Jun 3, 2015

Hardshells & Expository Preaching II

The Following are some of the leading questions to be addressed in the remainder of this series.


1. Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do expositional preaching and teaching?

2. Should this "verse by verse" model be the only method used by preachers?

3. What method did Christ and the first new testament preachers use?

4. What method have the great pastors and evangelists primarily used in the past?

5. Are there more than three methods?

6. Is the expository method of preaching, as Bradley has defined it, a way for Hardshells to have seminaries and Sunday Schools?  When one sits Sunday after Sunday and hears lecturing and commentating, is he not sitting in a kind of Bible class? 

7. Is the expository method best for the main Sunday services?

8. Is the main purpose of Sunday morning services to simply impart scripture knowledge?

9. Is it the best kind of preaching to build up a church?

10. Are most preachers able to do "expository preaching" as Bradley defines it?

8. Will this method force Hardshells to deal with difficult passages that they would normally ignore?

9. Will it force them to do honest exegesis?

10. What are the negatives of expositional preaching?

11. Do we need a better definition?

12. Can one do expositional preaching using textual, topical, and other methods?

What is "Expositional Preaching"?

Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do "expositional" preaching and teaching?  In "A Caution for Expository Preaching", well known author Iain Murray wrote (emphasis mine):

"In a number of circles today “expository preaching” is in vogue, and it is being urged on preachers as the way to preach. If this means that the preacher’s one business is to confine himself to the text of Scripture, and to make the sense plain to others, there is nothing more to discuss; who can disagree save those who do not know that the Bible is the word of God."

Murray is attacking the view of some of the so-call expository preachers, like Bradley, who think that those who do not go verse by verse through a book of the Bible are not doing "expository preaching."  And, as I showed, such a definition leads Bradley to condemn all the preaching of the great Baptists of the past as being inferior, and to condemn most of his own preaching for some fifty years as also been inferior.  Did Bradley not do expositional preaching when he gave textual and topical sermons during that time?  Did he not "confine himself to the text of Scripture" (which is the true definition of "expositional preaching")?  Did Spurgeon?

Murray also wrote:

"But “expository preaching” has often come to mean something more. The phrase is popularly used to describe preaching which consecutively takes a congregation through a passage, or book of Scripture, week by week. This procedure is compared with the method of preaching on individual texts that may have no direct connection with each other from one Sunday to the next. The latter is discouraged in favour of the “expository” method."

This is what Murray, others, and I are fighting.  It is not expository preaching but the definition that some are giving to "expository preaching."  It is the view that topical and textual preaching are not expository.  It is the new definition which limits expository preaching to those who go verse by verse through a book of the Bible.

To show how others, like Bradley, are defining "expository preaching" in this way, I will cite the definitions of others.

In "Topical, Textual or Expository Sermons – What is the best method?" by D. Goodmanson (Sep 12, 2006 - see here) the writer says:

"An expository sermon is following a book of the Bible, passage-by-passage to allow the text to determine the point." 

He says further:

"Most conservative churches would argue that expository preaching is the only way to preach.  Reformed churches stress lectio continua (preaching through whole books of the Bible in course).   Timothy Keller summarizes the sentiment as he writes why conservative churches feel non-expository preaching is theologically inferior; "1) First, other forms of preaching are considered 'man-pleasing' because we are choosing texts we prefer rather than preaching through the 'whole counsel of God' as God provides it in the Bible.  2) Second, other forms of preaching are more open to abuse since your thesis is not being controlled directly by the text.  3) Thirdly, other forms of preaching do not show as much honor to the text of Scripture.  The expositor focuses on the Biblical passage itself in a way that the others do not."

Thus it is clear what is at stake in this debate over just what constitutes "expository preaching." Such a definition limits "expository preaching" to those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, in a lectio continua way. By this definition, Spurgeon did not do expository preaching when he preached on individual texts, nor any other great preacher.  Spurgeon was man-pleasing when he gave textual and topical sermons.  His preaching was theologically inferior.  He did not by this method preach the whole counsel of God.  He did not focus on Biblical passages by his textual and topical preaching.

In "Four Kinds of Expository Preaching" (March 01, 2006 - see here) Ed Stetzer wrote:

"There are many different kinds of expositional preaching. The four most common are: verse-by-verse, thematic, narrative, and topical."

He says:

"Verse-by-verse preaching is the systematic reading and explanation of a biblical text. In involves a unified book of Scripture and its piece-by-piece analysis."

He says:

"Thematic preaching is an excellent form for preaching Bible doctrine. The speaker can focus on everyday topics by expounding a specific biblical text. The pastor can focus on Bible sayings on any relevant subject by a careful study and exposition of relevant biblical passages. Thematic expository preaching generally appears in a sermon series over several weeks and introduces many Scriptures focused on the same theme. Thematic messages may include as many as 10 or 12 Scripture passages in each sermon. Since the Bible tends to provide teachings on themes dispersed through different books, this form of preaching is a good way to preach the "whole counsel of God." This method also introduces new believers or unschooled unbelievers to general themes and patterns that appear throughout the Bible."

He says: 

"Narrative preaching presents the biblical text in the form of story and follows that story to completion. A narrative sermon functions as a lengthy illustration that uses a biblical text as its beginning and end.

When using this form, the speaker shares a story from the gospel such as that found in the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4). In telling the story, the preacher asks the listener to join in the narrative."

"Narrative preaching will grow more popular in the coming years. This is good news as long as the narratives remain consistent with biblical texts. Jesus demonstrated the value of narrative preaching by his use of parables."

Concerning topical expository preaching he says:

"Of the four forms of exposition, I recommend this form the least. Its weakness grows out of the limits of time and the speaker's inability to include enough biblical text about the topic in one sermon. Although I discourage this form, it is helpful at times.

Topical exposition generally revolves around one passage, centering on one theme. It is topical because it is usually a single message on a single subject. It is expository because it uses the biblical text as its source.

Most preachers use this form on special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Easter, but topical preaching does not provide adequate time to address the whole counsel of God as other methods do. Topical preaching limits opportunities for presenting proper understandings of the context as opposed to verse-by-verse preaching. In addition, the topical approach does not offer the opportunity to use the graphic and powerful images of narrative preaching. The church planter will probably use topical exposition, but it should be used sparingly.

(Ed Stetzer is vice president of LifeWay Insights for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is visiting professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, visiting research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at 15 other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. He coauthored Transformational Church with Thom Rainer.)
Stetzer is correct in showing that verse by verse preaching is not the only way to do "expository preaching."

Murray wrote:

"Why has this view of “expository preaching” become comparatively popular? There are several reasons. First, it is believed that the practice will raise the standard of preaching. By a consecutive treatment of a book of Scripture, it is said, the preacher is taken away from any hobby-horses, and congregations are more likely to be given a broader, more intelligent grasp of all Scripture. The preacher is also delivered from a constant search for texts—he and the people know what is before them."

Is the verse by verse method of expository preaching a safe way to get Scripture perverters to stop twisting Scripture?  To come to see their errors and heresies?  Will this method force Bradley and the Hardshells to deal with passages they have historically ignored and failed to properly exegete?  Will it force the Hardshells from off their theological hobby-horses?  As Spurgeon would say, "I trow not." 

Murray wrote:

"The argument that the “expository” method is the best means to cover most of the Bible is too largely connected with the idea that the foremost purpose of preaching is to convey as much as possible of the Bible. But that idea needs to be challenged. Preaching needs to be much more than an agency of instruction. It needs to strike, awaken, and arouse men and women so that they themselves become bright Christians and daily students of Scripture. If the preacher conceives his work primarily in terms of giving instruction, rather than of giving stimulus, the sermon, in most hands, very easily becomes a sort of weekly an end in itself. But true preaching needs to ignite an ongoing process."

"In our view, however, it is time that the disadvantages of this view of preaching are at least considered."

When Murray speaks of the disadvantages to "expository preaching," he is speaking of it as it is narrowly defined by men like Bradley.  There is no disadvantage to doing expository preaching when it is properly defined, which then would include topical and textual types of sermons.

In "Seven Qualities of Expository Preaching" By Wayne McDill (see here), the author writes:

"Among evangelicals, the term expository preaching has come to stand for authentic biblical preaching. However, exactly what constitutes expository preaching varies from writer to writer and preacher to preacher.

I have talked with preachers who described themselves as “expositors,” and I believed them until I heard them preach. For many, exposition seems to mean taking a text and preaching on the subject the passage seems to address. For others exposition means defining some of the words in the text. For others expository preaching seems to mean giving a history lesson on a text with most of the sermon in the past tense."

Again, what is being opposed by Murray, and by me in this series, is the way "expository preaching" is defined, which excludes any preaching that is not part of a series in which a book of the Bible is being examined verse by verse and line by line.

In "What is expository preaching?" a writer says:

"Expository preaching is typically defined in terms of the length of the Bible passage used. Andrew Blackwood's definition: "Expository preaching means that the light for any sermon comes mainly from a Bible passage longer than two or three consecutive verses."1 The passage is often a Bible paragraph or chapter, sometimes an entire book. The most valid definition, however, would deal less with the length of the passage treated and more with the manner of treatment.

Our definition of expository preaching in its strictest, most narrow sense: Expository preaching is preaching based on a significant Bible passage so that the sermon's principal lessons originate in Scripture and are applied to a present human need. In its broad est sense, expository preaching is simply biblical preaching."

This is why I like Stetzer's outline concerning types of expository preaching.

In "What expository preaching isn't" another author wrote:

"It isn't springboarding. Our perpetual temptation is to use the Bible as a springboard from which to jump into a discussion of our own thoughts. The Scripture is adjusted to fit our thinking, rather than our thinking adjusted to fit the Scripture. We use the Bible as a sermon resource, but it is not the sermon's real source.

It isn't lecturing, if lecturing means including everything in the passage in detail. It isn't a verse-by-verse commentary on an entire passage, nor is it a word study. It isn't giving a lot of facts with no more unifying purpose than a page from the dictionary. Rather, it must focus on one principal proposition found in the passage and either omit or pass lightly over every thing else.

It isn't just teaching. Expository preaching emphatically includes teaching, but it is teaching not for the sake of knowledge alone but for the sake of using that knowledge to move the listener's will to do the will of God."

These words are worthy of consideration in this discussion.  The same author wrote:

"We can define expository preaching in its broadest sense as genuinely Bible-based preaching; textual, biographical, or topical sermons, if truly biblical, could be considered variations of expository preaching. The topical approach, although fraught with the obvious danger of lifting texts out of context, is almost essential to doctrinal preaching. To learn the whole truth on any subject, the whole Bible needs to be studied. If topical preaching is belittled, doctrinal preaching will likely be neglected."  (see here)

Well, amen to that!

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