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What Do People Wrongly Assume Expositional Preaching Is? - Answers for Pastors - March 30

Common questions from pastors answered by 9Marks ministry

Answers for Pastors

What do people wrongly assume expositional preaching is?

Many people wrongly assume that an expositional sermon is:

A boring exegetical lecture. An expositional sermon is not a dry, academic lecture. It should be informed by careful exegesis, yes, but it generally should not present the minute details of that exegesis. Rather, an expositional sermon should clearly communicate the point of the passage in a way that will instruct, edify, and convict its hearers.

Any sermon in which the Bible is opened. Opening the Bible is no guarantee that the meaning of a text of Scripture will be clearly communicated. A preacher can stand up, share his thoughts, and use a Bible verse or two to make his point, whether or not it’s the primary meaning of the passage. But expositional preaching requires the preacher to discern the meaning of the text and then preach that point, applying it to his hearers. See the example below.

Any sermon that takes a text of Scripture as its starting point. While such a “textual” sermon may say true things about the text, the fact that a sermon begins from a text of Scripture is no guarantee that it’s an expositional sermon. A sermon that begins with a text of Scripture may wind up being an in-depth doctrinal exploration, a stirring call to action, a springboard to an inspirational story, or any number of other things. But if the sermon does not explain and apply the main point of the text as the main point of the sermon it’s not an expositional sermon.

Example: A sermon about Jesus feeding the five thousand could be used to say “God will provide for your needs.” But that would not be an expositional sermon, because that’s not the primary point of the passage. Rather, the point of the passage concerns who Jesus is: “Jesus is someone with the authority of God himself, the authority to create and provide for his people.” One application of this text is that Jesus will provide for his people, but the text is most fundamentally about Jesus and who he is. Therefore, an expositional sermon on this passage will make the question of who Jesus is its primary point. 

Find more great resources for church health from Mark Dever and 9Marks Ministries at www.9marks.org

Originally published March 30, 2020.

About Answers for Pastors

At 9Marks, we write books, articles, and book reviews. We host conferences, record interviews, and consult with church leaders. In short, we do everything we can to help pastors, future pastors, and church members see what a biblical church looks like, and to take practical steps for becoming one.