At Redeemed South Bay each Sunday the Teaching Elder ascends to the pulpit, adjusts his notes, looks out on the congregation and says, "Open your Bibles..." Why? At our church like many gospel-centered churches today we are committed to preaching, but not just any kind of preaching. We are committed to expository preaching. Expository preaching is a kind of preaching that expounds upon the meaning of a particular text or passage of Scripture. With the help of the Holy Spirit the expositor labors in his study and prayerfully researches, writes, researches, and writes some more. He is not alone in his study he is surround by theologians and scholars both living and dead. Some are in his books, some on his kindle, some online. The goal of his research and writing is to develop a sermon that accurately conveys the meaning of the scripture he is preaching that week to his congregation. Why? the Apostle Paul tells his young protege Timothy, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Paul is saying that righteousness, and maturity in Christ are products of the teaching, reproof, training and correction of Scripture. And Scripture is breathed out by God. The words our people need are God's words. Careful, precise and even passionate explanation of the Word of God are the goals of expository preaching.
Ultimately, we want our people to see and savor the glory of Christ which is revealed in Scripture. John Piper expounds on this in a sermon called "Why Expositional Preaching Is Particularly Glorifying to God." Piper says, "If it is the purpose of God that we display his glory in the world, and if we display it because we have been changed by knowing and enjoying it, and if we know and enjoy it by beholding the glory of the Lord, and if we behold that glory most clearly and centrally in the gospel of the glory of Christ, and if the gospel is a message delivered in words to the world, then what follows is that God intends for preachers to unfold these words and exult over them—which is what I call expository exultation.
Each word matters. It is expository because there is so much about the gospel that cries out to be exposited (opened, unfolded, elucidated, clarified, explained, displayed). We see this when we focus on five essential dimensions of the gospel message.
- The gospel is a message about historical events: the life and death and resurrection of Christ—summoning us to open them with thorough expositions of texts.
- The gospel is a message about what those events achieved before we experienced anything or even existed: the completion of perfect obedience, the payment for ours sins, the removal of the wrath of God, the installation of Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah and king of the universe, the disarming of the rulers and authorities, the destruction of death—all of these summoning us to open them with thorough expositions of texts.
- The gospel is a message about the transfer of these achievements from Christ to particular persons through our union with Christ by faith alone apart from works—which summons us to open for our people the nature and dynamics of faith by the exposition of dozens of texts.
- The gospel is a message about the good things that are now true about usas the achievement of the cross is applied to us in Christ: that God is only merciful to us now instead of wrathful (propitiation), that we are counted righteous in Christ now (justification), that we are freed now from the guilt and power of sin (redemption), that we are positionally and progressively made holy (sanctification)—all of which summons us to open these glorious realities for our people week after week with thorough expositions of texts.
- And finally the gospel is a message about the glorious God himself as our final, eternal, all-satisfying Treasure. “We . . . rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11). The gospel we preach is “the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” If our gospel stops short of this goal—enjoying God himself, not just his gifts of forgiveness and rescue from hell and eternal life—then we are not preaching “the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Our ultimate goal is knowing and enjoying God. As we saw in the beginning of this chapter, that is why we were created—that God might share with us the knowledge and enjoyment of himself. This is what it means for him to love us. This is what the cross ultimately obtained for us. And this too, by every text of Scripture—all of it inspired by God to awaken hope in his glory7—calls for the richest exposition that our people may be fed the best and highest food of heaven.
Exposition of texts is essential because the gospel is a message that comes to us in words and God has ordained that people see the glory of Christ—the “unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)—in those gospel words. That is our calling: to open the words and sentences and paragraphs of Scripture and display “the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”