God's Word is Uniquely Designed

Expository Preaching

February 19, 2024 Travis M

We have alluded to the inspiration of the Scriptures several times already in this series of articles, and we have considered a few ramifications of this truth. Yet, an important aspect of inspiration calls for special attention when considering how it affects our study and preaching. Since we believe that God wrote His Word using men who "were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:21), we conclude that everything about their writing was part of His intended communication. We should want to maintain the unique elements brought by an author's unique style and vocabulary, the specific circumstances surrounding the text, and the author's choice to include or exclude various details. Good, expository preaching strives to respect the precise purpose and design of a text. It demands that we first complete our interpretation of the text at hand before considering how it relates to other passages, important doctrines, or our congregation. There will be a time and place for us to contemplate and understand each of those relationships. But our instinct to contextualize, synthesize, and systematize must be held in check by a conviction that prevents us from altering the meaning of the passage we are attempting to expound.


One thing we must resist in our study is our rush to connect a passage with our congregation. We know that God's Word has a relevant application for readers today, and we rightly want them to understand and apply the message in their lives. However, if we are not disciplined in how we do this, we speed past the purpose and meaning for the original readers. In our hurry or urgency to show how the text speaks to us today, we sometimes miss a crucial part of what the author wanted his readers to ponder or feel. The result is that we again change the message of the text and how it communicates to us.


Another impulse in preaching that often works against us is the tendency to compress the teaching of all similar passages together, as though each text were communicating the same thing. For example, when preaching through 2 Samuel 6, many preachers will jump to 1 Chronicles 15:11-13 to point out the reason for God's outbreak of anger and the lesson that David learned from it. Rather than discuss only the things that the writer of 2 Samuel included, they preach as though this passage cannot be properly understood without information from the other passage. This type of "imported message" is a common occurrence. We have likely all been guilty of it with the Gospels. While preaching through one of the Gospels, it is easy to convert the series into a study of the life of Christ from all four Gospels. By doing so, we miss the subtleties of passages such as Mark 8:27-30, where Mark decides to report only part of Peter's confession of Christ (compare with Mat.16:16 and John 11:27). Rather than supplementing the passages we are preaching with information from other texts, we should be wrestling with questions of why the author chose to state it in the specific way he did. What is the unique message that this text reveals in its own context?


We also frequently adjust the message of a text by using it to teach a doctrine that we believe is important. Perhaps it is because we think we must do something to make the text more "useful" for our audience. Even when springing from a noble desire to build up believers with sound doctrine, these systematic "adjustments" can work against our commitment to preach God's Word as we have it. We often hone in on a minor component within a passage because it touches on a truth we want to address. However, the truth we want to highlight may not be the central truth the author wanted to stress, and we will alter his message. It may also change the tone and purpose of the passage, leading us to ultimately fail in giving God's unique message from that text to His people. Such an alteration may seem insignificant, but it frequently leads us to favor certain doctrines while minimizing others and thus failing to teach "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

Sermons built on contextualizing, synthesizing, or systematizing can be compelling and memorable. We may also call them biblical in that they can convey truths that God has revealed in His Word. The problem is that those truths are often different from the ones being taught in the passage we are attempting to expound. Instead of preaching the Word, we may find ourselves merely preaching from the Word, which is entirely different. It is even dangerous. That is why we train pastors around the world to continually ask questions such as: What does this text say? Why does it say it in this specific way? How was it received and understood by the original readers? By asking these and similar questions, we hope to cultivate a healthy respect for the divine design of each passage and trust in its unique message to grow believers in the fullness of the knowledge of God.

Read other articles in this series: Expository Preaching
Preaching Conveys God’s Intent
Preaching Conveys God’s Intent
Apr 15, 2024 3 min · Travis M Over the years, one of the most common objections I have heard against expository preaching is that it can seem dry and boring. I must confess that this complaint is not altogether unfounded. Most of us… Read More
Expository Preaching Regards God's Word as Sufficient
Expository Preaching Regards God's Word as Sufficient
Jan 22, 2024 4 min · Travis M Every pastor worth his salt has felt, at some point in his ministry, the tremendous need for his congregation to hear and know the truths of God that will transform their thinking and rescue them from… Read More
God Vindicates His Word
God Vindicates His Word
Nov 20, 2023 4 min · Travis M God likes to do things that He alone can receive credit and praise for what is done. For example, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 indicates that He often works in and through people whom the world would view as… Read More
God’s Word is Essential to What He Does
God’s Word is Essential to What He Does
Oct 23, 2023 3 min · Travis M At MissioSERVE, we are committed to equipping pastors and church leaders worldwide to do the work of expository preaching. We do this because expository preaching recognizes the unbreakable link between… Read More


Travis M
Travis has served with MissioSERVE for more than 15 years. His passion for training church leaders in the Word of God has only grown stronger across decades of ministry as a pastor, church planter, and foreign-field missionary.