By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Having preached sermons for nearly 40 years, I have tried the various sermonic forms and concluded that expository preaching—preaching directly from the Word—is best. Why?
Expository preaching stays close to the revealed Truth.
There is no other Book like His Book. Therefore, to drift from it is to slide into relativism and personal opinions. To stay close to it is continually to come under its eternal light.
More and more, the revealed Truth is being sidelined for flash and fake. It is being substituted with cute and cunning. Nevertheless, God never set out to communicate such cheap “gospel.” He was born and died to set before the mortal mind the divine mind. Therefore, to make a life-long expounding of that heavenly thought is the commission of every Christian pulpit.
Expository preaching opens up heavenly creativities which originate with the Holy Spirit Himself.
To go week after week into the Pastor’s study in an attempt to come up with one’s own imaginative lore and luck is to trudge into eventual boredom. Rightly so. We mere mortals in ourselves simply do not have what it takes continually to manufacture that which nurtures the eternal soul.
Therefore, we must be humble enough as preachers to admit that we need to come under the divine fire. It is that flame which ignites the energies to produce a sermon which can truly bring one’s hearers into the holy of holies. It is that igniting from above which evidences an on-going pentecost within the truly obedient.
Expository preaching opens up spiritual nurturing theme upon theme, never to be come upon in any other literature than the Holy Scriptures.
One inspired chapter after another overloads the earnest preacher with enough accents to spin into numerous sermons each week. These truths abound for they unfold the divine nature Himself.
To neglect these revelations is to bring sterility to the Christian holy desk. To zealously attack the scripture’s passages with fresh zeal at each sermonic preparation is to uncover treasures from above. These are what each generation must feed upon in order to find the daily strength to overcome the trials of our sojourn.
Expository preaching honors the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word.
He is its Author. He is the One who superintended the Mystery. Therefore, the preacher approaches humbly that written Word in an attempt to pray for the incarnate Word to speak anew. With such petitions heavenward, the incarnate Word never disappoints. In fact, He stands at the preacher’s door and knocks.
The Holy Spirit will move the preacher’s human spirit verse upon verse, unmasking concept upon concept frequently rushing the preacher’s brain into such glad excitement as to stir his soul beyond measure. Such a privilege is given only to the studious pastor who gives his best to each sermon prepared and preached.
Expository preaching lifts the Word to laity who seldom read the Word for themselves.
We wish it were otherwise; but even in the most biblical environs, the rush of today’s lifestyle truthfully spells a biblically illiterate people. This is sad; nevertheless, stark reality will aid us at this point.
All the more reason then that the student-pastor keep the biblical foundations intact within his own life—then in the formation of his sermons. The stories of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul—how they need to be told and retold.
The themes of redemption, hope, sanctification, heaven and grace need to be laid continually before the waiting congregation. This is best seen when preaching expositorily—jeweled upon jewel upon jewel—not from earth’s coves, but from heaven’s coffers.
Expository preaching grows the preacher himself.
When the pastor spends more time in his secular reading than he does in the sacred reading, his pulpit and prayer closet show it. The leanness is not worth it in the end. In short order, the sensitive pastor realizes what is occurring, then hopefully flees back to the Book.
Living a lifetime with the scriptures deepens the preacher’s own wells for divine understanding. More and more the secular age cries out for those Christian pulpits that are mounted by men who truly know the timeless Truth which sets us all free. These preachers first know the Truth in their own experiences; then they relate its gusto to their hearers.
Expository preaching outlasts the sermon.
Hearers take home the Word of God, not simply a current event or a tickling humor or a flighty bit of zesty “wisdom.” Marinating in the sermonic themes from scripture continues throughout the hearer’s day, hopefully throughout the next week until the next sermon is heard.
When the pastor opens the Word to expound upon it, verse by verse, theme by theme, accent by accent, the people hear, not so much from the human behind the pulpit, but from the Lord Himself.
The ever-present Holy Spirit remains faithful to His own revelation. He then works far more meticulously within the souls of the hearers than any onlooker could ever detect—on Sunday and then through the next Saturday.
Expository preaching brings excitement to the pastor himself in preparing and preaching the text.
It is an adventure which weekly becomes especially alluring. There is a captivation about his work that is beyond description.
While other clerical labors may grow stale, the expository preaching enlightens and enlivens with its own magnetism. There is an enticement about it which defines its own eternal definition. In other words, the preacher knows for certain that he indeed has hold of something formed in the forevers—it has come from “out there” and will return to the “out there.”
Such timelessness baits for the good of the gospel. It converts the soul. It cleanses church life. It brings heaven down to earth. Expository preaching reveals itself to be its own blessed reward.
J. Grant Swank, Jr. lives with his wife, Priscilla, in Windham, Maine, where he pastors the New Hope Church. Article adapted from Contact magazine, July 2000.