Prophetic Preaching or Expository Preaching?
Over the past thirty years or so, there has been a big emphasis on “expository” or “expositional” preaching. This is the practice of preaching straight through the Bible (or a portion of it) sequentially, exegeting a particular portion and expounding it. This surely is an acceptable way to preach, and it has a long history. For instance, Chrysostom in the ancient church preached this way.
Advocates of this sort of preaching, however, often criticize those who do not preach this way. Anything but their way is considered substandard or even not preaching at all. But this is hardly the case. In the Bible itself, there are not unambiguous examples of this type of preaching. In the Old Testament, Ezra stood up publicly and read the law; and this is an important part of public worship. In the New Testament, Jesus entered the synagogue and commented powerfully on a pre-selected text from the Old Testament to be used for that Sabbath day. None of the sermons recorded in Acts, however, is, strictly speaking, expository. None is “exegetical.” If you look at the sermons of Jesus and Paul and Peter, you will find that they are generally summaries of Biblical truth. They did not take a few Old Testament verses and expound them. Rather, their entire life was suffused by the Old Testament and, therefore, virtually everything they said in their sermons was Biblically grounded.
Their preaching was Spirit-filled, Old Testament-based, direct, urgent, immediate. It was prophetic; they were not speaking what they considered an antiquated word and simply “applying it” to the contemporary situation. Rather, they assumed that the ancient Word was designed for the contemporary situation. This is the sort of preaching that we need today.
Virtually all Biblical preaching is topical in the sense that the preacher addresses a specific topic and weaves scriptural truth in his preaching.
Some liberals use the fact that New Testament preachers (and writers) did not quote the Old Testament verbatim as proof that they did not hold what is today termed verbal inspiration. It teaches nothing of the kind. It teaches, rather, that the Old Testament was such a part of their thinking and entire life that they spoke it with ease without any attempt at scholastic accuracy.
When the Bible shapes the preacher’s life, it will commandeer his words in the pulpit.