What is Expository Preaching?

preach the word

Note:  This is part of an on-going series as I blog through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.”

My life was changed by expository preaching.  I had heard the Bible and the gospel taught from the time I was born, but during my sophomore year of high school I started to hear a kind of preaching I had never heard consistently before.  Through my Grandpa Cordell Baker, our Interim Pastor at that time and then our next Pastor, Mark Waite (who I later had the great privilege of working with in New Mexico for almost 6 years), I heard God’s Word preached in a way that made me want to look to God’s Word for all direction, hope, knowledge, and experience of Christ.  As I sat under this powerful teaching my last few years of high school, God used His Word to change my heart from a budding legalist to a lover of Christ.

What is expository preaching?  There is much more that could be said, but Lloyd-Jones helps us out in Chapter 4, “The Form of the Sermon”:

Expository Preaching is Thoroughly Biblical
In other words, expository preaching is not just based on a Scriptural text, it comes out of the text.  It is biblical in the sense that it is preaching the Bible.  “You do not start with a thought, even though it be a right thought, a good thought; you do not start with that, and then work out an address on that…it should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible.  We are presenting the Bible and its message.” (85-86)

Expository Preaching is Theological
“…the preacher must have a grasp, and a good grasp, of the whole biblical message, which is of course a unity…That is the meaning of the phrase ‘comparing Scripture with Scripture’.  We must not deal with any text in isolation…The right use of systematic theology is, that when you discover a particular doctrine in your text you check it, and control it, by making sure that it fits into this whole body of biblical doctrine which is vital and essential. (77-78)

Expository Preaching Preaches the Gospel, Not Just About the Gospel
“The business of the preacher is not to present the Gospel academically…we are called to preach the Gospel, to convey it, and to bring it directly to the individuals who are listening to us, and to bring it to the whole man.  So let us be clear that we are not to talk about the Gospel as if it were something outside of us…it itself is being directly presented and conveyed to the congregation through us.” (79)

Expository Preaching is More Than a Running Commentary
“I maintain that a sermon should have form in the sense that a musical symphony has form…You are not an antiquary lecturing on ancient history or on ancient civilizations, or something like that.  The preacher is a man who is speaking to people who are alive today and confronted by the problems of life; and therefore you have to show that this is not some academic or theoretical matter which may be of interest to people who take up that particular hobby, as others take up crossword puzzles or something of that type.  You are to show that this message is vitally important for them, and that they must listen with the whole of their being, because this really is going to help them to live.” (83, 86-87)

It is obvious as you consider the immensity of the preacher’s task, that expository sermons take time and hard work to develop.  Every pastor needs the prayers and encouragement of his people to be faithful to God’s calling to preach the Word! 

Source:  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

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Why Preaching and Not Conversation?

preach the word

Note:  This is part of an on-going series as I blog through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.”

Why do we gather for a sermon each Sunday and not a conversation?  Why do I love leading a Growth Group (where we do have discussion and conversation about God’s Word), but would balk at the idea of not listening to a sermon preached on Sunday?  Lloyd-Jones gives four reasons in Chapter 3, “The Sermon and the Preaching.”

God Does Not Want to Be Debated
In our post-modern, post-Christian America, this is probably the point in this chapter that evangelicals would most commonly divide on.  For a preacher to stand up and declare God’s message seems brash to many in our culture and times.  The question then is, is the preacher declaring his own thoughts or those of God?  “An ambassador is not a man who voices his own thoughts or his own opinions or views, or his own desires.  The very essence of the position of the ambassador is that he is a man who has been ‘sent’ to speak for somebody else.” (71)  If the preacher believes that he has a message from God (from the Bible) for the people, it is not an apologetic message.  There are other venues for edifying or evangelistic conversation such as home Bible studies, but in preaching, “We believe in the almighty, the glorious, the living God…we must never put ourselves…into a position in which we are debating about God as if He were but a philosophical proposition.” (58)

Christianity is Not Entertainment
Yes, these lectures were given 44 years ago.  And yes, if the point that “God does not want to be debated” in preaching rubs our current evangelical culture the wrong way, then “Christianity is not entertainment” points to maybe the second biggest issue in answering the question, “Why preaching and not conversation?”  Does the preacher bring the Word of the living God?  Do we truly believe that eternity is real and that Jesus is the only Savior?  We should not listen to a sermon to be entertained, although we may enjoy the sermon and laugh now and then.  We should listen to a sermon to hear from God through His Word.  I love Lloyd-Jones’ perspective: “I am a vehicle, I am a channel, I am an instrument, I am a representative.” (71)  God in Christ offers something so much greater than entertainment.

Spiritual Things are Spiritually Discerned
1 Corinthians 2:14 explains, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  When we gather to hear preaching on Sundays, there are those whose eyes have been opened to Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) and who have the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word to them, and those who need to know Christ and be reconciled to God.  God’s Word is foolishness to them until that happens.  These circumstances that the Bible explains require hearing from God through preaching the Word when the church primarily gathers for worship, rather than a conversation or debate.

Preaching Smashes Pride
“The first thing that has to be done with the man who does not accept the Christian faith is to humble him…All men have to be converted and ‘become as little children.’  All they know, and all they are, and all they have, and all they have done, is utterly useless in this realm.  There is no hope for them until they become aware of their utter bankruptcy…Truth is revealed to us in the Scriptures and by the illumination that the Holy Spirit alone can produce…I [Lloyd-Jones] argue therefore that this whole notion of having a debate or a discussion or exchange of views concerning these matters is something that is contrary to the very character and nature of the Gospel itself.” (61)

So, even in the 21st century, we continue to preach.  We continue to “preach Christ crucified,” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and we continue to preach the Word as “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Source:  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Above All Things, See to it That Your Souls Are Happy in the Lord!

“The welfare of our families, the prosperity of our business, our work and service for the Lord, may be considered the most important matters to be attended to; but, according to my judment, the most important point to be attended to is this:  Above all things, see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.  Other things may press upon you; the Lord’s work even may have urgent claims upon your attention; but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance thJehovah-Magnified Mullerat you should seek, above all other things, to have your souls truly happy in God Himself.  Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life.  This has been my firm and settled conviction for the last [35] years … The secret of all true effectual service is–joy in God, and having experimental [i.e. experiential] acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.

But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul?  How shall we learn to enjoy God?  How obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in Him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison?  I answer, this happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures.  God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the Scriptures, by the power of the Holy Ghost, He makes Himself known unto our souls.  Remember, it is not a god of our own thoughts or our own imaginations that we need to be acquainted with; but the God of the Bible, our Father, who has given the blessed Jesus to die for us.  Him should we seek to intimately know, according to the revelation He has made of Himself in His own most precious Word.”

George Muller’s writing in “The Secret of Effectual Service to God” (an address in the book, Jehovah Magnified) was food for my soul this morning.  There are so many things that cry out for my attention each and every day.  Many of these are joys and responsibilities that God not only wants me to engage in but even commands me to be fully engaged in–such as my family and ministry.

But, how do I fully and joyfully engage in these responsibilities in a way that brings the most glory to Jesus (Col. 3:23-24) and also the most happiness to myself and others (Psalm 100:2)?  As Muller exhorted, by above all things, seeing that my soul is happy in the Lord–which will happen through seeking His face in His Word.

Jehovah Magnified: Addresses, which includes the address: “The Secret of Effectual Service to God” quoted above, is available free the entire month of September, 2013 from Logos Bible Software.

No Substitute for Preaching in the Church

Note:  This is part of an on-going series as I blog through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.”

With any area of ministry, we must have God-ordained reasons for doing what we are doing or it is not really ministry.  These theological underpinnings not only keep us on track, but also invite God’s blessing because we can know with confidence that what we are doing is what He has commanded.  Jesus bought the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  We want to serve Christ with full knowledge that we are doing the task He has given us as we will one day give an account (Hebrews 13:17), and as He has promised His presence and power (Matthew 28:18-20).

In Chapter 2, “No Substitute,” Lloyd-Jones asserts “that the ultimate justification for asserting the primacy of preaching is theological…the moment you consider man’s real need, andPreaching and Preachers also the nature of the salvation announced and proclaimed in the Scriptures, you are driven to the conclusion that the primary task of the Church is to preach and to proclaim this, to show man’s real need, and to show the only remedy, the only cure for it.” (37)

Forty-four years after these words were spoken, man’s need and Christ’s salvation remain the same.  However, if the church is afraid to lovingly but confidently teach that man is a great sinner in need of a great Savior, then certainly preaching will begin to change.  In fact, in many churches it has.  We must hold onto the biblical truths that man is completely spiritually dead without Christ, and that Christ is the only way to salvation.  These truths are not popular in our pluralistic feel-good culture, but they are the most loving.

Lloyd-Jones, a medical doctor before he became a preacher, explains that if a doctor sees a man in pain and simply gives him morphine because he hates to see people in pain–but ignores the symptoms that point to a disease–then he is actually doing a criminal act (42).

May we have this laser focus as we consider our own churches, our own ministries, look for a church, or pray for our pastor:  “…the primary task of the Church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy.  I will go further; it is not even to make him good.  These are things that accompany salvation; and when the Church performs her true task she does incidentally educate men and give them knowledge and information, she does bring them happiness, she does make them good and better than they were.  But my point is that those are not her primary objectives.  Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man into the right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God.” (41)

With all of our technology today, we might ask the question: Why do we still need preaching?  Why can’t we simply do church at home or a coffee shop on the internet, or on TV, or by reading a book?  Lloyd-Jones helps us with an often-overlooked truth:  “Now the Church is a missionary body, and we must recapture this notion that the whole Church is a part of this witness to the Gospel and its truth and its message.  It is therefore most important that people should come together and listen…that has an impact in and of itself.” (52)  What a joy, to think that one way you are a missionary is by simply worshiping at church on any given Sunday!  We need to hear preaching together, and we need to hear preaching that is not afraid of proclaiming man’s greatest need and our only Savior.

Source:  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.