Report of the Study Committee on the Importance of Preaching [2019]

Report of the Study Committee on the Importance of Preaching [2019]

EDITOR’S NOTE: This committee was formed by Conference at the request of a local church’s elder board in 2018. The report below was accepted by Conference in 2019, and their proposed legislation, at the end of this report, was referred back to committee. The committee brought back a modified proposal in 2021 which was approved at First Reading 92-39. Second Reading is pending approval by 2/3 of the churches’ elder boards.


by Keith A. Strunk

              “In 2013, the Bible Fellowship Church Executive Board created 16 Vision Points for the denomination, designed to give direction and focus for the years ahead. These Vision Points were adopted by the 131st Annual Conference. The goal is for these objectives to be achieved by the 137th Annual Conference in April, 2020.”[1]Two of these objectives are clearly indicative of the universal church’s faithful desire to grow numerically. Namely, “The BFC will have 75 churches”[2]and “The BFC will average 12,000 worshipers weekly.”[3]  Both of these objectives are noble and holy, and indicate our belief that the Lord is still drawing, converting, and sanctifying those whom He’s predestined for salvation from before the foundation of the world. 

The issue then becomes “How?” By what means will the church achieve her God-ordained numerical growth? This is an issue that the universal church has struggled with since its inception, and indeed, in our day, that war continues with ferocity. How do we reach the lost in a world where the idea of authority is scorned? In a world where “absolute truth” is despised? In a world in which morality is completely relative? Did God intend for the means of initial church growth in the First Century to be relied upon today, and if so, what are those means? Or… does God intend for man to use his God-given intuition and discernment in order to adapt to an ever-changing world so it can accomplish what God intended the church to do? 

This is the conversation that 21st century evangelicalism continues to perpetuate. Even among supposedly biblically-faithful denominations, at some level this conversation pushes its way to the forefront of many, if not the majority, of the decisions made in regard to philosophy of ministry and approach to church growth. And unfortunately, even a superficial examination of denominational dynamics in western society for the past century would show that the specific arguments of this conversation are, in one way or another, responsible for great and divisive quarrels that ultimately lead not to growth, but division and decline. 

Specifically, what is primary and what is secondary when it comes to the ministries of the church? Where do we have liberty and where is God’s word clear and authoritative? Is pragmatism a valid philosophy to be considered in the strategy of making disciples, and if so, which components of church ministry should pragmatism be permitted to influence? Our own denomination is often engaged in these very same struggles as we evaluate what “health” looks like, and how to minister – and indeed grow – in a culture in which the church simply does not appear to be welcome anymore. 

To be sure, I have personally been confronted by the ugliest aspects of this conversation as a lay elder and Pastoral Relations Committee member, as a church planter, and now, as a Senior Pastor. In the first instance, while evaluating a brother pastor’s preaching, another PRC member, who also was an elder, felt completely comfortable in asserting that our brother “preached too much Bible.” When asked to clarify, he criticized that there are other, and better, ways to preach than to preach verse-by-verse through a text because people just don’t resonate with that kind of preaching. In the second instance, as a church planter, I was regularly confronted with the “most effective” means of planting the church today, as if those means had changed since Pentecost, and I was often encouraged to consider the culture and its needs in making decisions about the means and methods of making disciples. Most recently, in the third instance, it has been suggested to me ad nauseam that post-modern attention spans do not allow for historically faithful preaching, nor preaching in excess of 25 minutes, and by some, it has been suggested that present-day attention spans do not allow for preaching at all. One brother has written to me that “…from a practical point of view – passive listening is the least-effective form of learning… If you are relying on preaching to mature your people, you will be very disappointed in the long run. In fact, there isn’t one example of expository preaching, let alone as a God-ordained means of shepherding, in the NT, in regard to the regular practice of the early church.”

Add to that the fact that boards of elders are beginning to limit the time allotted for the preaching of the Word, and even micromanage the content of preaching in some instances, and the case is made that the conversation about the means and methods of church growth has long found a home in the Bible Fellowship Church. And perhaps that’s not all bad. Perhaps we should be having these conversations, to some extent anyway. But as a denomination which explicitly expresses its faith in the priority of God’s word as we do in Article 1 of the BFC Articles of Faith, and as a denomination that has historically demonstrated our belief in the priority of preaching of the Scriptures in the church, and as a denomination that desires faithfulness to God above all else, I’ve become convicted that we ought to be a denomination that establishes some parameters in the conversation about the means and methods of church growth. 

To that end, I approached the elders of the Saucon Community BFC last winter and requested that we petition BFC Conference to consider legislation that states – “The preaching of the Word of God is the primary means God has ordained for the salvation, sanctification, and equipping of His people. Thus, expositional preaching of Scripture, particularly as a means of congregational worship, should be given priority among all the ministries of the church.” 

Saucon Community BFC made the petition, and the Conference’s response to the proposal was positive for the most part, with some questions about the definition of “expositional preaching” and how that would affect the autonomy of the local church, and pastors, in the formulation of their philosophy of ministry. Other feedback sought clarity between preaching to evangelize and preaching as worship.

Ultimately, the Conference voted to appoint a study committee to study the definition of expositional preaching and provide clarity about preaching in the NT church, and the biblical commands to do so. 

Conference Moderator Randall Grossman designated me to convene the committee, which also consists of our chairman, Dr. Tim Gibson, Jason Hoy, Andrew Barnes Sr., and Keith Long. Each member has endeavored to study and write a section of this paper as follows: The Command to Preach and Preaching in the NT, Jason Hoy; The Holy Spirit in Preaching, Andrew Barnes Sr.; The Definition of Expositional Preaching, Dr. Tim Gibson; and The Primacy of Expositional Preaching in the Church, Keith Long. 

As a committee, we believe that ultimately this paper will show there is convincing and action-worthy evidence that expositional preaching is both commanded and exemplified in the New Testament Scriptures. Thus, it is most appropriate for us to consider legislation that emphasizes our belief in the primacy of the expositional preaching of the Scriptures in order to govern future conversations about the means and methods of making disciples, for the protection and preservation of the BFC, and ultimately for the glory of God. 

Respectfully submitted,

Keith A. Strunk

The Command to Preach, and Preaching in the New Testament

by Jason L. Hoy

Despite the many objections to preaching today, every pastor and elder in the local church must answer the following question: “Are we commanded by God to preach his Word, no matter what men may say?” If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t matter what the objections are, since the preacher is to be obedient to God’s command in 2 Timothy 4:2 “to preach the Word.” As Albert Mohler has stated, “This is where any theology of preaching must begin. We preach because we have been commanded to preach.”[4] In fact, the command to preach is found in both Testaments of Holy Scripture. Ever since the earliest prophets have arisen and proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord” (Exodus 4:22), to the model of expositional preaching found in Nehemiah 8, every prophet and preacher since then has been commanded to “Preach the Word.” As Mohler said in his book on preaching in a postmodern world,

The centrality of preaching is seen in both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8, we find a remarkable portrait of expository preaching, when the people demand that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. It was the apostle Paul, for example, who told Timothy in no uncertain terms, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord

Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, Preach the Word![5]

The command “to preach the Word” is everywhere in the Scriptures, even when it is not stated in those exact words; however, the meaning is clearly the same. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus commanded the apostles to “make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I command you…(Matt. 28:19-20).” The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “…give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). In the same manner, Paul exhorted his young protégé Titus, to “…speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). 

Therefore, despite what men say in the postmodern age about preaching, the Bible is clear and straightforward about the command to preach. The spiritual shepherds of God’s church in every age are commanded to preach the Word! If the pastor fails to heed this command, and the church allows it, both are disobedient to God’s Word, and the church will fall. As P.T. Forsyth has emphatically said, “With preaching Christianity stands or falls, because it is the declaration of the gospel.”[6]

Preaching in the New Testament

Even though the command is found in both testaments, the aim of this article is to focus on the New Testament command to preach the Word. When reflected upon and investigated, the commands to preach are numerous, which the following passages, along with those already quoted, clearly prove. Mark 1:39 says that Jesus “went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” In Mark 3:14-15, we are told that Jesus “appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” Acts 10:42 says “He [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” Even from this small sampling of texts alone (along with the others already cited), the argument to preach the Word as God’s will and command for every church in every age can be definitively made. And since the command to preach has been definitively made, the aim of this paper is to answer the following two questions in regard to the command to preach: What does preaching mean?” And secondly, “Who is being preached to?” In order to answer the first question, a brief word study on preaching in the NT would be appropriate.

New Testament terms for preaching

In the New Testament, the two Greek words mainly used for the English word “preach” are euangelizomai (“preach good news”) or kerysso (“preach,” “proclaim,” or “herald”), and they occur 80 times.[7] Others have noted that at least thirty-three different verbs are used by the NT authors to portray the richness of biblical preaching.[8] The four most prominent words used are kerysso, euangelizomai, martyreo, and didasko.[9] Kerysso and euangelizomai are practically interchangeable and complementary in the Bible, both referring to the content of what’s being preached, along with the idea of publically announcing that content as a herald. Martyreo means to “bear witness” and was a legal term indicating that a person had firsthand knowledge to pass along. Didasko means “teaching” which focused more on the actual content of what was being communicated while not neglecting some of the elements of the other three verbs. That means didasko is not entirely the same as kerysso and euangelizomai in the way it is communicated.[10] Therefore, the remainder of this paper will focus on kerysso and euangelizomai,since preaching or proclamation as a public herald is a little different than just being a witness or teaching content, though it certainly includes elements of both. For example, the term didasko would perhaps better describe the teaching role of a Sunday school teacher or seminary professor who is concerned more about content than public heralding, versus the preacher or evangelist (kerysso and euangelizomai) who publically proclaims the same content in a more heralding way. And since the command to preach, using kerysso and euangelizomai, is found nearly 80 times in the NT, we will focus on those terms and those texts. 

Having established the command to preach and what preaching means, the next question to be answered is the following: Does the command to preach mean only the preaching of the gospel to the unbeliever outside of the church in order to be saved, or does the command to preach also mean to preach the Word to the people of God who are gathered in the church? Or does the command to “preach the Word” mean both? This paper argues that both are clearly found in the Scriptures.

The command to preach evangelistically

Some understand these terms to primarily mean evangelizing the lost, to the detriment of preaching in the church.[11] The grounds for that argument come from the many uses of both terms, in the Gospels and Acts, for the public preaching of the gospel to the unbelieving world. The meaning of euangelizomai alone, “preaching good news,” is found in many passages of Scripture in our English bibles and should not be doubted. In the birth narrative of Luke 2:10-

11, the text reads, “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news [euangelizomai] of great joy that will be for all the people.’” That clearly indicates the announcement of the gospel to a lost world. The Lord Jesus Christ, the object and mediator of this gospel, is the lead herald of this good news when he states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news [euangelisasthai] to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim [keryxai] liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim [keryxai] the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). The Apostle Paul clearly stated that the lost must be preached to in order to be saved: “And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news [euangelizomenon]’ (Rom. 10:14b-15). Clearly the Bible teaches that we must preach the good news (euangelizomai) and proclaim (kerysso) it to the lost outside of the church. 

However, is that all euangelizomai and kerysso encompass? Is it true, in the words of one writer, “that it is a misleading translation to the extent that common English parlance uses ‘preach’ to refer to formal sermonizing directed to the faithful?”[12] In other words, has the church been wrong for 2000 years to think that preaching is for the lost and the faithful? Or that the term for preaching and proclamation as found in the Scriptures can refer to both the preaching of the gospel to the lost, and the preaching of the Scriptures for the edification of the saints whenever they are gathered. The remainder of this paper will seek to prove from Scripture that it is not misleading to conclude that preaching is also commanded for the gathered people of God.  

The command to preach in the church

It is commonly agreed that much of the preaching in the New Testament was for public evangelistic purposes. However, there are many texts that either imply or directly state that preaching should be done in the church as well. The explicit command for preaching in the church is found in only one text of Scripture, 2 Timothy 4:2. However, it is one of the most forceful commands found in the entire Bible. With that being the case, it would be appropriate to focus on that particular text, but others will be briefly discussed first that imply preaching is done in the church. 

Other texts that imply preaching in the church

Even though Acts 20:27 doesn’t use either kerysso or euangelizo, Paul uses a related verb (anangello) that means to proclaim the Word of God when discussing his ministry to the Ephesian church. In speaking to the Ephesian elders, he said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring [anangello] to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Paul clearly means that he taught the entire Scripture to the Ephesian church with the purpose of edifying them in doctrine and behavior since they were believers, rather than primarily declaring the whole counsel of God for evangelistic purposes outside of the church to the unbeliever. This echoes Jesus’ words from John 17:17 – words which are directed to the people of God in the church. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Therefore, the Word of God must be preached and taught to the people of God (in the church) in order to sanctify them and produce holiness in their lives.

Another text that confirms this assertion is Colossians 1:28: “Him we proclaim [katangellomen], warning [nouthountes] everyone and teaching [didaskontes] everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” A similar verb as used in Acts 20:27 is used for proclaiming in this passage; the verb is modified with warning and teaching, which are clearly referring to the proclamation of God’s Word in order to mature the people of God in Colossae, not just to save them.[13] Again, this is clear evidence of preaching the Word in the church for the purpose of edifying the saints. 

In his book Expository Exultation, John Piper points out how Paul also takes the word typically used for publically preaching the good news to the lost, and applies it to the preaching of the gospel to the believers in the church at Rome. “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. So I am eager to preach the gospel [euangelisasthai] to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:13,15).[14] Piper argues that verse 13 may imply that Paul hopes to save some of the Gentiles, but he then points out that Paul also mentioned strengthening the brothers and encouraging their faith through the ongoing application of the gospel that he preached.[15] He also notes that in all of Paul’s uses of the term “fruit,” it never means conversion but refers to the fruit that leads to sanctification (Rom. 6:22), righteousness (Phil. 1:11), generous giving (Phil. 4:17), and the fruit that is the result of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).[16] This is the fruit that Paul hoped to produce through the preaching of the gospel to the already-converted in Rome. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that euangelizomai or kerysso or katangello are only for the unbeliever outside of the church. There is ample evidence that the keryx (noun form of kerysso – meaning the preacher) also brought the king’s message to his people inside of the church for their edification and growth, and not just the unbelieving world for their salvation. In fact, this is clearly seen in 2 Timothy 4:1-2. 

The clear command to preach in the church

            The word kerysso was typically used to refer to the public heralding of a message from someone with great authority. The herald (keryx) was the one delivering the message on behalf of another with great significance and importance. Paul uses this word in 2 Timothy 4:2 to describe the preacher’s solemn and serious duty to herald the message of God and King Jesus in the church. Paul doesn’t simply suggest heralding in the church; he commands it in this passage in the most serious way he could since he preceded his command to preach with five of the most serious intensifiers found in the entire Bible (1 Tim 4:1). This makes sense, since he just outlined to young Timothy how the Word of God led him to faith in Christ, and equips and edifies his people for maturity and good works (2 Tim. 3:14-17). If the Word of God is the means that God uses to awaken faith in people for salvation (Rom 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23), and the means he uses to grow them in holiness and Christlikeness (John 17:17), then no wonder Paul gives one of the most serious charges (2 Tim. 4:1) found anywhere in Scripture, and uses the intensifiers that he does to heighten the importance of the command to follow. And what is that command? “Preach the Word.” But is that command for the unbeliever outside of the church, or for the believer inside of the church?

Take note that Paul is primarily talking about Timothy as the “man of God” in 2 Tim. 3:17, one who was made competent and equipped because of the Scriptures. However, the clear implication is that if Timothy “rightly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) and “preaches the Word” to his congregation, it will have the same effect upon them. The setting that Paul primarily has in mind is the gathered people of God in the church, where Timothy is to herald the

Word for their edification. In fact, this argument could be further strengthened by the fact that Paul later commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, where proclamation is outside of the church to unbelievers (2 Tim. 4:5). One could also infer that Paul’s admonition to reprove, rebuke, and exhort clearly imply preaching in the church to the people of God: work that requires steady, consistent, patient teaching (2 Tim. 4:2) that will conform them into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Also in 2 Tim. 4:3, Paul warns Pastor Timothy about the people who will wander away from the church and the truth of God’s Word. He is not there referring to the unbelieving crowds who are already outside of the church. 

Therefore, the command to “preach the Word” in 2 Tim. 4:2 was mainly given to Timothy with the purpose of edifying the people of God in the church. But as we noted before, Paul also admonishes Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, which includes preaching to the lost. 

We conclude then, based on biblical evidence, that preaching evangelistically outside of the church, and preaching the Scriptures to the people of God in the church, are both clearly commanded in the Word of God. And now, with the command to preach the word inside and outside of the church clearly established, the following articles will address The Holy Spirit in Preaching, The Definition of Expository Preaching, and The Primacy of Expositional Preaching in the Church

The Holy Spirit in preaching

by Andrew W. Barnes

            When the responsibilities of a pastor are outlined, chances are good that preaching will be somewhere near the top of the list. Modern day ministry trends have revealed that the priority of preaching is not as significant as one may expect, but it is safe to assume that pastors and preaching are related in the minds of most people. Among the many questions that arise concerning the ministry of preaching, one that is sure to be asked is, “What makes a sermon good?” On most Sundays, most preachers hear the words “Good message” from their listeners, but regardless of the authenticity of those compliments, it is right for us to be clear on what makes a sermon a good sermon. More importantly, we should ask, “What kinds of sermons honor and are honored by God?” It is the aim of this paper to show that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential to the ministry of preaching. Whether the Word of God is proclaimed to unbelievers or the church, apart from the work of the Spirit nothing of consequence will come as a result of preaching. We also aim to show that the Holy Spirit has ordained a specific methodology to ministry, and this methodology is the proclamation of God’s Word. Consequently, both the methodology and the fruit of this methodology – namely, preaching – are dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Spirit-empowered preaching for unbelievers

The condition of man and his understanding of the truth

            The depravity of man necessitates that he hears the Word of God, and the means by which he must hear the Word of God is preaching (Rom. 10:14). However, if we expect the hearing of the preaching of God’s Word to accomplish a godly transformation, the preaching must be accompanied and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The connection between man’s depravity and his need for Spirit-empowered preaching is addressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 2:14, where Paul wrote, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Unbelievers here are described as natural or unspiritual. This is meant to contrast the realm of their experience from those who central characteristic is that they have been born of the Spirit. The central characteristic of the natural man, in other words, is that which is against the Spirit. In fact, Paul makes clear that natural men do not accept or approve of anything from the Spirit of God. Why does the natural man reject what is from God? Because the things of the Spirit of God are folly or foolishness to him. In fact, in 1 Cor. 1, Paul made clear that he was called to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17) but this message – that is, the word of the cross (v. 18) is folly to those who are perishing, and those who are perishing are natural men.

            The plight of natural men is developed further by the fact that such men are not able to understand the things of the Spirit. The reason for man’s natural inability to understand the things of the Spirit is because they are spiritually discerned. In using this phrase, Paul makes clear that the fundamental reason why natural men are unable to understand the things of the Spirit is because they are unable to judge what is from God, or what is true, apart from the influence of the Spirit. Natural men are not influenced by the Spirit; therefore, they cannot understand what is from the Spirit. So the question then becomes, “How is it that natural men are able to understand the things of the Spirit?”

The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the natural man

            Natural men, while unable to discern the truth of God, are not without hope. The triune God, in his plan of redemption, determined to send the Helper – that is, the Holy Spirit – to minister to natural men so they can understand and embrace the truth. Central to this ministry is the conviction of sin. In other words, God grants the ability for man to see his sin as God sees it (2 Tim. 2:25). Jesus outlined this particular ministry of the Holy Spirit to his disciples in John 16:7-11 when he said, “…I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”

            Jesus had just exhorted his disciples that they should expect persecution because of their connection to him. The disciples were contending with sorrowful hearts because Jesus had also informed them that the time was near when he would leave them to return to his Father. Jesus’ words of comfort make clear the foundational role of the Holy Spirit in the redemption of men: “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” The Holy Spirit will come as a divine prosecutor to convict the world (natural men) by unfolding the evidence of their guilt before a holy God. This guilt centers, first, on sin: specifically, the sin of not believing in and rejecting Jesus. The natural man does not understand that his guilt before God is due to his rebellion against Christ. The Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction also makes clear that man’s righteousness – that is, his effort to do good – is not a righteousness that merits him favor with God. Natural men need an alien righteousness to gain God’s favor (2 Cor. 5:21). Man’s just consequence for rejecting Christ is eternal condemnation – that is, God’s final and total judgment to eternal destruction. The Holy Spirit convicts natural men that this is their deserved judgment.

            The Holy Spirit demonstrates that man is guilty before a holy God and cannot do anything to change his guilty verdict. Again, the natural man is without hope apart from the redemptive work of God, but the evidence of man’s guilt is not redemptive in and of itself. Something more is needed, and only the Holy Spirit can give this provision.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry to the natural man in preaching

            In his first epistle, the Apostle Peter spends considerable time arming his listeners to withstand suffering. He encourages his readers that God will save his people from judgment (1 Peter 4:5), and this encouragement also serves as the basis for the preaching of the gospel before they had died. 1 Peter 4:6 reads, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” Though suffering and death were realities that confronted Peter’s audience and continue to be hardships for people today, there is hope in the Spirit for those who embrace the gospel by faith when it is preached to them. Peter’s encouragement is that the preaching of the gospel is not in vain. Preaching is how the Holy Spirit brings the hope and transformation of redemption to people. Hope in this world is not found in an empty promise that suffering and death will somehow be avoided, but in Jesus, who accomplished the forgiveness of sins through his death and resurrection. The gospel must be preached so people can hear this message, and it is this preaching that the Holy Spirit uses to deliver this hope.

Spirit-empowered preaching for the Church

            Not only is Spirit-empowered preaching needed by the natural man; it is also needed for the Church. The Holy Spirit came to illuminate the Scriptures to God’s people because they are unable to discern their truth apart from this ministry. Illumination of the truth among God’s people is brought by the ministry of preaching the Word of God.

The ministry of illumination

            Paul expresses a prayer for the believers in Ephesus that makes clear that they, and all believers, continue to need the truth revealed to them that they may understand it. The Holy Spirit continues to teach or illuminate the truth to the church.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe….(Eph. 1:15-19)

            Paul’s response of faith and love toward the saints of the church in Ephesus was to pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to grant the wisdom and revelation necessary to discern the truth of God. The Spirit of wisdom, which is a reference to the Holy Spirit, provides ἀποκαλύψεως (revelation, the uncovering of the truth, full disclosure of the truth), and revealing of the truth is grounded in the knowledge of God. This revelation is not a mere intellectual uncovering but enables the ὀφθαλμοὺς τῆς καρδίας (eyes of the heart) to know the hope to which God has called all believers. The church possesses an inheritance and is provided access to the immeasurable greatness of the power of God, but to know this to be true and to understand the depths of the value of these things can only be known through the illumination ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It may be clear, at this point, that the church is in need of the Spirit’s work of illumination, but by what means does the Spirit bring about the revealing of God’s truth to God’s people?

The means of illumination

            The Apostle Paul recognized that he, along with all other believers, had received “the Spirit of God in order that they may understand the things freely given to them by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). In light of this fact, Paul understood that his responsibility to make the truths of God known could not be accomplished apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit had determined to use his ministry of proclamation to make these truths known to the truth. So Paul states in 1 Cor. 2:13, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

            Paul understand that in order to convey the truths of God so that they would take root in the minds and hearts of the church, the agency could not be ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας (human wisdom) but ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος (by means of the teachings of the Spirit). Again, we see the agency of the truth of God reaching the ears of people is preaching, but the Holy Spirit must carry preaching to the heart.

The means by which the Holy Spirit makes the truth of God known

            We have already noted that the Holy Spirit makes the truth known to natural men (unbelievers) and to the church, and he does this through preachers of God’s Word. Are we to conclude, however, that preaching is the God-ordained means by which His truth is made known to man inside and outside the church? Is preaching the Spirit’s methodology for manifesting the truth? Charles Bridges says, “The public ministry of the Word is the most responsible part of our work – the grand momentum of divine agency – the most extensive engine of ministerial operation.”[17]

The aim of preaching is to point people to Christ and his completed redemptive work. Unless people embrace Jesus by faith, there will be no transformation. Preachers do not possess the ability to bring about this transformation, but preaching that is accompanied by the work of the Spirit will bring transformation. We observe this connection between preaching and the Spirit’s work in the words of Luke, who recounts the words of Jesus. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus’ words continued in Acts 1: “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘You heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).

The condition on which the success of the ministry of preaching rests is the power of the Holy Spirit.[18] To rephrase this in the negative, no success will be seen in the ministry of preaching unless the Holy Spirit is in it.

While the effectiveness of preaching depends on the Spirit of God, we must be clear on the priority the Spirit gives to the ministry of preaching. Paul reminds us more than once that human ingenuity cannot accomplish anything of consequence for the kingdom of God, and this is because he has ordained a particular methodology for kingdom work. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:4-5, “…and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” It was not Paul’s clever words that made the message he proclaimed to the Corinthian church influential, but the Spirit’s power in his message wrought fruit for the kingdom. As Paul yielded to the Spirit’s prescribed methodology of ministry, the Spirit accompanied his efforts among the people in Corinth.

The definition of expository preaching

by Timothy D. Gibson


Ministers of the gospel have been called to “preach the Word.” How that Word is preached is of most importance. Faithful and conscientious preachers who are called by God know that there is great liability in what they say to their flocks. There is no profession that has as high liability as that of the preacher of God’s Word. God will judge every preacher on the truthfulness and accuracy of his preaching. Failure as a spokesman for God brings not only shame but judgment (2 Tim 2:15, James 3:1). There is a coming day of reckoning for the preacher. Since this is true, every preacher should be as faithful to the Scripture as possible and should desire to preach God’s Word in the most effective and faithful manner. The most effective and faithful method of preaching is the expository preaching method.

Three kinds of preaching

For simplicity’s sake, there are three kinds of sermons (see Christ-centered Preaching:  Redeeming the Expository Sermon, by Bryan Chapell[19]). A topical sermon takes its topic from a passage and gets its organization from the nature of the subject rather than from the text’s distinctions. Textual sermons take their topic and main points from ideas in the text, but the development of those main ideas (theological or other) comes from sources outside the immediate text. Expository preaching takes its topic, main point, and sub-points from an immediate text of Scripture.   

Marks of expository preaching

While there are many methods of preaching, without a doubt expository preaching is the most faithful way to proclaim God’s Word. Expository preaching is the most faithful method of preaching for several reasons: 1) Expository preaching is authoritative preaching. Expository preaching respects not only the author’s original intention but also the Holy Spirit’s placement and sequencing of the text. 2) Expository preaching is reverent preaching. It reveres the Word of God by allowing it the right to establish both the substance & the structure of the sermon. 3) Expository preaching is central preaching. Expository preaching allows God’s Word to remain the central, not supportive, focus of the Church!

Scriptural illustrations of expository preaching

While it may be difficult to find an exact definition of expository preaching in Scripture itself, it is not difficult to find illustrations of preaching that exhibit the heart of this philosophy.   The best Old Testament illustration of ancient exposition occurs in Nehemiah’s account of Israel’s reacquaintance with the Word of God after the people returned from exile in Babylon, where they had forgotten God’s Law and the language in which it had been given. Once all the people had been gathered, Ezra brought the Book of the Law of Moses before the assembly and read from it. Nehemiah 8:5-8 gives us a clear picture of exactly what happened: 

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.  And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands.  And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

            This Old Testament passage reveals to us three elements that make up faithful preaching. The first thing Ezra did was to present the Word to the people. An inspired text was presented or delivered to the listeners. Second, Ezra and the Levites explained the particular text that was previously read. This explanation made it clear and gave understanding to the listeners. Third, Ezra and the Levites exhorted the people to obey what they had heard (Neh. 8:9-13:31).  Just as Ezra was faithful, so each preacher must be faithful to include in his preaching these three elements:  1) presentation of the Word; 2) explanation of the Word; 3) exhortation or application of the Word.  

The New Testament also has illustration of this philosophy of faithful proclamation by none other than Jesus Himself. After Jesus had risen from the dead, he appeared to a couple of disciples on the road leading to Emmaus. These disciples did not recognize him and were expressing their disappointment about the events surrounding the crucifixion and the hopelessness that they were experiencing. In that setting, Luke tells us “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). These two disciples said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures” (24:32). The word translated “interpreted” or “explained” means “to unfold the meaning of something.” Jesus opened the Scripture and unfolded its meaning to them.   

This is the very core of expository preaching. The goal of expository preaching is to simply open Scripture and explain it clearly so that the listeners understand it and can apply it.  Exposition by simple definition is “any discourse to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand.” Preaching that is expository in nature is simply an explanation of Scripture by laying open the text to public view in order to set forth its meaning, explain what is difficult to understand, and make appropriate application.

Other New Testament passages also reiterate this fundamental philosophy. In Luke 4:16- 22, Jesus explained the particular text of Isaiah 61:1-2. In Acts 20:26-27, the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” In Acts 8:27-35, Philip expounded Isaiah 53:7-8 for the Ethiopian eunuch. In Acts 7:2-53, Stephen preached a historical/biographical expository sermon to the Jews before they stoned him.   

Definitions of expository preaching

Listening to those who have been faithful to the method of expository preaching is helpful in understanding truly the philosophy behind this method. Here are a few definitions from those who have practiced this method faithfully.

Merrill F. Unger – “No matter what the length of the portion explained may be, if it is handled in such a way that its real and essential meaning as it existed in the mind of the particular Biblical writer and as it exists in the light of the overall context of Scripture is made plain and applied to the present-day needs of the hearers, it may properly be said to be expository preaching……It is emphatically not preaching about the Bible, but preaching the Bible. ‘What saith the Lord’ is the alpha and omega of expository preaching. It begins in the Bible and all that intervenes springs from the Bible. In other words, expository preaching is Bible-centered preaching.”[20]

John MacArthur – “The message finds its sole source in Scripture. The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis. The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context. The message clearly explains the original God- intended meaning of Scripture. The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today…The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God. Expository preaching is the proclamation of the truth of God as mediated through the preacher.”[21] 

Bryan Chapell – “The main idea of an expository sermon, the topic, the divisions of that idea, main points, and the development of those divisions, all come from truths the text itself contains. No significant portion of the text is ignored. In other words, expositors willingly stay within the boundaries of the text and do not leave until they have surveyed its entirety with its hearers.”[22]

John Stott – “Exposition refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor opens what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed.”[23]

Haddon Robinson – “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 hearers.”[24]

David Helm – “Expositional preaching is empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.”[25]

Albert Mohler – “Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible . . . all other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text.”[26]

Mark Dever – “Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.”[27]

Timothy Keller – “Expository preaching grounds the message in the text so that all the sermon’s points are the points in the text, and it majors in the text’s major ideas. It aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible (being sensitive to systematic theology). And it always situates the passage within the Bible’s narrative, showing how Christ is the final fulfillment of the text’s theme (being sensitive to biblical theology).”[28]

Basic elements of expository preaching:  principle, process and presentation   

Principle: The preacher and sermon are governed in every way by a particular text. In principle, the expository preacher believes that the Word must take a central role. Since the Word of God is inerrant and authoritative, the preacher must allow the Word to be at the center of preaching. This means that the Word itself must direct the preaching. It is a particular text which governs the process of sermon construction. Because of his high view of God’s Word, the preacher allows the Word to be the sovereign over every aspect of the sermon. In short, it is not the preacher who determines the topic/theme, structure, or even the application; it is the Word itself, so that the meaning and authorial intent of the passage becomes the main point and the intent of the sermon.  Says Al Mohler:

Expository preaching begins with the preacher’s determination to present and explain the text of the Bible to his congregation.  This simple starting point is a major issue of division in contemporary homiletics, for many preachers assume that they must begin with a human problem or question and then work backward to the biblical text….On the contrary, expository preaching begins with the text and works from the text to apply its truth to the lives of believers. The preacher comes to the text and to the preaching event with many concerns and priorities in mind, many of which are undeniably legitimate and important in their own right. Nevertheless, if genuine exposition of the Word of God is to take place, those other concerns must be subordinate to the central and irreducible task of explaining and presenting the biblical text.[29]

Process: The preacher and sermon, through careful exegesis, interprets and explains the God-intended meaning of a particular text. The preacher of expository sermons discovers the meaning of the text through a careful exegetical analysis of the text in all its particulars, including the historical, grammatical, literary context. He comes to the text like a detective, looking for every clue which will uncover authorial meaning. Expository preaching is inescapably bound to the serious work of exegesis. If the preacher is to explain the text, he must first study the text and devote the necessary hours of study and research necessary to understand the text.  A large portion of time and energy must be invested in order to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Presentation: The preacher and sermon applies the meaning for today. The preacher rises in the pulpit to accomplish one central purpose – to set forth the message and the meaning of the biblical text. Once the meaning of the text is set forth, the preacher moves to application. Application of biblical truth is a necessary task of expository preaching, but application must follow the diligent and disciplined task of explaining the text.      

The minimal elements of expository preaching are:  1) The sermon/message finds its sole authority in Scripture; 2) The sermon/message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis; 3) The sermon/message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context; 4) The sermon/message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture, 5) The sermon/message applies the Scriptural meaning for today. 

Different Types of Expository Preaching

There are several ways to faithfully exposit Scripture. Some misunderstand expository preaching simply to be preaching through books. However, Steve Lawson has recently given a list of five different styles of exposition:  1) Sequential exposition, which is verse by verse exposition through entire books in the Bible (also known as consecutive exposition); 2) Sectional exposition, which is taking a section out of a book and preaching it consecutively (like the Sermon on the Mount or the Upper Room Discourse); 3) Doctrinal or thematic exposition, in which the preacher takes a doctrine or theme and traces it through much (or all) of the Bible (for example, preaching a series on repentance or the Trinity); 4) Biographical exposition, in which the preacher preaches through several passages (if available) to give a biblical overview of a person’s life;  5) Representative exposition, in which the preacher preaches representative sections of larger books of Scripture (such as Isaiah). The preacher picks high points from the book to give people a quick overview of the book’s message.

What Expository Preaching is NOT

It is helpful to know what expository preaching is not. Expository preaching is not merely drawing ideas from the text without thorough exegesis. It is not a theological lecture. It is not pure exegesis, no matter how scholarly. It is not a running commentary on the text without unity.  It is not textual preaching. It is not about the length of the sermon text. It is not about how many points the sermon outline has. It is not a pretext for predetermined convictions. It is not necessarily consecutive exposition. It is not boring preaching.   


Not all preaching is the same. While typically the motives of God-fearing men are never questioned, their methods are sometimes certainly questionable. It really matters how we preach God’s Word. Expository preaching is certainly illustrated in Scripture. The very nature of Scripture itself demands that those who preach be faithful to present, interpret, and apply God’s Word faithfully. Since expository preaching is the best method of all the styles of preaching, it should remain the central method of all faithful preachers. 

The primacy of expositional preaching in the life of the local church

by Keith M. Long


            The purpose of this section of the paper is to address two related questions: 1) Why should expositional preaching be the normal pattern of pulpit ministry within the Bible Fellowship Church? 2) Why is an expositional pulpit ministry essential for fostering healthy ministries within the local church? Answering these questions will build upon what has already been presented in this paper. However, a closer look at Paul’s instructions in 2 Tim. 3:14-4:4 will show why expositional preaching should be the normal pattern for every pastor’s pulpit ministry, and a study of Ephesians 4:11-16 will provide insight into the role expositional preaching plays in undergirding all other local church ministries. 

  1. Why should expositional preaching be the normal pattern of pulpit ministry within the Bible Fellowship Church? (2 Tim. 3:14-4:4)

Paul’s second letter to Timothy serves as a sort of farewell discourse. As Paul faces the reality of his impending death (4:6-8), he writes a letter to Timothy in order to share his heart as a spiritual father writing to his spiritual son (1:2), but also to give his instructions for carrying on ministry within the Church as an apostle writing to a “next generation” church leader (1:1). 

Throughout the letter, Timothy is encouraged to follow the example that was set for him by Paul (1:6-14; 3:10-11). Specifically, Timothy is to “guard the good deposit” of “sound words” that has been entrusted to him (1:13-14). As a shepherd of God’s people, Timothy is responsible for both protecting and faithfully stewarding the apostolic teaching[30] that has been handed over to him from Paul. To be a faithful steward of his calling, Timothy must labor, tirelessly and with single-minded devotion, in passing on what he has heard from Paul to “faithful men” who in turn will be qualified and equipped to teach others also (2:1-2). In this way, a faithful witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will be established in, and reproduced throughout, future generations (1:8-12; 2:8-10). In contrast to false teachers, who depart from the truth (2:18) and thus lead people into ever-spreading ungodliness (2:16-17), Timothy is to strive to present himself to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed because he is “rightly handling the word of truth” (2:15). In order to avoid disgracing himself or his Lord, Timothy is to be a reliable guide who cuts a clear path for the sheep under his care to arrive at a clear understanding of the intended meaning and application of God’s Word.[31]

As Paul moves into 2 Timothy 3:14-4:4, he commands Timothy to “preach the Word” (4:2). Within its context, this command highlights preaching to the gathered people of God as one of the primary means that Timothy is to use in fulfilling his role as a shepherd of God’s flock. Because all Scripture is inspired by God himself (3:16), it is therefore inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient to accomplish all that God intends for it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:10-11). Specifically, the Scriptures are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (3:15) and are profitable for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness (3:16), so that the man of God might be competent and equipped to carry out every good work that God prepares for him.[32]

To paraphrase, Paul says that the Word of God is able to bring sinners to salvation and to sanctify them into faithful and fruitful followers of Christ. This reality is true of the Scriptures regardless of either the style or setting in which their truth is communicated. For example, it is doubtful that Paul’s grandmother or mother (1:15) preached expository sermons, as we would define them today, to Timothy when he was a child. Yet, Lois and Eunice seem to have stewarded the Word of God in such a way that Timothy reaped a true spiritual benefit from their ministry in his life (see 3:14-15). In this way, it is conceded that expositional preaching from the pulpit is not the only way that God’s Word can be stewarded by pastors to the benefit of God’s people. In fact, the Word of God can and should be prayerfully explained and applied to people’s real-life circumstances in an endless variety of settings to meet an endless variety of needs (e.g., through small group discussions, one-on-one counseling sessions, classroom teaching, conversations between parents and children, etc.). 

Nevertheless, when it comes to fulfilling his responsibility as a shepherd of the gathered church, it seems Paul envisions that Timothy will primarily discharge this duty through the public preaching of the Word of God (4:2). After all, in 4:3-4, Paul warns that the time is coming when even believers will not endure sound teaching, but will turn away from the truth and wander off into myths, as they accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. It is precisely in order to combat this tendency within the Church, and ultimately to present the people of God fully equipped for ministry, that Paul commands Timothy to “preach the Word” to the Church.[33]

This calling is of such importance that Paul charges Timothy to fulfill it “in the presence of God” (4:1a). The command to preach comes with the authority of God himself. Even more, Timothy must give the utmost priority to his preaching, and must strive to preach the truth of the Word accurately, because when Jesus Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead, returns to establish his eternal kingdom, Timothy will have to give an account to Christ of his stewardship of the Word (4:1-2). Until that time, Timothy must always be ready to preach the Word, so as to seek the salvation of the elect (2:10; 4:5) and to pursue their progress in sanctification as he reproves, rebukes, exhorts, and teaches his people from the Word of God (4:2).

In summary, Paul’s heartfelt desire for Timothy, expressed in this final letter to him, is not that Timothy would be innovative in his ministry, but that he would be faithful. He is to follow the pattern that was set for him, to continue in what he has learned, and never to swerve from believing, living, and preaching the truth of the Scriptures. Because God has revealed himself and his will in his Word, Timothy must preach that Word, and so should every pastor today. In this way, expository preaching that aims to expose, explain, and exult in the original, intended meaning of the Scriptures, should be the primary[34] method of preaching in the typical corporate worship gathering of the local church. Careful, consistent, Spirit-empowered exposition of the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is the best way to allow God to speak clearly through his Word, and to use his Word to accomplish his will, including bringing about the salvation (1:10; 3:15) and sanctification (3:17) of the elect. As such, every pastor who endeavors to be faithful to his calling, as Timothy was, should embrace his joyful duty of maintaining a Spirit-dependent expositional pulpit ministry.

  1. Why is an expositional pulpit ministry essential for fostering healthy ministries within the local church? (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Placing Ephesians 4:11-16 in its context

            In the opening two chapters of his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul rehearses, and marvels at, the all-encompassing plan of God from eternity-past to eternity-future. Before the foundation of the world was laid, God chose and predestined a people for himself (1:4a). It was the Lord’s plan to save his elect from their sin, adopt them into his spiritual family, and make them able to stand holy and blameless before him (1:4b-5). All of this would be accomplished through the redemption secured by the shed blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, and would be accomplished for the endless praise of his glorious grace, which will echo throughout the ages to come (1:6-14; 2:4-7). Signifying the completion of his earthly ministry, the resurrected and ascended Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, where he has been given authority to reign over all things, including the church, which he rules, fills, and guides, according to his Father’s will (1:20-23). By God’s grace, those who are now in Christ, through faith, live joyfully in submission to him as they are being built together by the Holy Spirit into a holy temple, a dwelling place for God (2:18-22).   

In chapter three, Paul explains his calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ specifically to the Gentiles, so that through the creation of one, unified church, comprised of Jews and Gentiles, the wisdom of God might be made known and celebrated throughout both earth and heaven (3:1-13). Thinking about the stewardship he has been entrusted with by God naturally leads Paul both to pray for the Ephesian believers and to praise the Lord for the immeasurable riches of his glory, power, and grace that have been revealed through Christ (3:14-21).

As Paul moves into chapter four, he transitions from primarily doctrinal themes (in chapters 1-3) to an extended exhortation to godly living in light of what God has done for his elect in Christ (4:1-3, 20-24). The final two-and-a-half chapters of his letter are filled with practical instructions for how the Ephesians are to live in light of their new identity in Christ: no longer like the godless Gentiles (4:17), but as imitators of the true and living God, as his beloved children (5:1). As they are filled with, and yield to, the indwelling Holy Spirit (5:18), every portion of their lives will be transformed, including their inner desires, outward speech and actions, and relationships (4:17-6:9). Standing fully equipped in the resources Christ provides, the Ephesian believers will be able to persevere faithfully through all of life’s trials and all of the devil’s schemes (6:10-20). 

Seeing Ephesians 4:11-16 in its context within the entire letter reveals its place in Paul’s thinking as a pivotal bridge between Christian doctrine and Christian practice. Ephesians 4:11- 16 shows how the Lord’s eternal plans for the elect (chapters 1-3) are to be worked out in the everyday lives of his people (chapters 4-6), through a faithful stewarding of his Word, by both shepherd-teachers and laypersons alike (Ephesians 4:11-16).  

Shepherd-teachers as stewards of God’s Word: Ephesians 4:11-14 

Paul has already made clear that the Father gave the Son to the Church as its supreme head to govern over it (1:22). Through his triumphant victory over death, and his exalted ascension to the Father’s side, Christ has been given the right not only to rule over the Church but also to bestow gifts upon the captives he has set free (4:8; cf. Psalm 68:18). As such, Christ has sovereignly apportioned gifts, according to his grace, to each believer within the Church to be used in his service and for his glory (4:7). In 4:11, Paul reveals that in addition to those personal gifts to individual believers, Christ has also given the general gift of human leaders to the Church. Here, he specifically lists “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers.”[35] Following Pentecost (see Acts 2), apostles and prophets were uniquely called by God and equipped by the Holy Spirit to receive and proclaim his revelation concerning the good news of Jesus Christ (3:1-6). Their testimony concerning Christ, himself being the cornerstone, would serve as the foundation upon which the Church would continue to be built following the completion of the New Testament canon and the cessation of these church offices (2:18-22). The terms evangelists and shepherd-teachers refer to those Church leaders who would continue the work of the apostles and prophets by faithfully heralding, proclaiming, and explaining the meaning of the divinely inspired Scriptures they left behind.  

The ongoing responsibility of these God-given church leaders is further clarified in 4:12- 14. In particular, once sinners are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ through the work of evangelism, shepherd-teachers are called to further “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (4:12a). As the members of a local church are sufficiently equipped, their ministry to one another will then build up the body of Christ into God-glorifying maturity as the Lord intends (4:12b). Paul describes what this spiritual maturity looks like in 4:13-14: God’s design for his redeemed people is that they be united in doctrinal truth and a personal and intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ that results in a continued growth in Christ-like character and conduct. Critical to the development of this maturity is the ability to discern truth from error, and to stand against both the human cunning of false teachers and the craftiness and deceitful schemes of the devil (4:14).  In this way, a believer’s growth in spiritual maturity is clearly rooted in a growing knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God (see Acts 20:32; Col. 2:6-7; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2:2). As a result, in order to equip their people adequately, shepherd-teachers must follow the pattern of the apostles and devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). It is precisely through a consistent, prayerful, expositional stewardship of the Word that shepherd-teachers can be the gift to the gathered Church that Christ intends them to be. Such stewardship of the Word is the best means by which to edify the saints in the ways described by Paul in 4:13-14, thus encouraging their ongoing sanctification.[36]

Expositional preaching as a model for the ministry of the saints: Ephesians 4:15-16

When shepherd-teachers are faithful in expositing the Word on a regular basis during the corporate worship gatherings of the local church, they provide a necessary example for the flock under their care in how to steward the word in faithful ministry to others (cf. 1 Peter 5:3). Again, shepherd-teachers have been given to the Church so that every believer will be equipped to fulfill his/her individual calling to keep “building up the body of Christ” (4:12). In contrast to false teachers who spread false doctrine, thus deceiving others (4:14), the saints of God are to minister to one another by “speaking the truth in love,” thus helping each other “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (4:15). The phrase “speaking the truth” translates the single word ἀληθεύοντες, which carries with it the idea of communicating the truth of God’s Word through both one’s speech and conduct.[37]

Paul envisions that as believers’ own lives are appropriately shaped by the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), they will then be prepared to preach the Word lovingly, prayerfully, and accurately to others in order to meet their real-life needs in real-life situations. When each part of the local body is working properly in this way, accurately and lovingly speaking the truth to one another in a variety of ministry settings, the whole assembly will continue to grow and build itself up into Christ-like maturity (4:16). An expositional pulpit ministry that consistently models how to interpret, explain, and apply the Word of God correctly provides an essential foundation for this process. Weekly exposition of the Scriptures during corporate worship gatherings continually trains the saints to be faithful expositors in their personal study of the Word and in their stewardship of the Word in service to others, both inside and outside the church. 

Accordingly, expositional preaching should be given primary importance in the life of the local church in order to advance the overall building up of the body into spiritual maturity to the glory of God.


The Lord does not want his people to be confused as to his plan for growing his Church.  He has clearly revealed that his Word is sufficient to bring about the salvation and sanctification of his elect, and that the faithful preaching of that Word is his chosen means for bringing about such spiritual blessings. Even more, the Lord has given shepherd-teachers to the Church to model clear proclamation of his Word for his people, and to equip the saints for their unique ministry callings through that same faithful proclamation. As a result, expository preaching should be given a place of primary importance and regular performance in the pulpit ministry of every BFC Church, and should be promoted as a model, foundation, and fountain for all other local church ministries in how to steward God’s Word to fulfill God’s purposes in the lives of those we serve.


by Keith A. Strunk

BFC Articles of Faith – Article 1 – The Holy Scriptures

1-1       The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired, infallible Word of God, a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct. 

1-2       Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of the Scriptures so that their words would convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, would bear a proper relationship to the thoughts of the other inspired books, and would be kept free from error of fact, doctrine, and judgment.

1-3       The Holy Scriptures, the written Word of God, are composed of all books of the Old Testament and New Testament…

Genuine belief in this Article demands that we endeavor to faithfully present the meaning of God’s Word to God’s people as a matter of priority, in order that they be saved and sanctified for the glory of God. To refute the priority of expositional preaching in Christian ministry is to betray our belief in and conviction about what the Word of God truly is. Having seen clearly the Spiritual nature of Biblically faithful preaching, we must deduce that allowing anything to eclipse the importance of expositional preaching is to either deny the power of God’s preached Word to save and sanctify His people, or to errantly prioritize the present, temporal realm over eternity. It is unfortunate that much of the universal church in our day is perfectly content with doing just that, prioritizing the present, temporal realm over eternity. Thus, the goal has become to engage people spiritually for the sake of their attendance at our gatherings, rather than seeking their genuine salvation through faith in the finished work of Christ which can come only by hearing His Word.   

While this study committee does not deny the importance of other ministries in the church, nor does it seek to inhibit them, we are united in the conviction that the centrality of the Word of God in those other ministries is essential, and that that centrality rises and falls with the practice of biblically-faithful, Word-centered expositional preaching in the pulpit.  While much of Christendom is content to waiver and waffle to and fro on theology and methodology in pursuit of a spiritual revival, church history has repeatedly proven that faithfulness to the Word of God is at the root of all true revivals. Therefore the BFC would be wise to take steps to solidify and ensure our fidelity to the Scriptures, and to the methodology prescribed by God therein, as we pursue the growth that we believe God has promised. To that end, this committee proposes the accompanying legislation for consideration by BFC Conference.  Soli Deo Gloria

On behalf of a faithful committee, 

Keith A. Strunk

Study Committee on the Importance of Preaching: Keith A. Strunk, Convener; Andrew W. Barnes, Timothy D. Gibson, Jason L. Hoy, Keith M. Long.

[1] BFC Vision 20/20 –

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Why Do We Preach? A Foundation for Christian Preaching, Part One.

[5] R. Albert Mohler, Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008), 37. 

[6] P.T Forsyth, Positive Preaching and Modern Mind (Kessinger Pub, 2003), 5. 

[7] John Piper, Expository Exultation, Kindle version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018).

[8] John MacArthur, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, Kindle version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Piper, Expository Exultation.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Charles Bridges quote accessed from Arturo Azurdia, Spirit Empowered Preaching (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), 79.

[18] Azurdia, Spirit Empowered Preaching.

[19] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, Third edition, 2018).

[20] Merrill F. Unger, Principles of Expository Preaching, 33.

[21] John MacArthur, Rediscovering Expository Preaching.

[22] Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching.

[23] John R.W. Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century.

[24] Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages.

[25] David R. Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today.

[26] Mohler, He is Not Silent.

[27] Mark Dever, Preach: Theology Meets Practice.

[28] Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.

[29] Mohler, He is Not Silent.

[30] Here, “apostolic teaching” is meant to include a Spirit-guided understanding of both the Spirit-inspired Old Testament Scriptures (referred to in 3:16 as πᾶσα γραφὴ) and the Spirit-produced set of doctrinal truth delivered through the apostles to the Church, which was eventually codified in the New Testament canon (see John 14:26; 16:13-14; Jude 3; note also the use of γραφὰς to refer to Paul’s writings as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16).

[31] Implied by the context is that Timothy’s right handling of the word (ὀρθοτομοῦντα in 2:15) will be demonstrated first in his own submission and obedience to the Word of God as he is made competent and equipped by it (see 3:17), and then secondly in the way he heralds that word in ministry to others (4:2). In this way, Timothy will be demonstrating the path to faithful, God-honoring living in both his pattern of life and in his preaching.

[32] The phrase “the man of God” (ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος,in 3:17 may refer to Timothy specifically, as was commonly used of Old Testament Jewish leaders who were considered official messengers of God, but should not be reserved exclusively for those who hold some office in the New Testament Church (i.e. pastors or elders).  Surely Paul has in mind that the Word of God is sufficient to do the work described in 3:16-17 in the lives of both official church leaders and laypersons alike.

[33] When Timothy is commanded to “preach the Word” in 4:2, in part to combat the tendency of some within the Church to no longer endure “the sound teaching” (τῆς ὑγιαινούσης διδασκαλίας in 4:3), Paul expects Timothy to preach not only the Old Testament Scriptures (which is the primary referent of πᾶσα γραφὴ in 3:16) but also the “sound words” (ὑγιαινόντων λόγων) that Timothy received from Paul (παρʼ ἐμοῦ in 1:13), which would, over time, come to comprise part of the New Testament Scriptures.

[34] Not the only way ever, but the primary way usually.

[35] Since “shepherds” and “teachers” are described using one definite article, (τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους) and are linked by a different conjunction (καὶ) than the other terms listed in the verse (δὲ), it is possible that they are being used to describe one ministry role, namely shepherd-teachers or pastor-teachers. This will be the assumption for the remainder of this paper.

[36] See the above discussion of Paul’s final instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-4:4.

[37] Although there is some debate surrounding the full meaning of the verb ἀληθεύω, it seems likely that Paul intends it to include some aspect of speaking the truth about Christ, not just living out that truth, since the only other usage of the term in the New Testament (Galatians 4:16) clearly implies Paul preaching about Christ. See also J. F. Walvoord and R.B. Zuck & Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), and P.T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 310-311.

Proposed Legislation from the Study Committee on Expositional Preaching

            Whereas, the Bible Fellowship Church holds the highest and most reverent view of the Holy Scriptures as the living and active Word of God, and

            Whereas, the Scriptures are clear about their own authority, necessity, and sufficiency for the salvation and sanctification of God’s people, and

            Whereas, the preaching of God’s Word is clearly demonstrated and commanded in both the Old and New Testaments, and

            Whereas, the church universal, including the evangelical church at large, has progressively minimized and abandoned the ministry of expositional preaching of the Word of God, and

            Whereas, the Bible Fellowship Church seeks to be distinct in Biblical fidelity and ministerial faithfulness, and

            Whereas, the Church Health Committee of the Bible Fellowship Church has included expositional preaching of the Scriptures in its Marks of a Healthy Bible Fellowship Church, and

            Whereas, the Articles of Faith of the Bible Fellowship Church do not explicitly proclaim our belief in the high value of expositional preaching of the Word of God, therefore be it

            Resolved, that Article 18-5 be included in the Bible Fellowship Church Articles of Faith in order to clearly communicate our belief in the priority of expositional preaching in the church.

18-5     The preaching of the word of God13, through the agency of the Holy Spirit14, is the primary means God has ordained for the salvation,15 sanctification,16 and equipping17 of His people. Thus, the preaching of Scripture, particularly as a means of congregational worship,18 should be given priority among,13 but not to the exclusion of, all the ministries of the church.19 In order to ensure the clear, faithful, and Spirit-empowered preaching of God’s Word,20 preaching should be primarily expositional21, 18 because expositional preaching includes the reading, explaining, and application of a Biblical text, wherein the meaning of the Biblical text is the message of the sermon. 

13 … preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.(2 Tim. 4:2). He said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Cor. 1:17). How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).
14 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:13).
15 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). …and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15).
16 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:13-14). 
17 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:11-16). All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
18 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (Nehemiah 8:5-8).
19 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4–7). Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6–8).
20 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Tim. 4:3–4).
21 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Tim. 3:14-4:2). 

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