Twenty features of expository preaching

Peter Adam

  1. It recognises that units of Biblical verbal revelation are the books of the Bible [originally scrolls or papyrus sheets]. [1] Expository preaching is sequential preaching, based on sequential reading, the obvious way to read a book!
  2. In preaching from a book, it will further the theological and pastoral purpose of the whole book. It takes into account the communicative and persuasive purpose of the book as a whole, and recognises how each part of the book serves that purpose.
  3. It recognises the historical context of the book, its place in salvation history, in Biblical Theology, its Canonical context.
  4. It recognises the literary style of the book as a whole, and the literary features of the passage to be preached.[2] The length of passage it uses fits the literary style of the chapter or book, and the capacity of the congregation. It may preach on chapters, or sections of the book, or the complete book.[3]
  5. It is shaped by Augustinian, Reformation and evangelical theology. The expository method by itself may be merely moralistic or superficial, or may be dominated by other sources so that the Bible’s words are marginalised or distorted.[4]
  6. It communicates confidence in the power, inspiration, truth, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible, and its power to convert, teach, transform, encourage, and mature. God’s power works in the inspired Bible, the preacher, and the hearers.
  7. It is shaped by units of meaning, rather than verse or chapter numbers.
  8. The length of passage to be preached is determined by the style of literature, its theological density, and the capacity of the hearers.
  9. It uses a vernacular Bible and vernacular language, if possible.
  10. It follows the passage’s purpose, in addressing either God’s people, or individuals.
  11. It attempts to ‘project the eloquence of Scripture, projecting the words, ideas, emotions, relationships, motivations, images, tensions, problems, drama, questions, issues, meaning, and purposes of the passage.
  12. It focuses both on God’s book and on God’s people. It pays equal attention to the significance of the passage “to them” as it does “for us.” Though it may be a monologue in style, it will be a dialogue in content, as the preacher engages with, and may articulate, the anticipated responses of the hearers. It takes every opportunity to make connections between passage and hearers, including their current lives in church and world.
  13. It takes into account the wide range of people who will hear the sermon, including enquirers, doubters, unbelievers, new Christians, untaught Christians, mature believers, and older Christians who have lost their way.
  14. It is theological and practical, intellectual and emotional, serving both the passage and the people.
  15. It is designed to be heard, not read, and will communicate, persuade, and invite a specific response.
  16. It aims to teach, inform, transform, and train the hearers for ministry, and to train and raise up future teachers and preachers of the Bible.
  17. It provides a good model for hearers for their own Bible reading, and for how they teach the Bible to others. [Sermons which use “texts” without contexts encourage hearers to treat the Bible the same way.]
  18. It expresses servant-hearted love for the hearers, for ministry without love is worth nothing and achieves nothing [1 Cor 13:1-3]. It is ministry to the people, not performance by the preacher.
  19. It expresses the character and experience of the preacher, for sermons are not preached by machines, and God respects his preachers as he respected his Bible writers, each with their own personal style of language and communication.
  20. It is soaked in prayer that God would speak his ancient words, and work through them in those who hear, and trusts that God will do what he has promised through his powerful word.
  1. Note that 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book, as were 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and possibly Ezra and Nehemiah. But the principle still stands.
  2. See Ryken, “Literature,” in Leland Ryken, and Todd Wilson, eds., Preach the Word: Essays on expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes, Wheaton: Crossway, 2007; and Leland Ryken, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible, Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
  3. Dever preaches on complete books in Mark Dever, Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament, Wheaton: Crossway, 2005; and Mark Dever, Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament, Wheaton: Crossway, 2006.
  4. Our theology must also be continually reformed by the Bible.