Expository Preaching Is a Matter of Life and Death!

I’ve picked up Albert Mohler’s book He is Not Silent again.  In chapter 3 he addresses the issue of defining expository preaching.  He urges us to drop the language of “I prefer expository preaching” in favor of defining true exposition, which is true preaching.  Mohler has major concerns with the contemporary emphasis on topical and narrative preaching, and urges the reader to understand true preaching as simply the reading and explanation of a biblical text. 

(I would agree with Mohler’s concern, but wish to add a couple of qualifiers.  I would suggest that true exposition must go beyond reading and explaining a text – a very mind-focused concern.  Thus preaching is not only to say what the text says, but to appropriately do what the text does, too.  Furthermore I would also suggest it is possible to learn much from the narrative preaching camp, as long as you think through what it means to be expository in your philosophy of preaching.  And it is wrong to tar all topical preaching with the same brush…there is a place for periodic expository-topical sermons.)

Mohler goes on to state that where there is a decline in expository preaching, there is first an abandonment of the conviction that the coming of the Word of the Lord is a matter of life and death.  Earthing his thoughts in Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Mohler offers three points for the development of both a theology of and a passion for, expository preaching.  First, the only true and living God is the God who speaks (present tense – He speaks today through His Word preached.)  Second, God’s true people are those who hear God speaking to them.  Third, God’s people depend for their very lives on hearing His Word.  Thus, preaching is always a matter of life and death!

9 thoughts on “Expository Preaching Is a Matter of Life and Death!

  1. I’ve always been an expository preacher. And I agree that there must be an application side to our sermon for it to be effective in people’s lives. Furthermore, Rom 10:14 reminds me of how preaching, ANY style of preaching, is a matter of life and death. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

  2. As a pastor, preacher of 45 years, preaching and teaching the word is my life, and is the life of the believer. While we might be able to define what preaching should be, its another matter as to how the people who hear you preach receive what you preach.

  3. I appreciate your balanced approach to this issue. There seems to be a time and a place for topical and expository. One thing I don’t get is how anytime in Scripture when it refers to “preaching the Word” or there are some who say it automatically refers to expository preaching. I completely agree expository is preferred in most cases, but I just hesitate to make it a mandate like some prefer to do. Anyway, good post. I’m sure I’ll be back again.

  4. Certainly, thanks for asking for clarification. By a “very mind-focused concern” I am pointing at the limitations in defining preaching as “reading and explaining” a Biblical text. To be fair to Mohler, in the next chapter he does give a longer definition of preaching. However, my point here is that to define preaching as “read and explain” implies that preaching is only concerned with presentation and understanding. This would indicate an emphasis on the intellect. Some do hold that Christian ministry is purely about informing people’s minds so that they can then make good decisions. I feel this is wrong. The Bible presents humans as creatures not only with minds (and wills), but also as heart-centered creatures . . . driven by their affections. Consequently I point to this limited view of preaching not to say it is in error, but that it is incomplete. If we only preach to inform the mind, then we are falling short of the privilege of full communication as preachers. God has communicated in His Word (and calls us to preach that Word), in such a way as to move the heart/affections, as well as informing the mind, urging the will and so on.

  5. God has communicated in His Word (and calls us to preach that Word), in such a way as to move the heart/affections, as well as informing the mind, urging the will and so on.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain, and sorry for my tardy reply: I had a little trouble finding this post again.

    Where/how has God told us to preach the Word in such a way to move the heart/affections?

    It is my understanding that the Word is sharper than a two edged sword… That it is the Word preached, and the Holy Spirit working in hearts of men to draw them to answer God’s calling.

    If the moving of hearts and affections is the work of man (the preacher) then the results will surely be temporary?

  6. Thanks for the comment – my response is given as a post on July 18th, 2009. I think my parenthetical statement “and calls us to preach that Word” should probably be moved to the end of the sentence for added clarity on my intent. Anyway, great question so I put my response in a post . . . feel free to discuss more here or there.

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