Albert Mohler defines Expository Preaching: "Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that ..."

The Sheer Weightlessness of So Many Sermons—Why Expository Preaching Matters

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 presenting 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 message of the biblical text and makes clear how the word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God.

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handerson's picture

This conversation is always interesting to me--if only because it is hard to pin down what "expository" means. And often,  ironically enough, some who preach "expositorially" actually end up obscuring the meaning of the text because of they think they need to preach in the exact same manner that they studied. This is not at all helpful to the listener. 

I was thinking about this dilemma because just yesterday Kevin DeYoung tweeted this: 

I heard from a friend in seminary who got a C+ in preaching with the note: "You sound like a Gospel Coalition preacher."

The tweet was followed up by a bunch of people taking it as a badge of honor and diminishing the importance of preaching classes. :-/

I understand the need to let the text speak forth truth, but does this mean that you can never begin with the issues of your hearer and work toward discovering and applying truth? This is also a question in writing--there has to be a place for teaching and preaching that presents the truth of the text but isn't bound to an academic exegesis.

removed_jh's picture

regarding beginning with the issues of your hearer and working toward discovering and applying truth. I have personally been working harder at sharing my exegesis/study effectively and in a more engaging manner. It is truly a challenge and an art to do both the science of study as well as discipline of the presentation. I often find myself responding to folks in my sphere of influence this way when they ask how things are coming along for Sunday: "well, I can talk about it, I could teach it, but it is not yet a sermon."

jimcarwest's picture

There is much to be said on this subject.  Expository preaching stems from a careful exegesis of the text.  It is a method of teaching that embarks on commenting on the entire revelation of God in the Scriptures.  However, to say that this is the only way in which spiritual teaching should occur is a bit over the top, IMHO.  The NT writings do not take this approach or we would simply have sermons about OT Scripture, which was the only source for preaching in the early NT church.  Much of NT writing is topical.  Again, when you look at the Master Teacher, you find that Jesus did not communicate with his listeners in this way.  He often used their questions as a basis for teaching.  He used illustrations (parables) to communicate  and apply truth.  He quoted OT Scripture frequently, but He did not rely simply upon an exegesis of those texts to teach His disciples.  Expository preaching  done well can be very practical, but done poorly can be very dry and un-engaging.  Balance is the word.

Don Johnson's picture

That's the key question that turns a lecture into a sermon, regardless of style, expository, textual, topical. All styles are legitimate, but all must follow rigorous exegetical discipline to carry the authority of Scripture to the desired application.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dgszweda's picture

jimcarwest wrote:

The NT writings do not take this approach or we would simply have sermons about OT Scripture, which was the only source for preaching in the early NT church. 


I would be careful in how we carry this comment.  I think the authority of the Gospel (who was Jesus Christ) and the authority that the apostles had cannot necessarily always be carried over into a picture of how we should approach teaching/preaching of Scripture.  We are exegeting the Gospel, while they were speaking the Gospel.

jimcarwest's picture

no problem with this comment


Shaynus's picture

The NT writings do not take this approach or we would simply have sermons about OT Scripture, which was the only source for preaching in the early NT church.


I would also take exception to this idea that the early church didn't have NT scriptures. Of course they did. The NT authors clearly pointed to New Testament writings as scripture. 

1 Tim 5:18 "For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

The second quote of the verse is not found in the OT, but is found in the gospels in Luke 10:7. 

2 Peter 3:16 "as he (Paul) does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 

Clearly churches and NT writers had at least parts of the new Testament with them and read them in churches as they would any other Scripture. This is important because it's a big part of understanding canonicity.  

Ed Vasicek's picture

Much of the New Testament is a series of mini-expositions, of sorts, drawn from Old Testament passages.  Hebrews, for example, is mostly a series of Midrashim on Numbers.  Much of Romans are Midrashim on portions of Isaiah, the Psalms, and a variety of other Old Testament Scriptures.


To see examples of this, check out my website articles at or see my book, "The Midrash Key." Because the NT authors, under the inspiration of the Spirit, added material beyond these Midrashim, these mini-expositions are often unrecognized for what they are.


Mohler's approach on this matter makes complete sense because it lets God set the agenda through his Word; or, better, MORE through his Word than through what the preacher believes God wants him to say or emphasize.  Expository preaching, while involving subjective elements of interpretation (even if guided by objective principles), becomes less subjective when the overwhelming ideas of a text become the emphasis of the sermon.

"The Midrash Detective"