Exegetical Preaching? Yes and No.

Some people like exegetical preaching.  Some people don’t.  Most would express an opinion one way or the other.  But actually, what is exegetical preaching?

Do we mean preaching that is based on sound exegesis? If we do, then that should be true of all preaching.  While I know it certainly isn’t true of all preaching, it really should be.  Whether the sermon is a walk-through explanation of a passage, or a topical presentation of several passages, or a carefully constructed character portrait, or a first-person presentation, or an overview of a Bible book or section, or whatever . . . it should be based on exegesis.

Exegesis is about drawing out the meaning that is in a text.  Eisegesis is about reading into a text the meaning you want to impose on it.  Sad to say there is a lot of eisegetical preaching around these days (probably always has been).  Nevertheless, there really isn’t a category of biblical preaching that is somehow good and helpful, but isn’t exegetical.  Whether you are looking at five verses, four separate verses, three chapters or two whole testaments . . . the work underlying the message should be exegetical.  There is no other legitimate way.

Do we mean preaching that meticulously shows every aspect of the exegetical study underlying the message? This is a different matter.  This is a strategy decision on the part of the preacher.  It need not be a once for all decision.  It is strategy.  Is it helpful for me to show some of my work in how I preach this passage to these people on this occasion?  Perhaps letting some of the exegetical work show will demonstrate where I’m getting my message from?  Perhaps letting some show will demonstrate how to handle Scriptures?  Perhaps this is an audience that appreciates a bit of that kind of background?

(But remember, it is always possible to let too much exegetical work show – perhaps drawing attention to your skill and knowledge, or overwhelming the listener, or manipulating the evidence to demonstrate certainty where that is not appropriate, etc.  Some of your exegetical work should probably always remain hidden, not least because you don’t have hours to preach, but also because some aspects are seldom if ever helpful.  People need the fruit of your study, and sometimes they will benefit from seeing some of how you harvested that fruit.)

Exegetical preaching?  The work underlying the message – absolutely yes.  The style of presentation – maybe a bit, maybe no.

One thought on “Exegetical Preaching? Yes and No.

  1. Hi Peter,

    I really like your blog and find your thoughts very helpful and sensible. This particular post’s theme has been something a few of us have been discussing recently and I think you have put it very well. I will send the link to some friends and then we can discuss a bit more…

    Thanks for taking the time,


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