Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why I Preach Expositionally (1)

The health of the church depends upon the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word. It is, after all, from the Bible that we learn who God is and how He accomplished redemption for sinners through the sacrificial death of His Son. It is by the proclamation of the Word of God that sinners come to faith in Christ (Rom 10:9-17). From the Bible we learn what worship, fellowship, evangelism, ministry, and stewardship ought to be. From the Bible we learn how to properly love one another, resolve conflict, and provide accountability for the sake of Christ-likeness. The church would not exist if not for God’s Word.

This affirmation flows from the Protestant conviction that the Word of God creates the church and not the other way around. Perhaps you have always assumed that to be true, not knowing that the official position of the Church of Rome is that the church created the Bible. This error places the hierarchy, traditions, and dogmas of the church at the center of the church rather than the Word of God. To assert that the Word of God is at the center of the church is not to deny that Christ is the Head of the Church but rather that the primary means by which Christ rules His church is through His Word. I once heard John MacArthur comment that the trend away from biblically faithful preaching is in reality an attempt to overthrow the Head of the church by removing the Word of the Head of the church from the church.

Donald MacNair calls a commitment to the Bible the hallmark of a healthy church. He writes, “When I speak of the Bible as the hallmark of the healthy church, I mean that a church’s defining characteristic should always be the faithful use of the Bible, God’s holy and inerrant Word…To use the Bible faithfully in ministry, we must enunciate its truths. We must be convinced of its authoritative relevance to any situation. And we must spell out its implications for daily living and for the new problems that we constantly face.”[1]

There have always been voices from within the church that claim preaching is not relevant. We certainly hear those voices in our own day. The use of videos, drama, meditation, prayer labyrinths, and many other sensory experiences crowd out time that should be given over to the preaching of Scripture. The result is a potentially dangerous elevation of subjective experience over the guidance of God’s revelation through His written word.

God has always called His people to be an auditory lot. God is into words. As much as sensory experiences may excite us, God has always been committed to forming a people from the power of His words. This is reflected in the act of creation described in Genesis. Pagan religions depicted creation as coming about through such highly experiential means as wars between the gods or even sex acts. But God created all there is through the power of His word (Gen 1).

God originally spoke to His people directly. As a result of sin God’s people needed mediation to hear from God so He spoke to them through His laws and the prophets. Next, God spoke in the most profound way through His Son (Heb 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is referred to as “the Word” in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. Since the time of the apostles God speaks to His people through Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible, His completed Word. This is also how God chooses to create new life in those dead in their sins (Rom 10). Christians must never despise the importance of God’s Word faithfully proclaimed. The preaching and teaching of the Bible must never lose its place of prominence in the church. Our very life depends upon it.

Metro East desires to be a church known for faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God. Fads will come and go and the prophets of church growth will search feverishly for ways to make the church more “relevant.” Scripture never promises that the words of God and the Gospel will be popular. Indeed we are promised that preaching and the message of the cross itself are foolishness to the world (I Cor 1:18-25).

The preaching at Metro East can be broadly classified under two headings: 1) Sermon series’ covering specific books of the Bible and 2) Sermons and series of sermons that address specific doctrinal topics. In both cases the sermons are expositional or expository.

Expositional preaching focuses squarely on the biblical text. It is preaching that takes the main point of the text and makes it the main point of the sermon. An expositional sermon is one that strives to say what the text is saying; no more, no less. Mark Dever writes, “Expositional preaching is preaching in service to the Word. It presumes belief in the authority of Scripture – that the Bible is actually God’s Word; but it is something much more than that. A commitment to expositional preaching is a commitment to hear God’s Word – not just to affirm that it is God’s Word but to actually submit yourself to it”[2]


[1] MacNair, Donald, The Practices of a Healthy Church (P&R: Phillipsburg, PA, 1999) p. 64.
[2] Dever, Mark, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2000) p. 27.

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