Expository Preaching Is Not . . . .

expository 1  EX-posit / Expose / Expound

After listening to hundreds of speeches and messages a year, I am repeatedly reminded of the misunderstanding and/or distortion of the term “expository preaching.”

I thought, is it just me?  Are there others who recognize this change in bearing.  So I decided to Google the phrase — “Expository Preaching Is Not.”

Yepper!  There are a good number of other preachers and teachers who also acknowledge this trend — I would say “reality.”  For instance, H. B. Charles, Jr.*, who is an excellent writer on Homiletics, devotes an entire article to what “expository preaching is not.”

Let me state some of his insights which relate to expository preaching . . . .


Expository preaching is not whatever someone calls expository preaching.  “much preaching that is called expository preaching simply is not.”


Expository preaching is not a theological lecture. “A lecture about the doctrinal themes related to the text is not an expository sermon.”


Expository preaching is not pulpit exegesis. “Exegesis is essential to exposition. But exegesis is not equal to exposition. . . . . Expository preaching is proclaiming a biblical message, not rehearsing research material.”


Expository preaching is not a running commentary on the text.


Expository preaching is not selective exposition of the text. “The expository preacher seeks to understand and communicate the central theme of the text. It is not exposition if you select the portions of the text that say what you want and neglect the rest.”


Expository preaching is not always historically-redemptive preaching. [I included this one because it makes the point which is extensively argued in a published article found here in an unedited format —  Ruth pdf – pg 9 – Christological Preaching].


Expository preaching is not a homiletical survey of the text.


Expository preaching is not necessarily consecutive exposition. “A topical series of biblical messages may be best and can still be expository preaching.”


Expository preaching is not truth divorced from life. “the world of the text and the world of the hearer.”


(Further support is provided at the end of this article.)



Some equate going through a passage “verse by verse” with “expository preaching.” 

As a preacher-teacher, you do want to make sure that you understand what the passage teaches.  You do want to make sure you grasp the historical, contextual, and grammatical meaning of the passage, BUT you do not need to make the pulpit “a trip into your study.”

Preaching what the passage teaches is what it means to be “EX-Pository”

Exposition is teaching what the text teaches!

Exposition means not putting into the passage what is not found there.  It means not teaching what the preacher wants to teach, but what the passage teaches.

It is an “EX – egetical,” not an “EIS – egetical” task.

Some words and verses are to get to the next verse, thought, point.

Do not equate wringing out the meaning of every word and thought found in each verse with “expository preaching.”

Exegesis is done in the study, not in the pulpit.

The reason the words “expository preaching” are even used to describe a type of preaching is that it distinguishes itself with “spring-boarding.”  There are those who see a verse or passage of Scripture as a repository of theological words, truths, or concepts as a jumping off point. . . .



“Abraham lifted up his eyes” – Gensis 22:13

We need to lift up our eyes to God.

We need to lift up our eyes to His Word.

We need to lift up our eyes for His return.


Even though the passage has little or nothing to do with where our three points came from.  Even if one preached just one main point — “It is only by looking up that we will find the will of God,” it is not expository preaching.  It is “spring-boarding,” and the obvious proof is that we can come up with three other points that are as true (not-true) as these three points . . . .



“Abraham lifted up his eyes” – Gensis 22:13

We need to lift up our eyes in faith – Abraham trusted the Lord.

We need to lift up our eyes in love – Abraham loved Isaac.

We need to lift up our eyes in hope – Abraham hope in the resurrection.

[Interesting, these come far closer to the actual text.]



Expository preaching means that one preaches the truth, the principle, the Big Idea of the passage and does not impose one’s own points onto it.

If the writer of the book from which one is preaching was in the audience, would he say, “Yes, that is the point(s) that I am making and want driven home, which can change the way people think and walk!”

Exegesis is done in the study.

Exegesis comes before Exposition.

Exposition is not “Exegesis in the Pulpit.”



*Message on Ephesians 5 — By H. B. Charles — “That is not what that passage teaches!”


The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narratives, Steven Matthewson

The technical definition of an expository sermon requires that it expounds Scripture by deriving from a specific text main points and subpoints that disclose the thought of the author, cover the scope of the passage, and are applied to the lives of the listeners. (Bryan Chapell)

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers. (Haddon Robinson) — pg 21

Exposition is more than an exegetical lecture.  A few expositors to whom I listen seem to equate exposition with backing up the exegetical dump truck and unloading on their congregations. They basically offer a running commentary on the text without any sense of unity. Hearers who exalt this style frequently describe it as “verse-by-verse teaching.” Usually, these folks come from preaching-deficient backgrounds. They are so starved for God’s Word that they are willing to receive raw data. They love baskets of exegetical nuggets, and they want preaching that squeezes every ounce of insight out of a Greek or Hebrew term. With this style of preaching, preachers can go until time runs out. It doesn’t matter if they quit at verse 4, verse 7, or verse 16. There is no development of a flow of thought—simply a litany of exegetical goodies.

Richard Mayhue clarifies that expository preaching “is not a commentary running from word to word and verse to verse without unity, outline, and pervasive drive.” Furthermore, “it is not pure exegesis, no matter how scholarly, if it lacks a theme, thesis, outline, and development.” — pgs 21-22




A Vision for Preaching: Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry by Abraham Kuruvilla

Many books have been written on “biblical preaching”; specifically on how preachers can move step by step from the Bible passage to a sermon. . . . But in all such books there seems to be a gap. There’s something left out in between. The crucial moment between exegesis and homiletical vision is not described. The shift between the study of a text and the conception of a sermon—perhaps it occurs in a flash of imagination—is never discussed. So alert readers are left with the odd impression that we move from the Bible to a contemporary sermon by some inexplicable magic! (David Butterick – pg 89 — cited by Kuruvilla – pgs. 6-7 )

Conscientious biblical preachers have long shared the little secret that the classical text-to-sermon exegetical methods produce far more chaff than wheat. If one has the time and patience to stay at the chores of exegesis, theoretically one can find out a great deal of background information about virtually every passage in the Bible, much of it unfortunately quite remote from any conceivable use in a sermon. The preacher’s desk can quickly be covered with Ugaritic parallels and details about syncretistic religion in the Phrygian region of Asia Minor. It is hard to find fault here; every scrap of data is potentially valuable, and it is impossible to know in advance which piece of information is to be prized. So, we brace ourselves for the next round of exegesis by saying that it is necessary to pan a lot of earth to find a little gold, and that is true, of course. However, preachers have the nagging suspicion that there is a good deal of wasted energy in the traditional model of exegesis or, worse, that the real business of exegesis is excavation and earth-moving and that any homiletical gold stumbled over along the way is largely coincidental. (Thomas Long – pg 343-344 — cited by Kuruvilla – pg. 7 )

This I call the hermeneutic of excavation—the exegetical turning over of tons of earth, debris, rock, boulders, and gravel: a style of interpretation that yields an overload of biblical and Bible-related information, most of it unfortunately not of any particular use for one seeking to preach a relevant message from a specific text. (Kuruvilla – pg. 7 )


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