Why Preach Expositionally?: To Communicate the Theology of the Text

I have already offered three reasons for why we should preach expositionally (herehere, and here). Next I’d like to expand on those answers by adding another reason I think pastors ought to make expository sermons their regular practice in the pulpit.

Truth and Theology

A fourth reason to preach expository sermons is because a historical-grammatical-theological interpretation will best discover both the truth of the text and the theology of the text.

It is my conviction that biblical theology is prior to systematic theology, but that biblical theology must always proceed to systematic theology. The hesitancy on the part of some biblical scholars to follow through on this latter point is unwise and unacceptable. It may even be cowardly.

Allowing the priority of biblical/exegetical theology will result in a more faithful and honest interpretation, but it will also demand more tension in one’s theological system. Kaiser reminds us that “the discipline of Biblical theology must be a twin of exegesis. Exegetical theology will remain incomplete and virtually barren in its results, as far as the church is concerned, without a proper input of ‘informing theology.’”[1]

Where’s the Doctrine?

Doctrinal/theological preaching is noticeably absent in the modern pulpit. Theological and biblical illiteracy is the heavy price being paid. As the preacher exegetes both his text and audience, he should be sensitive to the theological truths contained in and supported by the text. He must endeavor to develop a strategy that will allow him to convey these truths in a clear, winsome and relevant manner. A faithful minister of the Word will bombard every text with a series of questions that many preachers of the Holy Scripture never ask.

  1. What does this text say about the Bible (and the doctrine of Revelation)?
  2. What does this text say about God (also Creation, angelology)?
  3. What does this text say about man (and sin, our falleness)?
  4. What does this text say about Jesus Christ (His person and work)?
  5. What does this text say about the Holy Spirit?
  6. What does this text say about Salvation?
  7. What does this text say about the Church?
  8. What does this text say about Last Things?

Now, we need to be honest and forthright at this point. It is impossible to preach without preaching some type of theology or doctrine. However, though an unhealthy allegiance to a particular tradition of theology will give you a nice, tight, clean theological system, it will also lead you to squeeze and twist certain texts of Scripture in order to force them into your theological mold or grid. I believe a better way is to let your exegesis drive your theology. Let your theological system be shaped by Scripture and not the reverse. You will most certainly have more tension, more mystery, but you will be more true to the text of Holy Scripture, and you will embrace and cultivate a healthier theology.

Two Basic Questions

In this context, I would encourage us to always ask of every text two questions, and to ask them in this order (something seeker and emerging types usually fail to do):

  1. What does this text say about God?
  2. What does this text say about fallen humanity?

This two-fold inquiry appropriates the insight of Bryan Chappell and his Fallen Condition Focus (FCF).[2] It also will guide us in having a Theocentric/Christocentric homiletic and theology. It will make sure that the real hero of the Bible is always on display: the Lord Jesus Christ. It will serve as an effective vaccine to the psychological, therapeutic, feel-good or mystical/personalistic diseases that have infected the Church. It will keep Jesus preeminent and the gospel front and center.

Warren Wiersbe has sounded a much needed warning in this area,

I don’t think the average church member realizes the extent of the theological erosion that’s taken place on the American exegetical scene since World War II, but the changes I’ve witnesses in Christian broadcasting and publishing make it very real to me. Radio programs that once majored in practical Bible teaching are now given over to man-centered interviews (‘talk’ radio is a popular thing) and man-centered music that sounds so much like what the world presents, you wonder if your radio is tuned to a Christian station. In so much of today’s ministry ‘feeling good’ has replaced being good, and ‘happiness’ has replaced holiness.[3]

Donald Bloesch adds, “… the church that does not take theology seriously is unwittingly encouraging understandings of the faith that are warped or unbalanced.”[4] A steady diet of exegetical theology fleshed out in expository preaching is a certain cure of the spiritual anemia that afflicts too many of our churches.


A version of this post previously appeared on

[1] Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology (1981), 139.

[2] See Chapel, Christ-Centered Preaching.

[3] Warren Wiersbe, Be Myself, 301.

[4] Crumbling Foundations: Death and Rebirth in an Age of Upheaval, 107.