What if expository preaching and topical preaching weren’t the only options? What if there were a third option? A better option.
I think there is.
Why Exposical Preaching is the Best Option
The debate is an interesting one. Some people get very passionate about the camp they fall into. Some people only preach expository sermons and sermon series. Some people only preach topical sermons and sermon series.
Like many things in life, we have a tendency to overreact and watch the pendulum swing in the complete opposite direction rather than finding a happy middle.
My proposal is this: You can be topical when preaching an expository sermon and you can be expository when preaching a topical sermon.
Not only is it possible, but I think it’s best.
Imagine taking a topical sermon series and instead of touching on forty different passages or verses in a single sermon, you take one main passage and use one or two as supporting passages or verses to add to the mix briefly. In the same way, when you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, instead of settling with preaching through five or ten verses at a time, you preach through the thoughts of the writer. This will naturally point you to a theme or a topic for that week’s message. It should be noted that there are themes and topics that are addressed in biblical books. They just may not be covered in five to ten verses. You may have to cover a little more.
Exposical preaching takes the best of expository preaching and the best of topical preaching and fuses them together. You’ll get the rich analysis of the passage and the rich application of the passage. Sometimes both of these aren’t present in the traditional camps of preaching, but they are both vital to and present in exposical preaching.
Ingredients of an Exposical Sermon
1. An emphasis on a single passage.
I strongly believe that the best option for preaching a sermon is to park in a single passage regardless if you are going through the whole book as a part of a series or not. This may also look like utilizing a couple of consecutive passages in the same book and showing the thought of the author and then pointing to the topic or theme he is touching on.
There are some situations where you need to use more than one passage. For instance, if you are doing a sermon about the Trinity. You won’t find a single verse or passage that teaches this doctrine, but you can teach it by pointing to more than one passage. I would say this is the exception to the rule. An option in this, though, is to do a three week series on the topic of the Trinity and cover God the Father in week 1, God the Son in week 2, and the Holy Spirit in week 3.
2. Exposition of what the text says.
By using a single passage in your sermon you are allowing yourself the time it takes to expose what the text says to the original audience and then point what it means today. If you put people in the context of the original audience of the passage, you are helping them truly understand the passage and opening their hearts and minds to the application of the passage.
3. Heavy dose of application.
By truly exposing what the text says, you can now turn your attention to helping your church make sense of the passage and apply it to their lives. Spend time addressing what the application of the text looks like for each stage of life and situation that your congregation may resonate with. Show them how doing what the Word says will change their life. Show them how it’s vital that they apply this text of Scripture.
Make the application (1) relevant, (2) simple, (3) urgent, and (4) vital.
In Every Sermon
…resolve to stay true to the text of Scripture and apply it to today’s times. Preach with passion and energy. Show your congregation how much the text has spoken to you and help them experience that same thing.
It takes hard work to make a sermon both rich in exposition and rich in application, but it can be done.
By adopting exposical preaching, you’ll be well on your way to doing those two things in every single sermon you preach.