We announce with regret the retirement of Dr. Andrew W. Blackwood from his responsibility for The Minister’s Workshop, to which he has made such an outstanding contribution. In his place, Dr. Charles W. Koller, president emeritus of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, will share this department with Dr. Paul S. Rees.
Expository preaching is only one of several types of preaching that have been mightily used and mightily blessed of God. A study of the great sermons in sacred literature reveals so much overlapping among these types as to make strict classification impossible. Nor is it essential for any given sermon to be purely topical or purely textual or purely expository. But in order to be well received, the sermon must have unity, structure, aim, and progression; it must be sustained by biblical authority and intelligently presented. Expository preaching would surely be far more popular than it is if it were more generally well done.
Textual preaching has much to commend it; likewise, topical preaching. No one method should be employed exclusively. But as a prevailing method, for year-round ministering, expository preaching has the greater potential for the blessing and enrichment of both pastor and people.
Expository preaching generally makes use of more scriptural material than textual or topical preaching. Through biblical truth, God gives prompting and direction for Christian living, and expository preaching as a prevailing method is likely to prove more helpful than other methods in developing a people rooted and grounded in the Word of God. Only when the believer has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the Holy Scriptures is he adequately fortified in the hour of temptation and able to say, like Jesus in the wilderness, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Too many well-meaning believers are coming to grief in our generation of widespread moral ambiguity because they do not know what is “written.” A perennial emphasis on expository preaching may well be our best answer to the challenge of widespread biblical illiteracy.
In biblical preaching, the minister himself is the first to profit from the riches he discovers. Thus living with the Bible, he is constantly bringing himself and his people under the judgment of the Word of God; and as he extends his range of scriptural truth, this wider coverage makes for a wholesome balance and helps to prevent the disproportionate stressing of certain truths to the neglect of others.
“Problem preaching” and “life situation preaching” are definitely useful and should not be disparaged. But expository preaching, with reasonably broad coverage of the Bible, made alive and relevant to the present age, may help more people by dealing with a wider variety of problems and life situations. Problems that are too delicate to be handled topically may often be handled quite naturally in the course of expository preaching; and thus problems of which the preacher may be unaware may be brought under the light of Scripture.
While there may be a problem in every pew, too much “problem preaching” or “life situation preaching” does not provide the best kind of steady diet. As F. D. White-sell points out, “It tends to make people problem-conscious instead of Bible-conscious and God-conscious.” In a similar vein, W. E. Sangster points out that preaching might become too horizontal, “savoring more of psychology than of religion, more of self-help than of the Bible.” The problem preacher might come to think of people primarily in terms of problems, to the neglect of many areas of truth not so related.
The timeliness that so often is the strength of the “problem” or “life situation” sermon tends to limit its length of life. The expository sermon, on the other hand, may have the advantage of timelessness while lacking nothing from the standpoint of relevance. Along with contemporary application, it carries authority that is often lacking in sermons on contemporary themes with only occasional and perhaps vague references to Scripture.
The resources for expository preaching are inexhaustible. This type demands—and develops—a greater knowledge of Scripture than is necessary for other types. In the same progression, the preacher is challenged by an ever-widening range of possibilities, with endless variety at his disposal. People need and want to hear the Word of God. And the preacher who gives it to them will find his resources growing more abundant with every sermon he prepares.—Adapted from Expository Preaching without Notes, by Charles W. Koller (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962). Used by permission.
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