Philosophy of Preaching

Grace Bible Church Plantation Philosophy of Preaching
Convictions Regarding the Purpose & Nature of Preaching
Here at Grace Bible Church Plantation we believe that the purpose of preaching is to glorify God (1 Pet. 2:9, 4:11), to save sinners (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5; 1 Pet. 1:23-25), and to sanctify saints (Jn. 17:17; 1 Pet. 2:2; Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 4:2).

We believe that expository preaching is a biblical mandate and not merely an issue of stylistic preference (preferably textual exposition but occasionally there is a need for topical exposition as well). Biblical exposition simply means exposing your hearers to the meaning of the text of scripture (both its intent and content, in an exact and exhaustive manner) and then applying it to the hearts and lives of the hearers. There are both prescriptive passages that mandate biblical exposition to us (1 Tim. 4:13ff; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:8- especially 2 Tim. 4:2), as well as descriptive passages that model biblical exposition for us (Deut. 1:5; Neh, 8:8; Lk. 4:16ff; Acts 15:14-21) providing us with a biblical precedent to follow.

Texts that Mandate Biblical Exposition (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:8)
We clearly see the mandate for expository preaching in 1 Tim. 4:13 where Paul says to Timothy “Until I come, give attention to [1] the public reading of Scripture [2] to exhortation and [3] [to] teaching.” And so there’s the mandate for and the explanation of expository preaching in a nutshell: (1st) you read the text (notice he says “give attention to the public reading of scripture”); and so Timothy was to give due prominence, [1st] to the public reading of Scripture (just like they would do in the synagogue (Lk. 4:16; Acts 13:15; 2 Cor. 3:14); only now Timothy was to read not only from portions of the OT but also from the growing portions of the NT (Col. 4:16; 1 Thes. 5:27; Rev. 1:3); (2nd) you explain the meaning of the text and expound the implications of the text (notice he says give attention “to teaching”) (didaskalia); now this word basically refers to the act of instruction (that is taking truth and imparting into the minds of your hearers so that they can clearly understand it and apply it). And so it basically has to do with explaining the meaning of the text and expounding the implications of the text based on the grammatical and syntactical structure of the text inspired by the Spirit! Now by “implications” I mean every way in which the scriptures confront and expose (1) wrong thinking, (2) errant convictions, (3) unholy motivations, and (4) idolatrous affections. In other words, every way in which the text implicates the hearer to think and live differently in light of the truth; because the scriptures are crystal clear (from Rom. 12:2 and  many other texts) that change only takes place through mind renewal with the truth; not through external behavior modification (where you just take some non-authoritative points of practical application that the preacher gave you and you go and try to reform your behavior without 1st having renewed your mind with the truth). And then (3rd) you apply the text (notice he says “give attention…to exhortation”) (paraklesei); now that word carries with the idea of strongly challenging and urging and encouraging people to obey the Word as well as comforting and consoling them with the blessings and promises of God if they do! And so the mandate here for expository preaching is (1) you read the text; (2) you explain the meaning of the text and expound the inductive inner life implications of the text and then (3) you exhort the will of the hearers to change in light of the meaning and  implications of the text! And so here we see not only a clear explanation of what biblical exposition is but also the clear mandate for it!

Notice also that Paul says to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:1-2 “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word.” In other words, Timothy “you are to faithfully herald and proclaim the authoritative message of God (exactly as God has given it; nothing added to it or subtracted from it); you’re to declare ALL that God has said & ONLY what God has said and you’re to do so with the very authority of God! You see, the herald had no liberty to invent his own message or to give his own opinion, he could only pass on the message that he had received (from the king) in the exact manner that he had received it! The herald was accountable to his ruler for the exact representation and reproduction of the given message. And so the simple lexical meaning of the word “preach” here (kerusso) demands biblical exposition!  Paul essentially says “Timothy based on the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:14-17) I’m commanding you to devote yourself to authoritatively heralding that Word!” And so we’re commanded to preach and the content of what we’re commanded to preach is the Word in all of its fullness (Acts 20:20, 26-27) and in the original literary, historical, geographical and cultural context in which it was given to us (namely, book by book, verse by verse); reproducing the exact message of God in the exact manner that God gave it!

Convictions Regarding Expository Preaching
When it comes to our convictions regarding expository preaching, not only are we fully convinced that God has given us an inspired message to preach, namely the “Word of God” (2 Tim. 4:2), but He has also given us an inspired method by which we are to communicate this message, namely the expository preaching of the full counsel of God’s Word (Neh. 8:1-8; Lk. 4:16ff; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20:26-27). We see this for example in 1 Cor. 1-2, where Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…” (1 Cor. 1:17); “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21); “but we preach Christ crucified,” (1 Cor. 1:23); “And I, when I came….proclaiming to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor. 2:1); “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4).
We see this very same emphasis on preaching in the way that the Lord Jesus Christ defined His ministry. He said in Lk. 4:18-19, “18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." It is not surprising then, that following His baptism, Matthew records: “Jesus began to preach” (Mt. 4:17). The Gospel of Mark sheds further light on this priority of Jesus when He says to His disciples, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for" (Mk. 1:38). Two chapters later Mark records, Jesus’ rationale for choosing His disciples, “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach” (Mk. 3:14). Moreover, this design was to continue following His resurrection: “And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk. 16:15).
This commission was thoroughly embraced by the disciples, and especially Peter, as is made evident in the book of Acts. About this divinely-appointed methodology Peter says to Cornelius: “And He ordered us to preach to the people” (Acts 10:42). Paul’s conviction about preaching was equally resolute (1 Cor. 1-2; Col. 1:28). He explains to the Jews in Antioch, “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers” (Acts 13:32). Finally in anticipation of his imminent execution, the apostle Paul gave young Timothy the following exhortation, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:  preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Timothy was commanded by Paul to preach. And the content of what he was to preach was very specific. He was to preach “the Word”; in other words, the written revelation of God.

In summary, preaching was the prominent feature in the ministry methodology of Jesus, and the stated reason for which He was anointed of the Spirit of God. It was also the specific work to which He called His disciples and the reason for which they too were clothed with the power of the Spirit of God (Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 2:14-36). Furthermore, they continued the pattern of this methodology by exhorting subsequent disciples to this same task (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2; Tit. 2:15). 
And so we can clearly see from Scripture that the God-ordained means by which we are to communicate the gospel, is through the faithful preaching of the full counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:26-27). And as we examine things more closely we see specifically that it’s by means of what we call expository preaching, which I would define as, the faithful, passionate, Spirit-empowered proclamation of the real and central meaning of a passage of Scripture, derived from proper methods of interpretation and presented in a clear, understandable, and applicable way for present-day hearers in order to inform their minds, shepherd their hearts, and exhort their wills toward holiness.[1] The mark of true expository preaching is that, it accurately maintains the original meaning of the author of the text and that it explains and applies that meaning in a clear, compelling and understandable way in order to inform the mind, instruct the heart and exhort the will towards growth in godliness.
It’s clear from the Old Testament that after a body of revelation had been given, the people would return to it with a need to have it expounded or explained. We see this for example starting in Deut. 1:5, which says, “Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying…” Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice {it,} and to teach {His} statutes and ordinances in Israel.” In Neh. 8:1-8 we probably have the clearest OT text in regards to expository preaching, verse 7b-8 says, “…the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people {remained} in their place. 8 They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” The verb translated “explained” here in verse 7 is a hiphil participle, which literally means “to cause to understand.” And in verse 8 the verb that is translated, “translating” is a pual participle, which carries with it the two-fold idea of (1) translating the text and (2) making the text clear and distinct. As we turn to the New Testament we see Jesus demonstrate this very same methodology in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) and also in the synagogue in Nazareth as He expounds Is. 61:1-2, which finds its fulfillment in Him (Lk. 4:16-30). As we look closely at the teaching of Christ we see that exposition can take various forms, as long as it is faithful to the distinct purpose of the explication and application of scripture.[2] The preaching of the apostles and other early Church leaders contributes significantly to the history of expository preaching as well. The messages of Peter (Acts 2:14-36), Stephen (Acts 7:2-53), Philip (Acts 8:27-35), James (Acts 15:14-21), and Paul (Acts 17:16-31) have elements of both revelatory and explanatory preaching. The epistles are, for the most part, written expositions designed to teach various lessons.[3] And as we turn to the pastoral epistles it’s clear that the mandate that Paul gives Timothy for the New Testament Church is to preach the Word expositorily (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2).
Unfortunately, however, in spite of the overwhelming testimony of God’s Word regarding the fact that expository preaching is the primary method of communicating God’s Word, many in our day have marginalized the pulpit and have settled for mere pep talks and self-help speeches, deriving their sermons from sources other than the Word of God. Others have jettisoned the pulpit all together and have completely abandoned the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word. Instead they’ve opted for roundtable discussions and community forums and dialogues, where there’s no longer any authoritative voice and everyone’s opinion counts and holds equal sway. In spite of the unfaithfulness of so many in our day, it’s clear from Scripture that God has given us a message (His inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, clear, and all-sufficient Word) (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Acts 20:26-27) and also a method by which we’re to communicate that message (namely, through expository preaching, which seeks to faithfully expose and apply the meaning of the text of Scripture).
An Explanation of Expository Preaching
Again, biblical exposition simply means exposing the hearers to the meaning of the text of scripture (both its intent and content, in an exact and exhaustive manner) and then applyiung it to their hearts ands lives. 

Biblical exposition requires that we expose the listener (1) to what the text says; (2) what the text means by what it says based on the grammatical and syntactical structure of the passage in its context (we must emphasize the structure of the passage in the precise way that the Spirit inspired it otherwise the text loses its intended force and we end up preaching subordinate points as main points and main points as subordinate points or even worse missing the point altogether and preaching something never intended by God); (3) what the implications are that rise inductively from the text; (4) how one needs to think and live differently in light of those implications; and (5) the exhortation of the will to change in the light of the truth revealed in the text (it’s incumbent upon the preacher to provide a paradigm and pathway for the listener to change based on the truths inductively revealed in the text!). That’s biblical exposition!

Unfortunately however, most preaching today that claims to be “expositional” is nothing more than someone teaching verse by verse through the bible, pulling out a principle (that often times is not inductively derived from the text based on the grammar and syntax of the passage in its own context) and then filling the sermon with human illustrations and stories so that the audience can relate to the principle (which again may or may not be biblical and often times is not even explained or argued textually). The preacher  then gives the audience a few points of practical application (which serve as nothing more than external behavior modification because they are NOT rooted and grounded in the authority of the text, because the text has not been clearly, accurately and thoroughly explained and argued but quickly by-passed to get to the stories, illustrations and practical applications).

The problem with this type of preaching is manifold, but the primary dangers are (1) that the intent and content of the passage are not accurately, properly and thoroughly explained and dealt with; (2) the force of the passage (which is based on the grammatical and syntactical structure) is ignored and the preacher instead picks out things from the text that are not the main point of the text (or even worse things, that are not even in the text) that he wants to talk about instead of preaching what the Spirit intended him to preach based on the grammatical and syntactical structure of the passage; (3) human illustration,  stories and personal practical applications are not authoritative (only the bible is) and those things have no inherent power to change people (only the bible does) and  yet tragically this is what the sermon is typically centered around and built upon (the result being that the meaning of the text and the details of the text are never accurately and thoroughly explained and the inductive implications of the text are never drawn out leaving people with no access to truth and  no power to change biblically) (Jn. 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:23-2:3) .

Therefore it is incumbent upon the preacher to clearly explain what the main point of the text is and to show how the author argued that main point based on structure inspired by the Spirit; and so not only must the preacher preach the intent of the passage but he must also preach the content of the passage as well (in an exact and exhaustive manner, where he deals with every phrase and every clause showing how they support the main point of the text). Then he must draw out the inductive inner life implications from the text that show how the hearer needs to think and live differently! That’s expository preaching!

The Different Styles of Preaching Today

1) Preaching that is unrelated to the Bible 

This is preaching that essentially has nothing to do with the bible; it’s essentially all about entertaining people with your opinions, thoughts or ideas; or with drama, stories, etc.

In 1928, Harry Emerson Fosdick made this outrageous pronouncement: 

Many preachers…indulge habitually in what they call expository sermons. They take a passage from Scripture and, proceeding on the assumption that the people attending church that morning are deeply concerned about what the passage means, they spend their half hour or more on historical exposition of the verse or chapter, ending with some appended practical application to the auditors. Could any procedure be more surely predestined to dullness and futility? Who seriously supposes that, as a matter of fact, one in a hundred of the congregation cares, to start with, what Moses, Isaiah, Paul, or John meant in those special verses, or came to church deeply concerned about it? Nobody else who talks to the public so assumes that the vital interests of the people are located in the meaning of words spoken two thousand years ago.[4]
Wow! And so he’s saying that the church should gather on the Lord’s Day but just not to study the bible because the bible is archaic, irrelevant and uninteresting! And so you need to scratch people where they itch and they’re certainly not itching for the bible. Well, unbelievers certainly aren’t but true believers are (Jer. 15:16; Job. 23:12; Ps. 119:20; 97; Ps. 19:10; Ps. 1:2; 1 Pet. 2:2). And so Fosdick’s statement here sounds a lot like what Paul said would happen in 2 Tim. 4:3-4. Well thankfully Paul told us in advance that this would happen even in the church and thankfully he also told us how to deal with it (2 Tim .4:1-8; cf. 1 Tim. 4:13-16; 2 Tim. 2:1-7).

2) Preaching that Incorporates the Bible 

This type of preaching involves the pastor essentially crafting a message that he’s conjured up on his own independent of the bible; but after coming up with his own points and crafting his own message, he searches for bible verses that might remotely support his points; and if he can’t find any he will go to the most obscure translations to try to find something from scripture to support what he’s saying! And typically the verses he cites and the way that he cites them have absolutely nothing do with what they mean in their context!  Have you ever been in a church like that? Where every Sunday the pastor preaches a topical message that he came up with on his own (independently of the bible) and then he finds any verse that he can to remotely support what he is saying; and if he actually attempts to preach a specific text of scripture rather than doing a topical message he typically misses the point of the passage and speaks about something that tugged his heart strings as he read the text rather than actually preaching the text? This is preaching that incorporates the bible but it’s not actually preaching bible!
3) Preaching From the Bible 
This type of preaching takes various forms:(1st) It can take the form of using the bible to get the sermon started (much like the national anthem at the beginning of the athletic contest) but then the bible is never heard from again. And so it may actually start in a specific text; where the text is cited; and then read and then all of sudden the pastor deviates from the text and from the bible and never makes his way back! (2nd) It can take the form of using the bible as a springboard where you start in one text of scripture but springboard to another portion of scripture and you spend the rest of your time in that text or you just wander aimlessly throughout the bible looking at countless texts and cross-references never really explaining the meaning and implications of the passage you started with. (3rd) It can take the form of preaching verse by verse through books of the bible, where the preacher actually sticks to the text that he started with but he essentially either misinterprets and misapplies the passage or he just picks out parts of that text that he personally likes and wants to talk about and he just preaches on those things whether they’re the main point or not (while neglecting other parts of the text).
4) Preaching the Bible 
This form of preaching simply explains what the text says, what it means by what it says in its historical context based on the grammatical and syntactical structure of the passage (preaching exactly and exhaustively the intent and content of the passage based on the structure that the Spirit inspired) and drawing out the inductive implications of the text and exhorting the will of the hearers to change in light of these inductive inner life implications (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2). This is biblical preaching; simply re-stating exactly what God said; how God said it based on why God said it! This type of preaching simply identifies the author’s point or intention; and then it simply argues that point based on the structure of the passage (inspired by the Spirit), dealing with every clause in the text and showing how they support the author’s main point!
[1] Ramesh Richard, Preparing Expository Sermons: A Seven-Step Method for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 19.
[2] James F. Stitzinger, “The History of Expository Preaching” Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition, John, MacArthur Jr. and the Master’s Seminary Faculty (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1992), 40-41.
[3] Ibid 40-41.
[4] Harry Emerson Fosdick, “What Is the Matter with Preaching?” in What’s the Matter with 
Preaching Today? ed. Mike Graves (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 9.