MacArthur, John and the Master’s Seminary Faculty. Preaching: How to Preach Biblically. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005.
This book did a wonderful job in presenting the concise definition of the term: expository preaching and the detail analysis regarding expository preaching. While reading the processes of the exegetical method, hermeneutic methods, and guidelines in preaching different genres, I found it helpful when Pastor MacArthur open up the doors into his preparation before preaching on Sunday. What was also helpful were the explanations on how one moves from exegesis to exposition and how one delivers his exposition.
Moving from exegesis to exposition is important because as preachers, we do not want to be a data dump or sound like a commentary when we are preaching. We must be like Martin Luther who preached to the common man. At times, this can be difficult for expositors because there is a big temptation to go too deep because of the power and depth of the biblical languages.
I am glad Pastor MacArthur touched upon the negativity of being a data dump. If exposition is not present, then the listeners will have trouble understanding.
What was also refreshing are insights on how to develop a good introduction, illustrations, and conclusion. These three components are essential in delivering a powerful, illustrative, and engaging exposition.
Another component that I think is critical for expositors to know and keep in mind is the chart on page 114 of the book. The chart lists four levels concerning the “relationships between fields of theological study.” The first level comprises of biblical introduction, biblical languages, and hermeneutics. Biblical introduction has to do with understanding the historical background, author, etc. Biblical languages are key because the Bible was written in the original, not English nor any other language. Having a firm grasp on the biblical languages brings one closer to God’s Word and brings others to God’s Word. Hermeneutics (art and science of interpretation) on the other hand, is critical too because it provides rules to interpretation. Without proper hermeneutics, you will not have accurate exegesis.
In level two, you have exegesis. Exegesis does not rely on the English, but deals with the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; and relies upon good hermeneutical principles (108). The job of exegesis is to help bring about the meaning of the text.
The third level comprises of systematic theology, biblical theology, church history, philosophy of religion, apologetics, homiletics, counseling, Christian education, administration, missions, evangelism, contemporary society, ethics, etc. (114).
The last level is Bible exposition. This is the level where preachers declare the Word of God to the people. Dr. Richard L. Mayhue defines exposition in this manner,
At its best, expository preaching is ‘the presentation of biblical truth, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, Spirit-guided study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and then through him to his congregation’” (9).
This is a great quote and is convicting in many fronts. It is a powerful reminder for me that I need to work hard at getting the interpretation right, I need to rely on the Holy Spirit; and that I need to apply God’s truth to myself first before telling others to apply them.
One weakness in this book is that it does not dive in depth about how to deal with New Testament narratives. More attention was given to Old Testament narratives. I think that speaking about the narratives in the New Testament (i.e. Gospels) would help much since many preachers will preach from the New Testament. Also since context is important, a more detailed analysis in how to analyze a particular context of a passage would help the reader.
Below are lists of quotes that were insightful and had an impact on me. I pray that I go back to these quotes as a reference.
“The young preacher has been taught to lay out all his strength on the form, taste, and beauty of his sermon as a mechanical and intellectual product. We have thereby cultivated a vicious taste among the people and raised the clamor for talent instead of grace, eloquence instead of piety, rhetoric instead of revelation, reputation and brilliancy instead of holiness” (55).
“For in his study the prophet can build his altar and on it lay the wood. There he can lovingly place his sacrifice…sermon…but still he knows that the fire must come down from God. Come it will, if he prays before he works, and if he works in the spirit of prayer” (59).
“Many a tailer goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes…It is a fearful thing to be an unsanctified professor, but much more to be an unsanctified preacher” (68).
“Brethren, it is easier to declaim against a thousand sins of others, than to mortify one sin in ourselves” (69).
“Let the minister take care that his personal character agrees in all respects with his ministry” (69).
“Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit that opens one’s spiritual eyes to comprehend the meaning of the Word of God” (78).
“Revelation refers to the act by which God makes known what is otherwise unknowable. Theologians sometimes call it ‘special revelation”(79).
“A house must not have thick walls without openings, neither must a discourse be all made up of solid slabs of doctrine without a window of comparison or a lattice of poetry; if so, our hearers will gradually forsake us, and prefer to stay at home and read their favourite authors whose lively tropes and vivid images afford more pleasure to their minds” (240).
“Faithful expository preaching demands great effort. Since nothing is as important as the Word, no energy expended by anyone in any other field should even equal the effort of an expositor seeking to ‘rightly divide the Word’” (171).
Richard L. Mayhue—
“The element of ethos, that is, the preacher’s perceived credibility in the mind of his audience, can be markedly influenced by the kind and quality of his introduction. This is especially true in cases where listeners have no previous acquaintance with their preacher. As the adage goes, ‘First impressions are lasting impressions” (201).
“Preaching is expository in purpose. It explains the text. Preaching is logical in flow. It persuades the mind. Preaching is doctrinal in content. It obligates the will. Preaching is pastoral in concern. It feeds the soul. Preaching is imaginative in pattern. It excites the emotion. Preaching is relevant in application. It touches the life” (236-237).
“Proper communication in preaching involves taking people through a logical, systematic, and compelling process” (237).
In regards to how long a sermon should be, he states, “As long as it takes to cover the passage adequately! I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements. If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people. If you are interesting, they will stay with you. Do not mistake persuasion for long-windedness, however. If you preach longer than you should, you will sacrifice persuasiveness” (277).