What a preacher believes about the Bible is vitally important. Is it merely the record of human experience and the words of people? Or is it the verbally inspired, truthful Word of God given through the words of men? Those who have a “lower” view of the text, do not feel the same weight and obligation to preach the Bible as those who really believe it is God’s Word. If a preacher truly believes that the Bible is from God, then this will shape everything. He will repeatedly point to the text—encouraging people to open it, turn to it, mark it, and follow along.
This kind of preacher will be driven by the fact that the Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6.17) which is “living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12) This kind of preacher believes that “the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19), and that humanity “does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 4.4).
Preaching with these convictions will often be what we call “expository preaching,” because it will exposit or expound the Bible. Expository preaching is a kind of preaching that emerges directly from a passage or passages from the Bible. The main idea is taken from the text. The outline will follow the logic of a passage. Expository preaching is text driven. It may use illustrations, stories, humor and even visuals. But these things will not become the main thing and distract from God’s Word, but only aid its delivery. Expository preaching will reflect the central focus, passion, purpose and unfolding of a particular passage. An expository sermon might cover a verse, several verses, a paragraph, an entire chapter, or even a whole book in one sermon. It can even be used in a series to cover a topic through the Bible. But the benefits of preaching that stays close to the Bible is this: when we let our preaching proclaim God’s Word, it becomes God preaching. What stands out is not the preacher’s words, but that God has spoken.
Of course, lots of preaching falls short of this. Sometimes preaching ignores the text completely. What you get is the preacher’s own thoughts about a particular subject. Sometimes preaching misreads the text. It misses the central redemptive message of the Bible and becomes ponderously moralistic or simplistically sentimentalistic. And sometimes preaching starts with a text but then forgets about it. That is, the preacher uses the Bible as a diving board which he jumps off of to get to his own concerns.
It has been rightly said that too much preaching hovers over the text. All the while our people are starved for God’s substantive Word. Truth be told, our congregations will live or die by their exposure to the Word. For in the end, its not just people, but churches that “do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Perhaps that is why Paul was so insistent in writing to a young pastor named Timothy who presided over the church of Ephesus. Paul admonished him—“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4.1,2)