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To understand the Workshops on Biblical Exposition, we must begin with a definition of preaching. [1] It is a somewhat elusive term in the Bible, likely on account of wide variances in content, form, audience, and intention in each specific context. In its most general sense, to preach is “to proclaim, to announce, to declare a word from God, to present publicly the good news, to deliver a religious discourse related directly or indirectly to a text of Scripture.” [2]

John Stott arrives at a slightly different conceptual organization through studies of a few words. [3] He outlines these other roles and unique characteristics of the preacher according to biblical depictions of preaching in various roles.

Herald (κηρύσσω, verb) refers to announcing publicly. It is found in Mark 1:14, 1 Cor 1:23, Acts 10:42, and is used approximately 60 times in the New Testament. The herald is charged with the solemn, yet exciting, responsibility of proclaiming the good news of God. The herald’s content is Christ crucified and, as the result of his proclamation, he may expect a result. The verb itself is generally used in a public context.

Steward (οἰκονομέω, verb) certainly refers to, in part, the preacher’s role as a steward or manager of the household affairs. This role also refers to the preacher’s incentive and the content of his message. As a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1), he is motivated by the trust placed in him—the responsibility given to him to care for God’s household. The content of his message comes from God in the form of the Scriptures. As a steward, he manages the household but does not provide the goods for the household. He is, instead, to use the full breadth of the goods entrusted to him. In other words, the preacher is to skillfully use the fullness of the given Word.

Witness (παράκλητος, noun), taken in the legal sense, refers to one who bears a special relationship to the Godhead and who is called to testify on His behalf. Stott’s summary concludes that, “Christian witness is borne by the Father to the Son before the world through the Holy Spirit and the Church.” [4] In other words, the Father is chief witness (sending both the Son and the Spirit), the Son is the object of witness (of whom the Spirit bears witness), and the Holy Spirit is the called witness. He speaks with living words to and through men in the Scriptures. The preacher functions like and with the Holy Spirit. “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

Father (πατήρ, noun) refers to the preacher’s love and gentleness as “preaching involves a personal relationship between preacher and congregation.” [5] The preacher’s role as a father should be understood in only two ways. First, the word father can refer to the one who has been the means of another person’s conversion. It is used in that sense in 1 Cor 4:14-21. The word can also be used in the sense of guide (as is implied in 1 Corinthians 4). While he may, on occasion, play the role of disciplinarian (such as the word guide implies contextually), he wishes to serve as a gentle, understanding, and earnest fatherly example. The word should never be understood as indicating an authoritative or intermediary role for those properly belong to the Godhead in a spiritual context.

Servant (διάκονος, noun) refers to the twofold role comprising personal service to another and service taken at another’s command. In this way, it distinguishes itself from other words (e.g., οἱκέτης, δοῦλος, ὑπερετες), which are certainly used to describe the workers of ministry. And though it certainly refers to a proper office in the church, it is also used to describe an element of the preacher’s role. The word is used in 1 Cor 3:5 to describe Paul and Apollos as “servants through whom you believed,” not in whom or by whom. The word servant is also paired with steward in 1 Cor 4:1 to describe Paul and his ministry.

Preaching, then, is the public, ardent teaching or proclamation and application of a biblical text in the power of the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as the preacher’s message is dependent on the original meaning, it is authoritative and binding—the very Word of God. His character and activity should reflect that of a herald, steward, witness, father, and servant.

The term expositional preaching is notoriously difficult to define. As it has gained popularity, particularly in the English-speaking world, numerous variations have emerged. For the purpose of this introduction to the work of the Charles Simeon Trust, let us begin with a working definition. Expositional preaching is that type of preaching in which the point of the passage is the point of the sermon. [6] That is, the content, shape, and emphasis of the message are representative of and determined by the content, shape, and emphasis of the biblical text. It is the proclamation of the Word of God which is explained in its context and applied to the culture. It is the work of God’s messengers announcing God’s Word to man by accurately explaining and persuasively applying a specific passage of Scripture in a clear and compelling way. That is, it offers a Spirit-empowered explanation and application of a particular biblical text in a way that exalts Jesus Christ.

The aim of expositional preaching, then, is to deliver the message received in a way that is faithful to the Message-Giver (both God and the human author) so that the voice of Christ is heard clearly by the audience, demanding their attention and adherence. Expositional preaching will bring glory to God by effecting the sanctification of the hearers first by salvation and second by conforming their lives to God’s will—by calling hearers to recognize and obey to the Word of God. Faithful preaching will bring about a response in the lives of the hearers to the glory of God. It will bring about conviction of sin, repentance, and the obedience of faith through Jesus Christ.

In other words, the aim of preaching is threefold. First, preaching will glorify God by exalting the person and work of Jesus Christ as he is revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Second, preaching will call the lost to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Third, preaching will bring the church of Jesus Christ to full maturity in him through equipping, teaching, reproving, correcting, and training its individual members.

The ecclesiastic importance of expositional preaching stems from both the rich biblical tradition of exposition by example and also from biblical injunction. Much of the Scriptures are preached material and we can learn much from God’s preachers handling God’s Word, explaining the plain meaning and intention. Moses did it. Nehemiah did it. Isaiah did it. Paul did it. Peter did it. Jesus did it. They take the Word as it is delivered from God and apply it to the people.

The bulk of the book of Deuteronomy is comprised of three sermons, chapters 1-4, 5-26 and 27-30. The book begins by explaining the history of the people of God. Deut 1:15 reads “Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law.” And he proceeds to preach for four chapters on God’s faithfulness throughout their journey. Chapter 5 begins with “And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.” [7] He then proceeds to preach until chapter 26 on the Law of God—not a new law, but the Law of Exodus—beginning with explanation of the Ten Commandments. He takes the Law as it is given to him from God on Sinai and preaches it to the people as God’s Word with explanation. Chapter 27 similarly begins with “Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, ‘Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.’” [8] Once more, Moses preaches an expositional sermon exhorting the people to obey the commandments of God and explaining to them the curse that will come upon the nation if they disobey. Importantly, Joshua picks this tradition up from Moses and continues preaching the Law as it is given. [9]

Nehemiah 8
Shortly after they finished rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem after many years in exile, according to Nehemiah, something important happens among the people of Israel. They had been working for 52 days. And when it was finished, they gathered as one into the square and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses (picking up the tradition started by Moses in Deuteronomy). They were not only hungry for it, but had him read from early morning until midday. They were attentive and they stood out of respect and reverence for the Word. They were in submission to it. Their devotion in that moment was unmatched: “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” [10] They lifted their hands, bowed their heads, and fell on their faces in worship of the Lord as the result of listening to this Word. The explanation of the Word was the worship service. “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” [11] They literally sat and listened to expositional sermons. Chapters 9-12 of Nehemiah outline the expositional sermon on the Law that was preached (even with references to the Book of 1 Chronicles in Neh 12:23). [12]

Psalm 78
Psalm 78 is an expositional song on the Pentateuch in the tradition of Moses and Joshua. The Psalmist covers the history of God’s people from Jacob to the exodus (with a quick reference to the ascension of David to throne in Jerusalem), but including specific references to the Law in verses 10 and following. He weaves the story of Israel together with very practical application for his listeners.

Isaiah 6:8-13
The first five chapters of Isaiah form an introductory unit in which Isaiah describes the situation into which he is called. The first verses of chapter 6 describe an account of the sinner cleansed—Isaiah prepared for ministry by God. It is in the next moment, in the context of Isaiah’s calling, that the expositional method becomes apparent. God gives Isaiah a message to relay to the people, a familiar message, after Isaiah accepts the call in verse 8. Verses 9-10 form a chiasm—hearts, ears, eyes, eyes, ears, hearts. The people of Israel fail to understand their lack of hearing and seeing. In verses 11-13, Isaiah is to remind Israel of the devastation of the cities and the houses and the land that comes with displacement. In his case, it is the tradition of deportation that passes from the Assyrians to the Babylonians. Yet, in the midst of this displacement, there will be a stump. The holy seed is the stump. The familiarity of the message arises out connections to Deuteronomy 29. Isaiah’s chiastic directive to prevent the hearing and seeing appears in Deut 29:4 as the predictive statement “to this day the lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” Where Isaiah is to speak of the Assyrian and Babylonian displacements, Moses speaks of the Exodus and the devastation of the wilderness. Where Isaiah concludes with the promised holy seed (upon which he elaborates three chapters later), Moses repeatedly returns to the sentiment that the Israelites must keep their covenant with God, for the end of their journey is a promised land. Isaiah’s first message is a variation, an exposition and contemporary application, of Moses’ message of renewal in Moab.

Matthew 5:1-4
The Sermon on the Mount is, perhaps, the most extensive exposition of Old Testament texts in the New Testament. Jesus quite aptly demonstrates preaching the text faithfully. At this point in his ministry, Jesus left the wilderness and the temptation from Satan and heads back to Galilee. Matt 4:12 indicates that he just left Nazareth on this trip through Galilee. By looking at the corresponding chronology in Luke 4, an insight into his stop in Nazareth can be gained. In Nazareth, he preached from Isaiah 61 (quoted in verses 18 and 19). And so, when he departs Nazareth for Galilee, the content of his studies should be evident. And it should come as no surprise that the first two beatitudes are drawn directly from Isaiah 61. A cursory study of Isaiah will also reveal that comfort and mourn are major themes of Isaiah. Psalm 37 and several passages of the Law also appear as Jesus continues His preaching on the mount.

Romans 10:5-15
Romans 10 is innovative in that Paul not only preaches Moses and Deuteronomy, but he does so in the service of encouraging preaching the Word for the salvation of many. He begins in verse 5 with an understanding of Moses consistent with works-righteousness, quoting Lev 18:5. However, Paul had already established that the weakness of a Law of works was the weakness of humans who could not keep the Law (see Rom 8:3). And so, he illuminates Deut 30:11-14 in verses 6-9. While he only alludes to Deuteronomy 12-13 and only quotes verse 14, verse 11 is instrumental to his understanding of the context. The Word is understandable and easily accessible and available already. Paired with quotations from Isa 28:16 and Joel 2:32, Paul shows that the Word is able to save. And it is this Word that inspires the preacher to preach. The preacher speaks the very Words of God in the voice of God. For if he does not, how will anyone hear and be saved?

[1] Sections 1 and 2 in the manual—addressing the biblical and theological foundations of our philosophy of Workshops—are framed entirely in terms of the pastor preaching to the church. As we welcome non-pastors into the Workshops periodically as well as run Workshops for women who teach the Bible to women, we will trust the reader to adapt the language and concepts appropriately to those contexts.

[2] Fred B. Craddock, “Preaching,” in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (ed., D.N. Freedman; New York: Doubleday, 1992), 5.451.

[3] John Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961).

[4] Stott, Preacher’s Portrait, 69.

[5] Stott, Preacher’s Portrait, 81.

[6] David Helm defines expositional preaching this way: “empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” David Helm, Expositional Preaching (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 13. Mark Dever defines it this way: “preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (3rd Edition; Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 44. D.A. Carson defines it this way: “…the expository sermon must be controlled by a Scripture text or texts. Expository preaching emerges directly and demonstrably from a passage or passages of Scripture.” D.A. Carson, “Accept No Substitutes,” in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal (Summer 1996). See also D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-First Century Pulpit” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching (Ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson; Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 176-177. Mike Bullmore defined it this way: “A sermon is expositional if its content and intent are controlled by the content and intent of a particular passage of Scripture.” See

[7] Deut 5:1.

[8] Deut 27:1.

[9] Josh 8:31-35.

[10] Neh 8:6.

[11] Neh 8:8.

[12] Specifically mentioned in that verse is 1 Chron 9:14-16.