Why We Need Expository Preaching Now More Than Ever

  • Jeff Crotts
Open Bible on a wooden table

It may seem self-serving to bring up expository preaching as “what we need” since I preach for a living.  That said, I study the Bible and preach as my calling and do so to feed my soul by what I study and preach.  It is no overstatement to say, I preach because you need God’s Word and because I need God’s Word.  Like anybody, I need regular Bible nourishment to fight discouragement and grow.  I want to take my next few blogs to list a handful of reasons why expository preaching is, “just what the doctor’s ordered!”

1. We Need Predictability

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” when times are both easy and hard.  When people want to hear it and when people do not.  Paul says, “Timothy, preaching does not pull punches!”  Faithful preaching reproves, rebukes, and exhorts.  There is no such thing as feel-good messages. 

At the same time, Timothy’s preaching demeanor must be defined by patience while teaching Scripture’s clear meaning.  In Paul’s earlier letter to Timothy he said, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).  Expository preaching follows simple guidelines.  Read the Bible aloud.  Then exhort based on what you read.  Finally, teach to clarify the clear meaning of what you read, offering the basis for you exhortations.  The formula for expository ministry is simply “lather, rinse, repeat” – “lather, rinse, repeat.” 

Predictability in a very unpredictable environment provides stability.  Back to 2 Timothy 4:3, we swim in the waters right now when “people will not endure sound doctrine.”  More than ever preachers have to preach with endurance. 

A few weeks ago, I began preaching the gospel of Matthew.  Matthew 1:1…  We are going into sermon number 4, which means this Sunday we begin chapter 2.  Two days ago, I preached on the birth of Christ seen through the eyes of Joseph.  What grabbed me most from my study was how Joseph, a common carpenter, was just like you and me.  Matthew tells us the story through his personal experience, working out why Jesus is the Christ and what this means.  Joseph needed to buy in to Jesus’ miraculous conception, adopt him as his son, and embrace him as his Savior!      

Joseph was airdropped into an unpredictable life altering circumstance.  The woman who is the love of his life is pregnant…but not by him.  Joseph, in the throes of embarrassment and dashed dreams is facing a problem.  He has to figure out what he’s supposed to do with Mary.  Perplexed, Joseph wrestles with how he can both protect Mary from shame and obey Old Testament Law at the same time? 

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 casts a hand in glove scenario where a woman “betrothed” to be married loses her virginity.  The question was whether she was complicit in an immoral act or was violated.  Whether this sounds fair or not, the Law at this time in Israel’s history was clear that because Mary conceived outside of marriage, she would be divorced from her contract with Joseph.  Their engagement and marriage was over.  If you know the rest of the story from Matthew 1, you know Joseph did not have to divorce Mary because Mary had miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. 

I am not bringing this up to rehash Sunday’s sermon.  My point in highlighting this account from Matthew is to simply say, “This was my next text.”  My commitment to expository preaching is my commitment to the next text.  In an unpredictable culture, I do not have to sit and wonder how I need to address it.  What I need to say or not say about what is going on.  I just need to preach what is coming next.  Two days ago, it was “Christmas in July!”  The Lord knows what people need and when they need it.  Sunday we put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes (sandals?) to ask ourselves whether we have fully bought in to Jesus and his mission to save us from sin! (cf. Matt. 1:21).

This coming Sunday, I anticipate preaching the first section of Matthew 2, which opens with “Jesus…born in Bethlehem” (Matt. 2:1).  Another “Christmas in July” sermon.  If I was to comb through the Bible for what I should preach in light of current culture, this would be the last place I would go.  A Christmas sermon?  Really? 

Taking a closer look at the beginning of Matthew 2, these first verses open up Herod’s conspiracy, hiring Zoroastrian hitmen to snuff out this newborn baby.  A baby who is a perceived threat.  Someone Herod views as a very real threat to his power!  Hmmmmmm.  Conspiracy to keep power.  Does this relate to our world right now? 

An unlikely text about an unlikely infant, by miraculous conception, born to peasant teen-agers, from obscurity.  How does this relate?  We will find out together.

So, back to the main point.  We need predictability.  Expository preaching makes our path of study predictable.  Cast in unsteady times, God leads us to the exact text we need.  Sitting under expository preaching means we basically know what is coming next, Sunday by Sunday.  How the Holy Spirit coordinates each particular verse into our specific life circumstance is always a mystery!  This is also God’s grace.  Right?         

Another reason we need expository preaching right now is to hear unbiased truth.  We are drowning in an ocean of biases and I am saving this discussion for next week…