04 Oct The Importance of Expository Preaching
Is there a secret to reading and understanding the Bible? Are all interpretations equally valid? Does it really matter “what it means to me”?
At Garden Heights Baptist Church, one of our core values is, undoubtedly, expository teaching and preaching of God’s Word. What does that mean and how is it different from other types of preaching and teaching? A topical sermon or study is often different in that it includes various portions of Scripture that relate to a given topic. Topical studies can certainly be helpful! In fact, our Wednesday evening Bible studies and some of men’s and women’s classes take a topical format.
But there’s a pretty big potential for problems, with that approach: it’s pretty easy to start with our opinions and pick and choose a Scripture verse or two that seem to back us up. The issue is a failure to consider context. It’s not legitimate to pluck a verse out of its context, without considering its original culture, intended audience, literary form, etc.
In fact, some have said that the three main areas to consider when interpreting a given passage are as follows: context, context, context. And that’s not just pointless repetition. We need to consider the immediate context as well as the broader context of the specific book of the Bible and the general context of the whole of Scripture.
There’s really no “magic formula” when it comes to understanding God’s Word. Of course, we cannot underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand its significance! But generally speaking, the more tools and training and time you employ, the more accurate your interpretation is likely to be.
For that reason, the pastors and teachers at GHBC typically preach or teach through a book of the Bible at a time. (In fact, even when we delve into a topical study, we try to start by looking at each passage, first, and come to conclusions based on the meanings of those passages, rather than the other way around.)
One potential downside of expository preaching can be failing to consider relevant applications–but that doesn’t have to be the case. Pastor Jonathan, in a recent Wednesday night study on the topic of “Worship,” made this important assertion: “Every time we read or hear God’s Word, we should respond by making a change.” James warns us against being “hearers but not doers of the Word.” As believers, we should desire to grow in knowledge, yes, but we also need to grow in grace.
Our pastors offer suggestions and try to model ways to live out God’s Word but try to do so with humility; they realize that they’re only men, and their opinions are just that: opinions.
When we approach God’s Word from an expository standpoint, our goal is to understand what Scripture actually says. When we do, we’re in the best place possible to consider appropriate applications and put feet to our faith.
About the Author: Tammy Wagner has been a member of GHBC since 2018. Her primary ministry is to her husband, Pastor Jonathan Wagner, and their four children. Her favorite additional ministry is hospitality, and she’s almost always up for a book discussion or a coffee date! She also works from home part-time, as a freelance writer.