Here, we deal with the art of expounding a passage of Scripture. To expound means to interpret and explain; to set forth a matter in detail.
For example, you may decide to go through the Gospel of John, chapter by chapter. Commencing with the first chapter, you would seek to interpret and explain the meaning and significance of it, verse by verse.
You might deal with one chapter each week – and thus, over a period of weeks, finally go through the whole book.
A. ADVANTAGES OF EXPOSITORY PREACHING
This is an excellent method of teaching the Bible. It has many distinct advantages, and is a good style to cultivate. Here are some of the obvious advantages of this method:
- It Is A Biblical Method
Jesus Himself frequently used this method. He would take a portion of the Old Testament Scripture and interpret the meaning of it to His hearers.
Peter also used this method on the Day of Pentecost. He took some of the Old Testament Scriptures referring to King David, and explained the true meaning of them to the great crowd. He carefully showed the prophetic implications of those Scriptures and how they pointed to Christ, and proved Him to be the Messiah.
Again, we find Stephen using this method of expository preaching in Acts 7. The Bible is literally filled with fine examples of expository preaching.
- It Produces Bible Preachers & Bible-Oriented Congregations
Expounding the Scriptures ensures that there is plenty of Bible content in your ministry. As you proceed through a chapter, verse by verse, your congregation is being filled with the Word of God.
- It Invites Holy Spirit Reinforcement
The Spirit of God always agrees with the Word of God (1 Jn 5:7). Therefore, the more Bible content we preach, the more of the Spirit’s anointing there will be upon the proclamation. The Holy Spirit delights to confirm the Word of God. He does so many times with signs and wonders (Mark 16:20).
- It Encourages Deeper Interest In The Bible
The more of the Bible you share with people, the more hungry they become for it. They will soon begin to study it for themselves at deeper levels. Their lives will be transformed. They will be strengthened and reinforced by the Word. You will have a Bible-oriented church.
B. SUGGESTED PROCEDURE
- Carefully Choose An Appropriate Passage Of Scripture
Make sure the passage is one which will minister life and strength to your hearers. Do not choose a subject merely because it interests or intrigues you. Never select a subject which engenders dispute, division and strife.
You are seeking to be a channel for God, that He might speak His Word to His people through you. You are therefore responsible to get the mind of God for the people over whom He has given you responsibility. This ministry is one of the greatest privileges given to mortal man. It is also one of the most awesome responsibilities!
- Seek A Theme Relevant To The People’s Present Situation
God always has “present truth” that He wants to speak to His people (2Pet 1:12). There is a constant progression and development of God’s purposes among His people. He has a specific purpose for each body of believers.
Every congregation should be moving forward in the particular purpose of God that He has defined for them. In order to accomplish this, it is essential that His specific word of truth is ministered to them consistently.
It is sometimes a useful exercise to ask yourself: “If this were to be my last chance to speak to this people, what is the most important thing they need to hear?”
Preaching with this kind of thought in mind helps you. It will ensure that your topics are relevant and vital to the development and maturing of the people in the purposes that God has for them.
- Study The Passage Carefully From Every Angle
Read it through several times until you begin to become very familiar with it. Then study it carefully, verse by verse. Whenever there is an obvious link with some other passage of Scripture, read that portion, too.
If you have access to any reference books, then by all means read them. But above all, keep your mind open and alert to the Holy Spirit, to glean whatever thoughts He may share with you.
- Endeavor To Thoroughly Understand Your Theme
Always seek to discover the underlying theme of the passage. What was the Holy Spirit seeking to convey when He inspired this passage? What is at the very heart of this teaching? What is it that God would say to His people through this?
- Have A Definite Objective In Mind
Your objective should be in complete harmony with God’s objective.
Having discovered what you sense He is wanting to communicate through this Scripture, your task is to be as faithful to that as possible. So, you need to soak yourself in the message.
It is not sufficient to mentally comprehend what God is saying. You need to feel what He is feeling. He wants to communicate His heart as well as His mind. So His Word must flow through your heart as well as your mind.
You are to be God’s instrument to convincingly relay His message to His people. You are His mouthpiece!
You are not called to share YOUR mind with the people. You are called to share HIS mind with them. This awareness should be your motivating factor. It should be the compelling reason for your preaching.
- Speak From Your Own Experience
In order for you to effectively communicate truth, it should be something which God has worked out in your own life first.
Many preachers present theories. They preach platitudes which some times have no practical relevance. No man can convincingly preach a “born-again experience” unless he has experienced it himself.
You must know the experience as a reality in your own life before you can effectively share it with others. The preacher is called to be a living epistle. He is not only required to preach the truth; he is also required to practice and demonstrate it. He is to be a living example of all he preaches.
- Make It Meaningful
Exegesis means “to bring out the true meaning.” You are responsible to ensure, to the best of your ability, that the true meaning and significance of the Scripture becomes clear to your listeners.
Always endeavor to make your subject simple. This is obviously what Jesus did. This was an important reason why His ministry was so powerful and effective. He took profound issues and made them so simple.
Many modern preachers do the very opposite. They take the simplest subjects and make them so profound and complicated that their audience understands little of what they hear.
Remember this: the simpler, the better!
- Make It Practical
Always try to clearly show the practical applications your message may have for the people. A grave danger among Christians is often “too much knowledge, too little practice.”
Many Christians have listened to sermons for years. Yet, there is little change in their lives or practical expression of the teaching.
Do not be content to merely speak to people. Make your conclusions abundantly clear. Endeavor to make practical suggestions as to how the people may meaningfully respond to God.
Follow up your messages with practical programs in which people may become involved in order to be doers of the Word and not hearers only!
C. GATHERING RELEVANT MATERIAL
In addition to studying the passage of Scripture, how do we collect additional relevant material? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What Have I Ever Heard Or Read On This Subject?
Begin to stir up your memory. Perhaps you once read a good book on this subject. What was the book? What did it say on this matter? Push your memory until the thoughts come back to your conscious mind.
Perhaps you once heard someone preach on this subject. What was said? How was it presented? Frequently something that was said will become a seed-thought in your mind. From this, a whole train of new thoughts will come.
- What Has The Holy Spirit Ever Shown Me On This Subject?
This is where the benefit of keeping a notebook is realized.
Sometimes months or even years previously, God had given you some interesting thoughts and insight on this very theme. If you did not write down those thoughts, you may have a problem recalling them again.
But if you have a notebook in which your devotional thoughts are recorded, you can go back to it again to familiarize your mind with what the Spirit showed you then.
If you have not been keeping such a book, get away somewhere quietly so your mind can dwell on the subject without interruptions. Meditation will help you recall those things you were taught by the Spirit.
- What Have I Ever Observed That Relates To This Theme?
Frequently, we have observed things which throw light on the subject we are considering. We may recall incidents from our experience which illustrate some aspect of truth we are now considering.
Sometimes it is a thing we have observed in nature which confirms a principle we are studying in the Word of God.
Illustrations from nature often bring tremendous light to a Scripture. African preachers are usually very adept at this. I have often been thrilled listening to an African preacher illustrating Bible truth from those things he has learned about nature. The God of nature is also the God of the Bible!
- What Thoughts Have I Ever Had On This Subject?
Many of our previous thoughts on a given subject are now buried in the subconscious mind. They need to be brought to the surface again. This can often be accomplished in a time of deep meditation.
As we sit quietly, focusing our minds on the Bible, buried thoughts will float to the surface again. I often tell my students: “Push your memory; make it work. You will not damage it by making it work for you. You can only improve it.” Never be afraid to do this.
Sit and concentrate. Will to remember what your thoughts were. Refresh you r mind with them again.
- Who Or What Can I Consult On This Subject?
Discussing a biblical topic with a fellow preacher is always a stimulating and valuable experience. If you have opportunity to do this, then seize that chance! It will be edifying and enlightening for all concerned.
This kind of exercise should take place every time preachers are together. Engaging in discussion on edifying Bible subjects would do a tremendous amount of good and foster true fellowship and unity: I feel very sad for many of my minister friends who have no reference books. But they do have each other!
Share your knowledge and experience with each other. Pool your Bible knowledge through good discussion and frequent conversation. Don’t waste those golden opportunities when you come together
D. PREPARATION OF YOUR MATERIAL
Having found a suitable, relevant passage, deal with it as follows:
- Be Open-Minded About It
Put aside your preconceived ideas on the subject. Let your mind be open and unbiased to receive and learn something new.
Someone has said that if we really want to grow spiritually, then we must read all those parts of the Bible which we have NEVER underlined.
Frequently, We have firmly established concepts; and we tend to see only those things which confirm what we already believe. We must approach God’s Word with openness and honesty.
Don’t nullify or make of “no effect” the Word of God because your religious tradition has shut off your mind to anything other than what you presently believe (see Mark 7:13).
You certainly do not have the sum total of all the knowledge God wants to impart to you. Be ready to learn whatever new truth God may have to share with you.
- Investigate It Thoroughly
Analyze the passage. Interrogate it! Take it apart and examine it thoroughly. Do this with your mind open to the Holy Spirit. Anticipate fresh thought and revelation from God. Expect to discern truth which you have never noticed before.
The Word of God is like a mine shaft. The deeper you go, the more precious the deposits you find. Many people are content to dig around the surface. Their conclusions are always superficial. They are able to share only what others already know.
A secret of effective teaching is to investigate those areas of truth which have not previously occurred to people. In this way, you can share fresh and refreshing truth with them.
- Do Some Original Thinking About It
Do not let your mind stay in the ruts you have created. Trust the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind. I am sure He will share something with you that you have never known before.
Check it out with the rest of the Bible. No “truth” ever contradicts the whole body of truth revealed in the Scriptures. Check it, too, with a fellow preacher, one who knows more about the Bible than you do, and not one that you know will always agree with you!
Do not be afraid to have some original thought. Let the wind of the Spirit blow the cobwebs from your mind!
- Approach It Creatively
God is a Creator. His Word is a creative Word. Everything which God made, He created by His Word! The Word of God should not be bound. It is still a creative and powerful Word. When released into redeemed hearts, it will create and transform.
Always be aware of the creative potential of God’s Word. Handle it with an attitude of faith and expectancy. Always be mindful that it is filled with creative ability. It has far more energy and ability than you will ever understand. It is always capable of producing far more than you could comprehend.
Remember, it is a miracle Word. God is in His Word. His creative genius is in it. Your ministry should be aimed at releasing this creative ability into the lives of your hearers.
- Treat It Constructively
Remember that you are a laborer together with God. You are involved in CONSTRUCTING something, not destroying it. Your task, under God, is to build up the Body of Christ. Therefore, your messages should be constructive, not destructive.
Sometimes your emphasis may be very searching. The word you deliver may bring your listeners to heart-searching and repentance. Their reaction may be brokenness and tears, but they should not be left like that!
Consider Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh 8:5-12). God had delivered a very heavy word to the returned exiles. As they listened to the exposition of the Law, they realized how far they had gotten away from it during the years of exile.
This caused them to weep, bowing their faces to the ground in repentance. The prophets allowed them to do this for a while. Then they interrupted their weeping and mourning and got the people on their feet again.
They said: “…go …eat…and drink … neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength ” (vs 10).
Do not constantly bring the people under condemnation. Your ultimate goal is to see them built up, strengthened and edified. To accomplish this, you must minister constructively.
- Study It Comparatively
Scripture must be compared with Scripture. It must always be interpreted within the total context of the Bible. This demands a maturity of understanding of the whole Bible.
You must study the Bible consistently “to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly ‘applying’ the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15 pph).
- Conclude It Practically
All effective Bible preaching and teaching must have a practical conclusion and application. Ministry is not merely to inform the mind, but rather to form the life. You should always have a practical conclusion to make. Suggest to your audience some meaningful response. People need to respond to the word you have brought.
E. DELIVERING THE EXPOSITORY MESSAGE
- Turn To Passage
Have your congregation turn to the appropriate passage in the Bible.
- Read Passage Aloud
If you plan to expound a particular chapter, read it out to the people. Perhaps the congregation may share the reading with you, each one reading out a verse or two.
- Introduce Your Theme
Explain how you intend to deal with it. Explain your purpose and intention, so that the people may cooperate with you. They will then understand where you are heading and will be able to follow along with you.
- Read Passage Aloud Again
You may then decide to read the chapter through again, one verse at a time, making a suitable commentary on each verse.
- SEVEN PRINCIPLES
At this point, I would like to introduce to you seven vital principles which are extremely important, particularly in expository preaching. Remember them, and seek to cover them whenever you expound the Word of God.
Make sure that your commentary is easily understood. Do not try to be too profound or mysterious. The aim of effective expository preaching is to make the relevant passage as easy to understand as possible.
Do not try to be clever or to display your knowledge. Try to break the Bread of Life in such a way that your entire audience is able to easily follow the emphasis you are making.
Keep your comments consistent with the theme you are expounding. Avoid the temptation to wander off down various devious pathways which may occur to you. By keeping faithful to your subject, you reinforce it in the minds of your audience.
Do not be afraid of some repetition. A certain amount of it is necessary in order to fix a truth into the hearts of the people.
To “cohere” means to hold together. So be sure your thoughts have a clear unity. A person speaking incoherently is one whose speech is lacking in unity. It is often impossible to connect to the point he is trying to make.
Let the expression of your thoughts have obvious unity. Do not wander from thought to thought. Be clear and concise. Make sure your thoughts have cohesion and hold together well, each supporting and complementing the other.
There should also be a clear progression of thought. Your statements should be continually moving your audience towards the proposed objective. Each point should follow clearly the previous one.
Your comments should flow freely from one to the next, with unity and clear development and progression. Keep moving forward smoothly to your ultimate goal.
Aim to be brief. It is far better to have your audience wishing that you would continue, than to have them wishing you had finished twenty minutes previously.
Avoid the temptation to speak for the sake of speaking. Don’t get into the habit of rambling on. It only confuses your audience. A good piece of advice was once offered to preachers in this form: STAND UP! SPEAK UP! SHUT UP!
This point may seem to contradict the previous one in which l advised brevity. To be comprehensive means to cover the subject as fully as possible. But there is no contradiction.
It is certainly possible and desirable to cover a subject comprehensively and yet as briefly as possible.
Being comprehensive does not necessitate speaking at so great a length that your audience becomes tired of the sound of your voice. Try to balance the two!
Here is the most important point. What is the conclusion of all you have said? What is the end result? What will your words achieve?
The desired conclusion should dominate your mind from the commencement. You should be moving relentlessly towards it. Minister in faith, expecting God to bring to pass His desired objective.
Remember that it is not your responsibility to achieve the desired result. That is God’s task. You must keep looking to God, not to the people. Confidently expect Him to give the increase.