on the glacial method of exposition

I have mentioned my method several times on the blog, most recently in the last post. I know that some don’t like this approach, but it is the way that I have found to be most satisfying and I have found it to be productive with our people.

What I mean by the term “glacial” is that we progress through the Scriptures S-L-O-W-L-Y. The Word of God is rich, full of meaning and profitable in all. I don’t do this all the time, but in my major book studies, this is the method I have adopted.

Lloyd-Jones, the subject of our last post, was the king of glacial exposition. I meant to mention this in the last post, but sent it out too quick. As I read his sermons on Romans, I see him working an idea over, producing the fruit of his meditation on the word or phrase he is dealing with. To me, good exposition does that. One of my men asked me some years ago how much time goes into preparing a sermon. Of course, the answer is ‘that depends’, but I really am most satisfied with my messages when I have spent a good many hours on them. That would involve research: re-translation [in the NT], word studies, many commentaries carefully picked through, then several hours ‘writing’.

The writing process begins with a selection of the portion I want to preach, then an attempt to develop a central proposition for the sermon. The proposition is critical for the message, but sometimes it eludes me until after I have developed the outline a bit. Sometimes the proposition comes quickly, sometimes it is an agony of re-reading my material, thinking over the point, muttering to myself about what I am trying to say, scratching out a ‘preliminary’ outline on the back of an envelope (or other piece of paper at hand), scratching out the outline and trying again. Sometimes I find that I have to start developing the points in order to get a clear idea of what I am trying to say.

I like to write out a good deal of what I intend to say, though it is in outline format, rather than manuscript. I write fairly detailed notes in case I want to come back to the passage at some point and preach the message again (or use the message to create a new message).

I see the fruit of this in Lloyd-Jones work. He has mulled the text over and has a lot to say about it. He has read a good deal of the literature. His sermons are full of expositional comments that reveal he has an excellent working knowledge of the text. Then having mulled it all over, he delivers it to his people with incisive application calling men to respond to the meaning of the Word he is giving them.

As a result of this kind of work, books like Lloyd-Jones sermons are well worth reading for devotional purposes, whether or not you are a preacher preparing sermons. [And whether or not you agree with his theology! (I do not, at least, not all of it.)]

In any case, if you take time with the Word and let it burn into your soul as a preacher, you should have a lot to say about whatever passage the Lord lays on your heart.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3