a plea for real exposition

I ran across a sermon the other day. The preacher bills himself as an expository preacher. He was dealing with a very important text, full of material for application to our present scene. His approach to the text was to read a verse, and then talk about his view of what he thought of that theme in relation to our modern situation. After awhile, he would read another verse and carry on with the development of his own opinions.

I think he might have defined a few of the words from the original language. At one point, he began mis-pronouncing one of the Greek words underlying the point he was making. He kind of lost me there, and I imagine he lost his congregation too. Most of them probably don’t know Greek.

Other than defining a few of the words, there was no interaction with the text. There was no explanation of the thoughts of the text, how they related to one another, what the apostle was teaching through the argumentation of the text, and what that argumentation meant for our situation here and now.

There was a bit of historical context offered. It was… ah… how shall we say it? Not germane to the text. It actually fit more with another text in another epistle. In short, it didn’t expose anything about the text so the hearer could read, hear, and see, “Ahah! that’s it, that’s right, that’s what the text means, and this is what God is saying to me here and now through this ancient text.”

In short, if this was exposition, there wasn’t a whole lot of exposing going on.

Oh, brothers! Please! Be an expositor! Let the text speak! Get yourself and your opinions out of the way! Speak as of the oracles of God!



  1. Ouch, I will have to do a better job next time.

  2. Don, If you don’t mind I am going to put this post into our Wednesday night “FOCUS” Paper. I have tried to teach our members what exposition teaching is. Of course that is brave on my part. If they don’t know than they don’t judge. Nevertheless, we do try to show them. The challenge is to be faithful to the teaching of the Word, four times a week.

    • Sure, Charles, feel free. Hope it is helpful.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Indeed, OUCH! I daresay, every preacher has been guilty of this at least once in his ministry, if not several times (myself included).
    It is interesting that you call for us to be expositors (and we must), Broadus made the same call in his book, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. It seems that regardless of which century or generation we all must work at the proper exposition of Scriptures.
    Hopefully, you are not referencing a message from our recent conference.

    • No, the message I heard was from somewhere else far away. A very disappointing effort, to be sure, but I don’t want to talk about it. My mission isn’t to identify or bash the particular preacher involved. Just an appeal, for what its worth, for true exposition.

      It seems to me that a lot of people who talk about expository preaching wouldn’t recognize it if they heard it. They certainly aren’t delivering it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Brian Ernsberger says:

    (Wiping my brow) glad to hear this was not from the conference. I wasn’t expecting specifics on who, what, where, when. I get that this was just a reference point for the bigger issue of our preaching.
    Would do us all good to pull out our preaching books (Lectures to my Students, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, The Preacher His Life and Work, The Preacher and His Preaching, to name a few in my library) and read back through them to refresh ourselves. None of us have arrived at perfection, so we can always find areas to improve.
    Again, a good reminder to us.