Why Preach Expositionally?: Because Preaching Needs the Spirit’s Power

I have already offered five reasons for why we should preach expositionally (herehereherehere, and here). Next I’d like to add another.

Pastors should make expositional preaching their primary practice because from beginning to end, from the study to the pulpit, the entire process of biblical exposition needs to take place in absolute and complete submission to the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Holy Scriptures we must teach. J. H. Jowett captured the essence of what we are after when we stand to proclaim the Word of God. There is a sobering and piercing nature to what he says: “What we are after is not that folks shall say at the end of it all, ‘What an excellent sermon!’ That is a measured failure. You are there to have them say when it is over, ‘What a great God!’ It is something for men not to have been in your presence but in His.”[1]

Preparation and the Holy Spirit

All that we do in preparation and proclamation of the Bible should take place in humble submission to the Holy Spirit. In the study as we analyze the text, study the grammar, parse the verbs, consult commentaries, and gather the raw materials for the message, we should seek His guidance and confess our dependence on Him.

Proclamation and the Holy Spirit

When we stand to preach, to minister the Word to our people, again we must plead for His filling and direction. Word and Spirit was a hallmark of the Reformers, and it must be the same with us. Submission to the Spirit is no substitute and no excuse for shirking the hard work of the study. However, a homiletical masterpiece will be of little value without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Nature of Spirit-Empowered Preaching

One final word on this point is instructive. Jesus said in John 15:26, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me.” And again in John 16:14, Jesus said, “He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify Me.” Call it what you will, preaching that does not exalt, magnify and glorify the Lord Jesus is not Christian Preaching. Preaching that does not present the gospel and call men and women to repent of sin and place their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not gospel preaching. We are not Jewish rabbis or scribes, and this truth should guide us in how we handle the Old Testament. Jesus, Himself, provides the hermeneutical key in Luke 24. On the other hand, we are not journey guides, self-helpers, positive thinkers, or liberal or conservative commentators, parroting the wisdom of the world. We are gospel preachers, Jesus-intoxicated heralds by virtue of the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. Submission to the Spirit will lead to exaltation of the Son.


(A version of this post previously appeared on

[1] J.H. Jowett, quoted in Context (Dec. 1, 1997), 2.