Expository Exultation: Or, Why Boring Preaching is a Sin1
This past Sunday, December 21, 2014, I preached on John 3:16 and titled my message, “God so Loved the World: John 3:16 as the True Message of Christmas.” Continue reading . . .
This past Sunday, December 21, 2014, I preached on John 3:16 and titled my message, “God so Loved the World: John 3:16 as the True Message of Christmas.” In my sermon preparation I read John Piper’s sermon from May 10, 2009, “For God so Loved the World, Part 2” (from his sermon series on the Gospel of John; www.desiringgod.org.). In this message John said something about the nature of preaching that I think is worth repeating, over and over and over again.
What is preaching? John refers to it as expository exultation. Here is how he defines it:
“Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application.
And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God.
The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and awaken the capability of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.
Preaching is also exultation—expository exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply understand what he explains, but the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.
Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. My job is not done if I only see truth and show it to you. The devil could do that—for his own devious reasons. My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a lecture and a sermon.
Preaching is not the totality of the church. And if all you have is preaching, you don’t have the church. A church is a body of people who minister to each other. Part of what preaching does is equip us for that. God has created the church, so that she flourishes through preaching. That’s why Paul gave young pastor Timothy one of the most serious, exalted charges in all the Bible in 2 Timothy 4:1–2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.”
If you are used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, the understanding of preaching that I just described doesn’t lead there. I won’t preach twenty minutes but twice that long; I do not aim to be immediately practical but eternally helpful; and the condition of my soul is not relaxed but standing vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people any of whom this week could go over the edge.”
I, too, embrace this philosophy (or better still, this theology) of preaching. It accounts for why I preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible. It accounts for why I love to linger over words and phrases and sentences. The Bible is verbally inspired, which is to say, it isn’t merely the thoughts or ideas of the Bible that are inspired but its very words that comprise and give meaning and form and structure to those phrases and sentences.
And God forbid that I should ever preach without exultation! Boring preaching is a sin. It’s not simply a matter of one’s personality or gifting (or the lack thereof). To explain and expound and apply the Word of God in a monotone, lifeless, joyless manner is sin. Better to fall and break my neck while ascending to the platform than to preach coldly, detached from the text, and in a manner that in the slightest way suggests that this Book is something other than the very words of God breathed out and preserved for us to bring life, forgiveness, hope, and joy.