This week my wife sent me the following quote: “The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow… If you get the priority of the Word established, then you have in place the single most important aspect of the church’s life, and growing health is virtually assured, because God has decided to act by His Spirit through His Word… The congregation’s commitment to the centrality of the Word coming from the front, from the preacher, the one specially gifted by God and called to that ministry, is the most important thing you can look for in a church.”
The word exposition is related to the word expose; therefore, expositional preaching refers to exposing or presenting the meaning and intent of the biblical text. As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching and textual preaching. Topical preaching requires starting with a topic and finding passages in the Bible supporting that topic. The passages generally aren’t studied in depth, and are instead used to support the topic. Textual preaching uses a particular text without examining the original intent.
In both topical and textual sermons, the Bible is used as support material for the topic. With expository preaching the Bible is the topic and the support materials are used to explain and clarify it. Preparing an expository sermon involves starting with a passage and then studying it to bring a message from it, as opposed to starting with a message and finding Scripture to support it.
While there is a place for topical sermons – in that there are some subjects that could only be covered well by a collection of verses and passages – exposition is best for teaching the plain sense of Scripture.