“And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” Acts 8:30-31a
Over the years there has been much debate about the significance of expository preaching. Many Christians, especially pastors and elders, fail to realize the need for expository preaching, and instead preach utilizing much of their own ideas and philosophies. I firmly believe the failure to preach God’s exact words and explain His intent behind them is the reason that the church today is weak and susceptible to many forms of heresy. What man has to say no matter how clever or logical it might seem, cannot save souls; only God can, and He accomplishes that only through the preaching and teaching of His word. (1 Cor. 3:6-7, Rom. 10:14). James warns aspiring teachers, because they will incur a stricter judgment because of what they say. (Jas. 3:1). In this article, I provide Scriptural proof, not only that expository preaching can provide growth to a believer, but that is vital for salvation.
No longer does God speak directly to man, as He once did in the Old Testament. In the New Testament His Son Jesus Christ once physically walked among the people, but does so no longer because He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of His Father. (Heb. 1:1, Col. 3:1). Therefore, we do not have the privilege of hearing Him teach or witness Him perform healings, exorcisms, or resuscitation’s. However, today we are bountifully blessed to have the sacred Bible, God’s special revelation. It is comprised of sixty-six individual books and was written by forty divinely inspired authors. The Bible is God’s own words that we conveniently can read, preach, and teach from both, the Old and New Testaments; from the commencement to the consummation of the human existence. God, through the Holy Spirit inspired men to document His actions and interactions with mankind past, present, and future. (2 Pet. 1:21, Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Furthermore, God sent the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct, and guide us, not only in fear and holiness, but to proclaim Jesus Christ to others, so that they might believe and obtain eternal life (Jn. 14:26, 15:26). God’s chosen methods of communicating with mankind in the past were indeed incredible, but I believe currently having the Bible is even better! Yes, that is correct, I sanely wrote, even better. Allow me to explain. We are blessed to be privy to God’s entire revelation, of the events which occurred in both Testaments. That includes the revealing of the once-veiled “mystery”. And that mystery is Jesus Christ, His Gospel, the inception of His church; His crucifixion, resurrection, appearance, and His second coming. (Rom. 16:25, Eph. 3:3-9, 6:18-20, Col. 1:26-28, 1 Tim. 3:16, Matt. 16:18, Matt. 27:35, Mk. 15:25, Lk. 24:20, Jn. 19:18, 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 1 Th. 2:19, 1 Th. 4:13-18). In the Old Testament, God spoke of the coming Savior of mankind. In the New Testament that Savior came in the person of Jesus Christ, but most people did not believe in Him. However, in the future He will come again, and this time the whole world will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11).
Furthermore, There is a myriad of uses for the multi-faceted Bible: we can study it, analyze it, compare it, cross-reference it, meditate on it, sing it, pray it, rejoice in it; glean its wisdom, instruction, guidance, warnings, comfort, and peace. We also can rely on its authenticity, inerrancy, perspicuity, sufficiency, infallibility, and we can learn from past examples of disobedience. And we can also learn from those who obeyed , for God commands obedience to His word. Therefore, to study and learn the Bible, and then to exposit it’s truths to others, is vital for present day Christianity.
With that said, let us examine a few passages and deduce how expositing the Scriptures of the Bible transformed people’s lives. But first, I need to define the word “exposition”. According to the Random House Dictionary, “exposition” is; (4)The act of expounding, setting forth, explaining. Writing or speech primarily intended to convey information or to explain. When defining biblical exposition, Dr. John Stott, has provided a very thorough definition, he states; (1) “To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor pry’s open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed…It could be a verse or a paragraph, or a chapter, or a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it.” In other words, biblical exposition is to thoroughly explain the meaning of a passage of Scripture. Dr. Steve Lawson asseverated his position on expository preaching; (2) “There is not a greater calling under heaven, then one who has been called to preach God’s word.” He goes on to state; (3) “There is only one true form of preaching, and that is expository preaching.” Dr. Lawson’s statement was indeed rather strong, but we can glean from it, how firmly he believes in the exposition of God’s word. Bible exposition has been the method of preaching by many sound men for centuries, especially during the Protestant Reformation, when biblical exposition was passionately heralded. For centuries prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church deliberately kept the true meaning of the Bible from the peoples knowledge. They accomplished this, by shrouding their homilies in Latin, a foreign language to the people, so they had no idea what was being told to them. When the Reformation began, Bible exposition was the prominent method of preaching and most Reformers preached the Bible with zeal! So God’s word was made available to people and in a language they could understand. Great men such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, to name a few, firmly believed that Bible exposition was the only way to preach God’s word. Legend has it, that when John Calvin was ejected from His hometown of Geneva, France, in 1538, he was expositing through the book of Galatians. Three years later, when he was invited back to Geneva to preach, he resumed from the very next verse he left off!
In the Old Testament, the scribe and priest Ezra, read from a scroll containing the Law of God, to the large assembly of people, after they returned to Jerusalem from a seventy year Babylon captivity: “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel…” And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. (Neh. 8:1, 8-9–emphasis added). Interestingly, upon hearing the word of God read and explained (exposited), the people collectively exclaimed, “Amen Amen!”; lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD. (Neh. 8:6).
In the New Testament, a disciple of the Lord, Phillip, was commanded by the Holy Spirit, to go and join a eunuch who was traveling by chariot and reading, but not comprehending Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:26-29). When Phillip came up to him, he asked if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth…And the eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?” And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:31-38–emphasis added). We can presume from the text that the eunuch was enlightened from Phillip’s exposition of Scripture, because the eunuch believed in Jesus Christ and obediently requested to be baptized!
When Paul and Barnabas thoroughly taught the word of God to Jews in the synagogue in Antioch, it appeared to be favorably received. But when they left the synagogue, they were approached by the certain Jews and God-fearing proselytes: “… And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:42-44–emphasis added). They spoke the word of God to the Gentiles as the Lord commanded, and as a result of their preaching: “…they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:47-48).
These incidents and many others just like it, demonstrate how vital it is to exposit the word of God. Ezra, the Levites, Phillip, Paul, Barnabas, and numerous other servants of God obeyed His commands by preaching and explaining the Scriptures to people. Why was that so important back then and why is it so important today? Because the saving of souls are at stake! Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is God’s only chosen means for redeeming His elect. Furthermore, God commands all believers to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because salvation is only obtainable by believing in Him. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Therefore, we must herald the Gospel message to a world that needs to hear the words containing eternal life. (Matt. 28:19-20, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). Note: in Matt. 28:20, Jesus declares; “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” The Gospel message is not only the preaching of the person and works of Jesus Christ, but should include teaching and explaining and applying “all” that He commanded throughout His earthly ministry.
The Apostle Paul routinely preached about Jesus Christ. In fact, he determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Interestingly In his epistle to the Roman’s he wrote; “‘Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.”‘ How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-17). Biblical exposition is the best means of conveying that message. There is not a more pure and appropriate way to proffer life to people, than to herald God’s exact words as written in the Bible. Incidentally, Paul also faithfully preached the whole council of God (Acts 20:27).
In closing, I reference the Lord, Jesus Christ, who after His death and resurrection, appeared to and spoke with two visibly sorrowed and bewildered disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were sad and confused because they thought Jesus was going to redeem Israel and instead was crucified. (Luke 24:21). Jesus realizing their disbelief, exclaimed; “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27–emphasis added). We can take great comfort, have indescribable peace, and feel exhilarating joy, knowing that we are able to read the actual words of Jesus prayer to His Father on our behalf; “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” (Jn. 17:20). Being privy to Jesus Christ’s personal prayer to His heavenly Father, is an indescribable blessing and unprecedented to the saints from both Testament’s. In that glorious prayer, the actual Lord’s prayer, He asks for blessing on all who will receive the words leading to life through (the preaching and teaching and exposition of) God’s word. O’ how abundantly blessed we are to possess such divine and complete revelation. Amen!
(1) Dr. John Stott, “Two Worlds” pg. 92–“Rediscovering Expository Preaching”, Word Publishing, 1992 pg. 58
(2) Dr Steve Lawson, “Mechanics of Expository Preaching”, lecture 1
(3) Dr Steve Lawson, “Mechanics of Expository Preaching”, lecture 1
(4) Random House Dictionary, Dictionary.com