Let the Text Shape The Message

Expository preaching begins in the preacher’s determination to present and explain the text of the Bible to his congregation. This simple starting point is a major issue of division in contemporary homiletics for, from Harry Emerson Fosdick onward, many preachers assume that they must begin with a human problem or question and then work backward to the biblical text. Expository preaching begins with the text and works from the text and its revealed truth to the application of that truth to the lives of believers. If this determination and commitment are not clear at the outset, something other than expository preaching will result.

The preacher comes to the text and to the preaching event with many concerns and priorities in mind. Many of their concerns are undeniably legitimate and important in their own right. Nevertheless, if genuine exposition of the word of God is to take place, those other concerns must be subordinate to the central and irreducible task of explaining and presenting the biblical text.

…Expository preaching is inescapably bound to the serious work of exegesis. If the preacher is to explain the text, he must first study the text and devote the necessary hours of study and research necessary to understand the text. The pastor faces an immediate issue of priority when this is acknowledged. He must invest the largest portion of his energy and intellectual engagement (not to mention his time) to this task of accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). There are no shortcuts to genuine exposition. The preacher must stand ready to present and proclaim the message of the Bible and bring the congregation into a direct confrontation with the biblical text. the expositor is not an explorer who returns to tell the tales of the journey, but a guide who leads the people into the text and teaches the arts of Bible study and interpretation even as he demonstrates the same.

Taken from Give praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (pg. 112-113) edited by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek  Thomas, J. Ligon Duncan III. Andrew Franseen gave me this book as a Christmas present years ago when he was still getting to know me (along with another ministry shaping book). That act of giving has stuck with me for many years. Thank you Andrew once again!

And another (shorter) quote from the much newer book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology. I add this quote simply because it talks about the value of God’s word and the price that must be paid to preach and hear it. 

As seekers of truth and as lovers of God and others, then, we set out to discover revealed truth and to acquire biblical wisdom as one sets out to mine gold and precious stones. Our conviction that God’s Word is the most precious commodity there is fuels a desire to extract even the last ounce of meaning from the biblical text no matter how much effort or learning it takes to recover it. In our quest for revealed divine truth, we will be prepared to pay whatever price it takes to hear God speak to us in and through his Word and to proclaim his life-giving message authentically and accurately to others. (p. 59)



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