4 Ingredients of an Expository Sermon, Pt 2
Yesterday in Part 1 we taste-tested the first two ingredients of an expository sermon.
1. Source of the Content
2. Source of the Structure
Let’s forge ahead to the last two ingredients…
3. Consecutiveness of the Passages
There is undoubtedly much value in being committed to preaching consecutively through a book of the Bible. When committed to preaching consecutively it guards the expositor against the tendency to emphasize the passages that say what he already believes and avoid those that disagree with what may challenge his established beliefs.
Consecutive preaching also guards the preacher from the accusation that he is targeting an individual or group by selecting what they are involved in to preach against.
Consecutive preaching encourages the exposition of the whole counsel of God, and teaches by example the congregation to read and study the Scriptures as a coherent volume, rather than random sayings out of context. That said, it is not a disqualifying factor when sermons are preached out of sequence.
Topical sermons can be expository. If an individual sermon is drawing its content from the text, and is faithful to the biblical teaching on the topic, it can be expository, especially if a preacher is limited to address a group only once or few times (such as at a church camp). But it is self-evident that if a preacher is privileged to address the same congregation for many weeks in a row, consecutive preaching is superior to random topics.
4. Length of Text
The length of the text may in itself prove to be a disqualifying aspect for the would-be expository sermon. If, for example, the text chosen were one, out of context, verse, or a part of averse, or a phrase, or even a word, then the sermon—though biblical—may fall horribly short of being the intent of the author.
Walter Kaiser insists that
“An expository sermon or lesson is one that takes a minimum of a full paragraph (a scene in a narrative or a strophe in poetry) and allows the biblical text to supply both the shape and the content of the message or lesson from the text itself…words belong to sentences, and sentences usually belong to paragraphs, scenes, strophes, or larger nits within the grammar of a genre. This is why I urge that a good expositional sermon never takes less than a full paragraph.”
Many of Charles Spurgeon’ssermons would undoubtedly fail this test. He was prone to pontificate on single catch-phrases with great eloquence and even being faithful to theological and biblical truth, but not much warrant to do so, according to Kaiser’s requirement.
So a sermon is not rightly called expository if it merely pays lip-service to the biblical text. Nor if it uses texts to “prove” the message being preached. It can only rightly be called expository if the message preached comes from the text and can be demonstrably proven to not deviate from the content implied by the original author.
Of all the definitions considered, the one that rings most true to me is Albert Mohler’s:
Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of present in the biblical text. As the word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and the message of the biblical text and makes clear how the word of God established the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God.
One final caveat. A preacher’s ministry can be considered expository if the staple diet of his sermons meet the standard. He may, at times need to address a topical issue, deal with a pressing concern of his people, or share a burden on his heart.
These messages may color outside of the expository lines, but they are part of a shepherd’s tools for tending to the flock.
Just like eating junk food is fine when it is the rare exception to a rule of a healthy diet, the occasional departure from exposition per se, should not disqualify an entire ministry from being characterized as “expository.” What is concerning is when every week is a an exception, and becomes the rule.
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 Walter Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church, (Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker, 2008), 49.
- To Preach, To Really Preach by Jesse Johnson (thecripplegate.com)
- Expository Sermons, ten steps for sermon preparation (compasschurchamman.wordpress.com)
- Eco-Preaching: Recycled Sermons Must Be Refreshed (biblicalpreaching.net)