Expository Preaching

Toward Expository Preaching

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2014. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God’s people understand that the Bible demands the preaching of God’s Word. Faithful ministers will, therefore, preach God’s Word, and God’s people will listen to the proclamation of His Word. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 and 2 Timothy 3:15—4:2 demonstrate the priority God places on preaching the Word. Paul insisted that God’s methodology is the “foolishness of the message preached” (1 Cor. 1:21). The preacher must proclaim the Word “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4). He further instructed Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2).

The Background of Preaching

The ancient world recognized the value of spoken words. Aristotle’s On Rhetoric provides insight into the importance of public speaking. He defined speaking in terms of the ethos (character) of the author, the pathos (emotion) of the author, and the logos (content) of the message. Aristotle argued against the manipulation of an audience and concluded that the character of the author must come before either emotion or the content. All of these elements find emphasis in a class on preaching.

Classic education also emphasized the value of spoken words. Classic education typically divided itself into three categories (trivium): grammar, logic, and rhetoric. This form of education is actually finding a rebirth in some school curricula. The New Testament church found itself in the cultural backdrop of these educational emphases in the first century.

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Preaching Worth Listening To

An address to the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries at their annual meeting, Feb. 2006. A PDF version is available at the PTC website.

Different versions of fundamentalism are characterized by different visions of preaching. Fundamentalists do not agree among themselves about what makes good preaching. To some, good preaching is primarily evangelism. To others it is primarily exhortation. To still others it is primarily explanation of the biblical text. Some envision preaching primarily as oratory, some see it as entertainment, and some believe it to be mainly exposition.

There has always been a regional and associational element to these differences. Exposition has been more common in the North, while evangelism and exhortation have tended to dominate preaching in the South. Presbyterians and groups that came out of the Northern Baptist Convention have typically been more centered on the text, whereas the groups that owe their origin to the influence of J. Frank Norris have tended to center on issues and applications. The further east one moves, the more oratorical preaching becomes, while the West has fostered a more folksy style of preaching that incorporates a good bit of storytelling.

The last two generations of fundamentalists (my own middle-aged generation and the upcoming generation of so-called “young fundamentalists”) have reacted against the theatrics and weak exposition that have sometimes characterized fundamentalist preaching. For more than thirty years we have witnessed a push toward a more biblical, textual, and doctrinal type of preaching. In several branches of fundamentalism, pulpit pyrotechnics have fallen into disrepute. Mainstream fundamentalists have largely abandoned the abusive confrontationalism that used to pass for courageous pulpit work. Manipulative emotional appeals are viewed with increasing suspicion. A more thoughtful and deliberate presentation is becoming the order of the day.

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