“Expository preaching is the exegesis and ‘exposing’ of universal Biblical truth to every age, every audience.”1 It explains what the Bible means by what it says. Exegesis is a technical and grammatical exposition, a careful drawing out of the exact meaning of a passage in its original context.
Further, we can say that expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies, first, to the preacher’s personality and experiences and, then, through the preacher, to the hearers. It involves a series of components.
The first book on homiletics to be produced by the English Reformation was The Arte of Prophecying, written by William Perkins (1558-1602), which shows that this has been an important subject for centuries.2
The master of expository preaching for many, and certainly for myself, was Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who, prior to his death, had been the minister of Westminster Chapel, London, England, for some 36 years. Lloyd-Jones is a classic example of an expository preacher. Let us put together a profile of a positive preacher from his ministry.
From the beginning, he sought to give a verse-by-verse understanding of the Word of God to God’s people. By so doing, he dealt with all aspects of the passage. There was no hiding place for the difficult verses. J. I. Packer best sums up the impact that Lloyd-Jones had on so many. “He said that he had ‘never heard such preaching.’ It came to him ‘with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man.’”3
Albert Mohler, a great preacher in his own right, states, “When it is done rightly and faithfully, authentic expository preaching will be marked by three distinct characteristics: authority, reverence, and centrality. Expository preaching is authoritative. Moreover, it stands upon the very authority of the Bible as the Word of God. It requires and reinforces a sense of reverent expectation on the part of God’s people. And finally, expository preaching demands the central place in Christian worship and is respected as the event through which the living God speaks to His people.”4
Preaching is central to worship. The Puritans built their places of worship (meeting houses) with an “elaborately-carved raised pulpit over which hung a sounding board. To reach the pulpit, the minister had to climb a flight of narrow stairs. The pulpit Bible would sit on a cushion of green velvet with long tassels hanging from its corners.”5
It was a testimony to their reverence for the Word of God and highlighted the importance of God’s Word. They honored the Word of God because the Holy God used it as a means to communicate with His people. Lloyd-Jones believed that preaching was the “logical demonstration of the truth of a given passage of Scripture with the aid, or unction, of the Holy Spirit.”6
I wish preaching would enjoy the position in the church it once did. Often, it is relegated to just another part of the meeting. In many places, just like the announcements, it has become secondary to everything else. Other preferences are placed before it, filling up the time with other than the Word of God. What some people overlook is that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17, NKJV).
1 Michael A. Milton, “What Is Expository Preaching? 8 Important Things to Know.” https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/what-is -expository-preaching.html
2 A reprint of this book is available: The Art of Prophesying With The Calling of the Ministry (Carlisle,PA: Banner of Truth, 1996).
3 John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 77.
4 R. Albert Mohler Jr., He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2008), 69, 70.
5 Amy Belding Brown, “The Puritan Meetinghouse,” Collisions: Natives and Puritans in Early New England (blog), April 18, 2014, amybeldingbrown.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/the-puritan-meetinghouse/.
6 Wikipedia, s.v. “Martyn Lloyd-Jones,” last modified June 6, 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyn Lloyd-Jones.