At Grace, we firmly commit to the practice of expository preaching. We believe that this way of preaching the scripture is far and away, the best practice. But what is it and why is it the best?
Expository preaching, at it’s simplest, is unpacking the meaning of the scriptures and then drawing implications and applications from what God has said. God has spoken through the scriptures, so we need to understand what he has said, take it to heart and apply it.
When we preach expositionally, we ordinarily work through a large portion of a book or a book in its entirety. This way we get a large sweep of biblical theology in its context. Someone has said that the three keys of biblical study come down to context, context, and context. Expository preaching makes use of context by situating the sermon within a larger whole.
Topical preaching tends to jump around to topics of particular interest. There are probably times and good use of occasional topical messages that are expository within themselves. But we keep topical sermons to a minimum.
Expository preaching helps us avoid avoiding. Too often, if we were to simply pick topics of interest, we would naturally avoid hard passages. By preaching expositionally through a book, we discipline our minds and hearts to receive the full counsel of God.
When working through a book of scripture we often bump into repeated themes. A preacher who does only topical messages would never repeat a theme intentionally. But when we see a dominant theme running through a book we catch an emphasis that God has placed there.
Paul writes to Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (2 Tim. 4:3 ESV)” Topical preaching is not automatically a violation of this warning, but the warning is a sobering caution. We need to know that our hearts can easily lead us astray. We can slip from enduring the sound teaching of God's word to demanding sermons that please us. That is dangerous. Expository preaching that pulls no punches is a remedy to this natural tendency.
Finally, we see that expository preaching challenges us to deepen our understanding of God’s word. Thus, it stimulates us to grow. When we grow, we will no longer be like infants and no longer tossed to and fro by every wave and blown about by every wind of doctrine (see Eph 4:14).
Expository preaching may not lead to mega-churches. But we are not trying to create a mega-church or superstars. We have set our course on simply growing the body as God has instructed us. Let God be the one who gives the increase. We are called to be faithful, and faithfully preaching the text is a large part of how we do that.