One thing I have committed myself to during my time at Boyce College is to learn the practice of expository preaching. There is hardly avoiding the fact that all young preachers preach bad sermons, especially early on. As Tim Keller once said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, your first 200 sermons will be terrible.” All preachers can only truly learn how to preach through practice. However, filling one’s mind and heart with biblically and historically faithful way of preaching prepares the student to preach bad sermons in the right way.
In preparing to become a faithful expositor, I have benefited mostly from reading books on the nature and practice of expository preaching. Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition is one of the most significant books in print on expository preaching. If you have no clue what expository preaching is; if you are a preacher considering preaching expositionally; or even if you already preach expositionally, Rediscovering Expository Preaching is a great resource.
John MacArthur and other faculty members of The Master’s Seminary combined to produce an invaluable resource for preachers in the early 1990’s and is still benefiting preachers today.
There is one chapter in Rediscovering Expository Preaching that I want to briefly discuss to give you both a feel for the book and some points for reflection on a crucial aspect of expository preaching.
The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy
John MacArthur wrote the second chapter, which is entitled, The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy.
In this chapter, MacArthur examines expository preaching in light of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Essentially, MacArthur’s main point is that expository preaching is the practical overflow of biblical inerrancy. Or, as he puts it, biblical inerrancy “demands” expository preaching. MacArthur shows that the spiritual health of Christians and churches is dependent upon biblical inerrancy expressed in expository preaching. MacArthur states his thesis early on:
The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God (23-24).
It is through this definition of expository preaching that MacArthur shows a direct connection to the inerrancy of Scripture.
MacArthur argues that for inerrantists, there really is no other way to preach outside of expository preaching. On the other hand, if one believes the Bible is errant, then it would be foolish to preach the Bible expositionally. MacArthur ends up going further by arguing that preaching the Bible at all is meaningless if Scripture is not inerrant. Because of this intrinsic connection between biblical inerrancy and expository preaching, MacArthur goes through various points to show how the preacher can present the Bible “entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.”
From here, MacArthur breaks down the manner in which expository preaching can practically be carried out—exegesis. He defines exegesis as,
[T]he skillful application of sound hermeneutical principles to be the biblical text in the original language with a view to understanding and declaring the author’s intended meaning both to the immediate and subsequent audiences (29).
In order to preach expositionally, the preacher will need to make use of the hermeneutical principle of exegesis. The doctrine of inerrancy and the commitment to preach expositionally necessitates the use of exegesis. Finally, MacArthur gives a brief look at opposition to expositional preaching, which is found in theological liberalism’s denial of inerrancy.
This chapter is a necessary foundational look at expository preaching and its place in evangelical churches. I was personally challenged by this chapter to view expository preaching not as an option among many, but rather as the only appropriate way to preach. In fact, the only way to truly preach the word of God is to preach expositionally. MacArthur’s passion for inerrancy and preaching shines through in this chapter. He makes a strong claim that pierces the hearts of many pastors, but for those who believe in biblical inerrancy, there is no arguing against his arguments.
The mandate of the pastor is to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). In order to preach the divinely inspired word of God, the pastor must preach entirely and exactly what God has intended. MacArthur is clear in his definition and explanation of expository preaching. Exegesis requires diligent work, but all efforts will prove fruitful, because at the end of the day the pastor will be able to leave the pulpit knowing he preached a message from the Lord.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.