview’s pulpit is an expository pulpit, and I personally thank you for being a congregation that joins me in a love for God and His Word!