By Michael Milton • Excerpted from Milton’s The Secret Life of a Pastor • Purchase The Secret Life of a Pastor
The only way for any of us to stand in the long and honorable legacy of gospel preachers is through expository preaching. Why? I offer eight concise reasons why expository preaching is the power for the pastorate, whatever your situation.
1. Expository Preaching is Divinely Wrought.
The Word, my beloved brothers in the ministry, is the God-given place where we may stand, where we may reason, where we may dialogue with others. Indeed, we have been forbidden to go elsewhere. As a pastor, the reason that I want to focus on expository preaching—that is, proclaiming the inerrant and infallible Word of the living God as it is written, as it has been transmitted to me by God through the church, passing muster with the intent of the author, with conviction in my own life, and with love for those before me—is because expository preaching fixes itself, by its best definition, onto God’s Word, divinely wrought and divinely authorized.
2. Expository Preaching is Biblically Faithful.
The whole matter of whether expository preaching can effectively communicate to a ‘late modern’ Western secularized culture is a question that has been posed and pondered by many. Yet if we are preaching the very Word of God, then surely God knows what we need in every age.
This Word worked in the fallen ruins of Eden when God promised a Savior in Genesis 3:15. The Word worked in Genesis 12 when God’s Word provided promises to Abraham for a land, a nation, and a blessing that would reach around the world. God’s Word was enough in 586 BC in the crumbled remains of Jerusalem when a weeping prophet named Jeremiah preached with tears. God’s Word worked in first-century Rome when Paul preached it. It worked in the eighteenth century in America when George Whitefield roared out its truths up and down the colonial coast. It worked in the nineteenth century in Korea when missionaries preached there, and it worked in industrial Dundee in Scotland when Robert Murray M’Cheyne preached there. It worked in the twentieth century, the bloodiest century so far in the world’s history, when modernity overtook the West and men such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones thundered from a world capital such as London.
And it will work in the twenty-first century, in postmodern and post-Christian North America, as it will work in China, Africa, India, and Europe. The Word will work in Chattanooga, will free slaves to sin in Miami, give abundant life in Los Angeles, renew cold-hearted saints in Des Moines, restore marriages in Peoria, reunite severed relationships in Louisville, sprinkle the spirit of holiness in New Orleans, call new missionaries out of Kansas City, and save souls from eternal punishment in Bangor, Seattle and Paducah. The power of our ministries is expository preaching because, if what we have to say is the Word of God, how we say it matters. And expository preaching, rightly followed, is the way to say it.
3. Expository Preaching is Pastorally Effective.
There is no program, no model, no paradigm, no experiment, no policy, and no amount of pure elbow grease or mental genius that can equal the power of the Word of God preached. It accomplishes everything I hope for in the ministry. Recently, I read that the best time-tested discipleship tool in the history of the church has been morning and evening worship in which there is expository preaching. My own experience as a disciple and a pastor is that I couldn’t agree more.
4. Expository Preaching is Vocationally Satisfying.
Let us not be gullible. Expository preaching fulfills God’s purpose for our lives as preachers. He has called you to preach the Word, and you will never be happy until you go to that Word, live in that Word, exegete the meaning of that Word, dive like a Pacific native to the bottom of the ocean for the rich pearls of that Word, and then come back up from your time in the deep-blue of God’s presence, string those pearls together in a sermon, and put them on the neck of your people.
5. Expository Preaching is Eschatologically Useful.
Expository preaching brings our people into contact with ultimate realities. In personal eschatology, expository preaching prepares our people to not only live but to die. Oh, if we could hear the stories of faithful preachers, seated right here today, who have shared those sweet and sacred moments of vigil with a family when a loved one is going home to heaven. You know that the power for your ministry at that time is in the exposition of the Word. An elder in our church who recently went to be with the Lord said,‘I have been waiting for this. I am ready to go home.’ This attitude comes from expository preaching.
6. Expository Preaching Personally Edifying.
When we are about the work of expository preaching in the pastorate, the work carries us along in a sense. Week-in and week-out, we develop a discipline of study, for to preach the Word of God line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept, demands time, struggle, and prayer. I know that in this room, your heads and hearts are turning, perhaps not over this address, but over the portion of Scripture that you must deliver this week. Is there anything as rewarding in life as unburdening your soul in that movement when you approach the sacred desk and open up the Bible? Expository preaching feeds my soul. I know of no other way to put it.
7. Expository Preaching is Constantly Challenging.
To present the mind of Christ in a text requires much of us, does it not? I once heard a preacher say that every time he preached, a little piece of him died. I am sure there are those for whom that is true because they are tired of preaching, or they will know that they will get ripped to pieces at the front door of the church. But this man was speaking about preaching in a way that I can identify with. Like you, to preach the mind of God, to go through the necessary steps to get there, then to emotionally discharge the holy calling on your life through the act of expositing a text, is the most challenging thing in the world. It takes your very life.
8. Expository Preaching is Always Contemporary.
When we preach the Word, we never have to worry about whether it is the right time or not, or if it is the right message or not. Now surely wisdom is needed to discern between preaching Lamentations at a wedding or Leviticus 15 and ‘ bodily discharges’ at the baptism of an infant! But, you know what I mean. Expository preaching is always in vogue, always ‘cool’, if you will, for the human condition remains the same in every age.