Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Preaching through the Bible. It's called expository preaching. Your pastor takes a book of the Bible and preaches through it verse by verse, from beginning to end. Then he takes another book of the Bible and does the same thing. And then another....

In recent years, my pastors have preached through Jeremiah, Ephesians, John, Ruth, and Genesis. Currently at Grace, Brother Billy is preaching through the book of Exodus. If you consider that every Sunday during worship we read together a New Testament passage, an Old Testament passage, and then the Scripture passages for the morning and evening sermons, it should be evident that we will eventually read through the entire Bible, corporately.

Preaching a series of sermons on a particular topic - say, loving your spouse, or how to glorify God with your finances. It's called topical preaching. The preacher develops a series of messages on the topic of choice, then researches and presents Scripture related to that topic in his sermons. As we engaged in the very serious business of electing our first elders at Grace, Brother Billy took a short break from Exodus to preach a series of sermons about leadership in the church. Topical preaching - very practical, so pragmatic.

But this method of preaching can be problematic, for a couple of reasons. First, it necessarily pulls Scripture passages out of their broader context. You may talk about the armor of God mentioned at the end of Ephesians 6, and miss that this armor is designed to be used as we engage in the difficulty of intimate relationships mentioned in Ephesians 5 and 6.

A second problem - it is very easy to skip some passages of Scripture all together. Especially icky, difficult passages that deal with things like God ordering Israel to destroy whole cities, men, women, and children. Or God electing to save some and not others. Eeeeew. Who wants to hear about that stuff? Let's just skip over it and hear about the five steps to becoming better potato farmers.

A friend related recently how he had gotten into some pretty intense conversations with his son concerning the sovereignty of God. Son asserted that God was sovereign over ALL things, even the hearts of sinful men, and he kept pulling up Scripture passages that clearly stated as much. Dad contended that God left men free to choose whatever they wanted and thereby limited His sovereignty, making it contingent upon the will of men. Dad was completely baffled by these strange verses his son kept referencing.

Here's the kicker to this story. My friend has been a Christian and has been in church for many, many years. Decades. Early in his Christian life, he began marking in the margin of his Bible any passages that were read at church either as part of a sermon or a worship service or a Sunday school lesson. None of the verses his son showed him had been marked. Not one. My friend discovered that while he been sitting under topical preaching for decades, his pastor had conveniently not preached on the sovereignty of God. Or election. Or predestination.

As children of God, we have a duty to be reading the Word of God. All of it. As the church, God's covenant people, we have a duty to be proclaiming the Word of God. All of it.


emily said...

it's funny ... i have been blessed to have listened to expository preaching most of my life, and there are very few weeks when i haven't left church convinced that God used the sermon to speak very directly and specifically into my life. Even after sermon #16 from Ezra!

Suzanne said...

It is such a blessing that this father and son conversation has brought more of Holy Scripture to the attention of God's children. May each of us take very seriously our responsibility to know, love, and serve God, and to pass this on to our children. Our eternal lives depend on it.