We hear a lot about expository preaching. By “expository” I mean understanding the point of the passage you are preaching from and explaining that point in your sermon from the passage all along the way. Sometimes we assume the need for exposition because it’s been drilled into some of us for so long. Others of us may not be convinced thinking it’s a boring approach or too restrictive. Preaching and adhering to the text in front of you is neither boring nor restrictive but we’ll save that for another post. I want to provide some quick reasons as to why we should remain focused on the sermon text. Even if you’re preaching a topical sermon you need to maintain a fidelity to the texts you’ve chosen. So whether you need to be convinced or you could use some reminders of its importance, here are 16 reasons, in no particular order, why your sermons must maintain a sharp focus on the text.
We must preach expositionally because:
1. Otherwise there is no authority in what is preached.
The Bible is authoritative because it is God’s Word. If I am not saying what it is saying then I am not speaking with divine authority. If I am not speaking with authority, then why should anyone listen to what I have to say?
2. So that I will not infringe upon Christ’s headship of the church.
If I am taking authority into my own hands, then I am in effect usurping Christ’s role as head of the church. But since I am not the head of the church, then I must stick to Christ’s marching orders as revealed in all of Scripture and make them plain to the congregation.
3. So that I know I am ministering in concert with the Holy Spirit.
Many preachers pray that God would fill them with the Spirit in their preaching, and rightly so. Some would say they need not prepare because they will simply depend on the Spirit’s guidance in what they say, and wrongly so. We must consider that since the Holy Spirit produced Scripture (inspiration) and is the One who helps us truly grasp it (illumination), then we must preach what Scripture says if we are to minister in step with the Spirit. I step away from the ministry of the Holy Spirit when I step away from the intended import of His text.
4. For the preaching to be truly transformative.
Scripture is inspired to be written just the way it is for the purpose of equipping the believer with what is needed to be complete and ready for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Preaching is how a pastor equips, reproves, rebukes and exhorts his congregation (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). Without preaching that carefully expounds the words of Scripture, people are left ill-equipped for change and growth.
5. To join the Lord in exalting His name and His word above all things (Psalm 138:2).
Clearly, if I am not sticking to what the word of God says, then I am not rejoicing in it the way God is. Instead, I am only rejoicing in what I can do with it.
6. So that people learn how to read the Bible for themselves.
How can my listeners learn how to understand the Bible if I am not showing them what it actually says? If I insert my own thoughts according to some arbitrary hermeneutic, how can the people follow my logic? They will go home more dependent on the preacher who has special interpretations and less dependent on Scripture.
7. To draw appropriate connections between interpretation and application.
This is perhaps what most Bible readers have the most difficult time understanding. We need to show them how to apply the Word responsibly or no one else will. We must first understand the meaning of a text before we can understand how it is significant to us today.
8. To protect the church from false teaching (Titus 1:9).
If I make a claim on my own authority when I preach and someone else makes a contradictory claim on their own authority in my church, how can this be resolved? We must stand on the authority of Scripture as the standard against which all truth claims are measured.
9. To better understand what we are proclaiming when we sing songs laden with scriptural allusions, quotes and references.
When a church uses songs with lyrics paraphrasing or quoting Scripture, how can the people understand what they are singing if we are not explaining those texts to them? We cannot worship in truth if we do not understand what that truth is.
10. To bolster their reason to praise the Lord (Psalm 119:62).
“At midnight I rise to praise you because of your righteous rules.” What God says inspires what His people sing. If I am preaching something else, then I am robbing them of this inspiration or giving them false inspiration no matter how moving I perceive my words to be.
11. To build our trust in God’s promises.
If we tell people something is true when it is not what God’s Word says, they will eventually realize it is not true. But they will think it is God’s Word that is not true because they learned the lie from a sermon. If we only preach truth, then they will see that God’s word never fails. And in order for them to make that connection, we need to be able to show them how we got that truth from this text.
12. So the people will know the Lord’s will (Psalm 40:8).
“I delight to do your will O my God, your law is within my heart.” The reason why the Psalmist delights to do God’s will is because Scripture is in his heart. He understands what it is calling him to do. Our people will not be able to know what God really expects of them if we are not accurately teaching them what Scripture says.
13. To feed souls that are consumed with longing for God’s Word (Psalm 119:20).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” If I am not giving them God’s rules and essentially making up my own rules instead, then I cannot feed souls that are hungry for only what God actually says.
14. To build the hearers’ trust in the preacher.
If I am saying, “This is what God’s Word says” and it really isn’t, then over time people will discover that I am not to be trusted. I am not speaking truth. Even if I am speaking the right truth from the wrong place – a common infraction – I am still not being truthful because I am purporting, “This text says this” when it doesn’t.
15. To ensure my favorite subjects don’t dominate the pulpit.
If I am committed to preaching what the Bible says, then I will more likely stretch out past my comfort zone when it comes to the subjects of my sermons. I will allow the passage, whatever it says, to inform what I say. This is why it is a good idea to preach through books of the Bible instead of a different verse from a different book every Sunday – we’re allowing the book of the Bible, passage by passage, to control our direction. This discipline also helps guard against the misuse of the pulpit to advance personal agendas. If I am constrained by what the Bible says, then I will not allow issues to take over that have nothing to do with the text in front of me.
16. So when I am confronted about something I said, I can point to Scripture.
When I am questioned about something I said in a sermon, I am not offended and I don’t take it personally. When someone challenges me concerning something I said, I am obligated to justify it. But if I am preaching God’s Word, all I have to do is show how this is what God says. They are taking issue with the text, not with me. Of course there are those times where my interpretation of the text is what is being questioned, but no one can accuse me of hijacking or ignoring the text if I can demonstrate how I came to my conclusion from what Scripture says.