5 Ways Pastors Spiritually Benefit From Preaching Expository Sermons
Many pastors have written and spoken concerning the ways expository preaching benefits your congregation, but few talk about how it benefits the soul of you, the preacher.
I say this as one who sometimes loses sight of the blessings of expository preaching because of the exhaustion of week-in, week-out teaching ministry. Pastors can succumb to the mindset of Grandma on Thanksgiving Day, who eats a cold plate because she was so busy cooking for everyone else. It fills the stomach, but lacks the celebration and joy.
The celebration and joy of preaching God’s word will return to you when you remember the blessings that God has in store for preachers who give themselves wholly to the task of expository preaching. What are those blessings? Here is a list of five.
1. You will maintain your integrity as a preacher
We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2)
Based on Paul’s logic in this verse, someone who does tamper with God’s word is not able to commend himself to anyone’s conscience in the sight of God. Someone who uses the Bible to say something that it doesn’t mean – whether from good motives or ill, accidentally or on purpose – makes a breach in his integrity.
If the structure of your sermon is aligned with the structure of the passage, and if you derive your sub-points from the author’s sub-points, then it is difficult to tamper with the message of the passage. You dramatically increase your odds of getting at the author’s intended meaning if you follow his logic.
2. You will grow in passion for Jesus
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…“Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:27, 32)
When you commit to expository preaching, eventually you will hit an obscure or difficult passage. Some pastors get frustrated by trying to derive a sermon from such texts.
But seasoned expository preachers know better. They have wrestled with such passages and have come away seeing the gospel and the work of Christ in a new light. These new insights will fan the flame of your passion for Jesus.
The clincher here – and with the next two benefits below – is the all part, as in Moses and all the Prophets. Only when you commit to preach the entire Bible, tough passages and all, will you get this joy of a fresh look at Jesus’s person and work.
3. You will be innocent of the condemnation incurred by those who reject your preaching
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27-28)
You will be held to account for your ministry, and you will even be judged with more strictness than others (James 3:1). One way to ensure that you will be found faithful on that day is by preaching through all of Scripture. That doesn’t mean you have to pull a MacArthur and go through the whole New Testament verse by verse. You can go Dever style and preach book by book, too.
The point is that you are not leaving out anything in your preaching, whether in terms of content or theology. You will be innocent of anyone’s blood if you preach all the Scriptures, no matter how offensive, irrelevant, or uninteresting it might seem.
Are you shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God? You know you are supposed to as a preacher, but for some reason – perhaps you cater to your listeners’ felt needs, you don’t feel qualified to teach difficult passages, or you are trying to be tolerant – you are consciously minimizing your use of the Bible. Realize that your hands are red. You are not innocent. Wash the blood off at the foot of the cross, and go preach straight through Galatians.
4. You will experience Jesus’s eternal presence
…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)
Again, that pesky word "all." In order to teach all that Jesus commanded, you have to preach all of God’s word, since the whole thing is the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16). Only expository preaching specifically intends to do this, by preaching through entire passages and entire books.
The benefit to expositors comes in the second half of the verse: “I am with you always.” Jesus’s eternal presence goes with those who teach all of his commands. That’s not to say Jesus’s presence leaves those who preach topical sermons, since he certainly enters the heart of those who believe in him (Ephesians 3:17).
But there is a sense where those who preach the whole counsel of God especially experience Jesus’s presence, even when they suffer for not editing out the offensive parts. Paul wrote, “But the Lordstood by me and strengthened me [‘I am with you always’], so that through me the message might befully proclaimed [‘all I have commanded’] and all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17)
Now, theoretically, someone could preach all Jesus commanded without preaching straight through passages and books of the Bible. But even my four year-old daughter knows that hopscotch is easiest when you toe each square sequentially.
5. You will persevere in salvation
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16)
I have to be honest, I am frightened by the thought that I might be an instrument by which God saves others, without actually being saved myself. How tragic would that be? How do I make sure that I don’t find my assurance of salvation in my call to ministry, but simply in the gospel of Jesus? I preach through passages of the Bible and try to apply them to myself, not just my hearers.
Some might contend that there are many pastors separate their self-watch and teaching-watch. They keep a close watch on their teaching, but not their life, and therefore fall headlong into sin and eventually ditch the faith.
I say they stopped watching their teaching first. They stopped preaching to themselves and thus stopped watching their life. Notice that Paul does not say, “persist in these,” as if keeping a close watch on yourself and the teaching could be divorced. He says, “persist in this,” because they are two components of one activity.
What does expository preaching have to do with this? When you closely tie your preaching style to the Scriptures you put yourself in a position for the word to work on you as you do your work in the word. This will open your eyes to areas of your life – not just your congregation – that need to change, and will strengthen you in fighting the good fight of faith.
Why wouldn’t you commit to expository preaching?
The question remains: what do you, the preacher, gain by preaching topically or textually? I can think of some practical benefits: less time consumed by sermon prep, appealing to a broader audience, and being relieved of having to show why what you’re teaching is relevant.
But the ways your soul benefits from expository preaching far outweigh temporary conveniences.
It takes more work, but God will reward you with eternal rewards. So commit to expository preaching, not only because it honors God’s word, and not only because it feeds your flock nutritious meals for their soul, but because it feeds your soul, too.