By Clif Johnson
A “brand” is a name, symbol, or a design that sets a company apart from competitors, and can be useful in communicating values important to the company. Likewise, different “brands” exist regarding preaching methods, with each method conveying values regarding God, His word, and His gospel. Every preacher, whether they realize it or not, communicates his values regarding God, the Bible, and redemption through the preaching “brand” they employ. Expository preaching is the “brand” that I abide by because I believe it is the method that pays highest honor to God, His word, and His plan for mankind.
Expository preaching seeks to expose what is in a passage of scripture and explain it in a way that is relevant to a contemporary audience. This sounds simple enough, and most people might think that all preachers, according to this definition, are expository preachers. However, a more functional definition of expository preaching, as made popular by Haddon Robinson, reveals what it takes to expose a passage of scripture. Robinson claimed that expository preaching is “the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his listeners.” This type of preaching produces sermons that deliver God’s message clearly and accurately. To deliver anything less is less than biblical preaching.
One value that expository preaching conveys is the primacy of the word of God. In order to preach expositionally, one must be committed to a high view of the scriptures. The expository preacher derives his content for his sermons from the Bible because he believes that the Bible is the only certain information source given by God. He believes the word of God contained in the sixty-six books of the canon was “breathed out by God and are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” (1 Timothy 3:16); and that “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Additionally, the expository preacher affirms, “The sword of the Spirit is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). To unleash God’s word is to unleash God’s power upon the human soul. Thus, he seeks to preach the truth of God’s words and not man-centered philosophy or psychology.
The reason the expositor places such a strong emphasis on the word of God centers on the fact that only scripture carries the claim of divine inspiration. The preacher’s thoughts, ideas, or speculations carry no such authority; neither do the latest best-selling books. This does not mean that commentaries, books, or thoughts are not useful. These things may be helpful in explaining or illustrating God’s inspired word, but the authority is found in God’s words, not the preacher’s.