‘Expository Preaching’ by Mark Dever

The fourth and final session of the day (with the exception of the evening’s Q&A which I do not plan to blog) was Mark Dever‘s (of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.) lecture on expository preaching. He began (after a brief cardiovascular workout) with the question: “What is expositional preaching?” It’s not about style, but more about how one decides what to preach. Instead, expositional preaching is exposing God’s Word to God’s people, or stated otherwise, exposing God’s people to God’s Word. Dever gave his definition of expositional preaching as “preaching that makes the main point of a text, the main point of the message.”

Our goal as pastors should be that our people would know their Bibles. The Roman Catholic Church has a slogan: Semper Eadem (Always the same.). The Protestant church also has a slogan: Semper Reformanda Secoundum Verbum Dei (Always reforming according to the Word of God!). We’ve seen in the SBC, the reformation of the seminaries to the Word of God, but the far more important and difficult task is that of reforming local churches! If our churches are not being reformed by the Word of God, they will be deformed by the secular culture around us. Therefore, the pastor’s main method of preaching must be expositions of God’s Word (not merely topical, biographical, etc.). People should leave our churches after our messages and not say, “I could never get that out of that text!” Instead they should say, “How could I have missed that?”

Today, says Dr. Dever, is a great day for expository preaching. Modern skepticim is largely on the wane. The fall of man has resulted in God being hidden from our eyes, but in God’s mercy we can still hear Him! We hear Him with our ears through the preaching of His Word!

In John Bunyan’s Holy War, the city of Man-Soul has been taken captive by Diabolos. King Shaddai retakes the city of Man-Soul through the Ear-Gate!

Our authority as preachers is based on the Word of God. When we depart from the Word of God, we lose our basis for authority. There are three ways in which Dever said we should preach expositionally:

1. Affirm the Word of God. We must acknowledge that our God is a communicating God. God’s Word always precedes community. He has always created His people by His Word. God’s people have never created His Word.

2. In the context of a congregation. Preaching must take place in a local congregation. This is the height of Christian ministry. Not speaking at a conference like this, but faithfully proclaiming the Word of God in a local congregation. Jesus said in John 13 that all men would know that we are His disciples if we “love one another.” Our congregations are to be evidence of what we preach from the pulpit (not a contradiction).

3. We preach the Word! This means that time must be given in your study. Matthew Henry said, “Those who preach must first hear.” Time must be sent in prayer (This must be a priority.). Time must be allowed in the pulpit. Chrysostom said we must have over an hour in the pulpit. We are to trust in God and His Word by preaching His Word!

Dever then closed his talk with a quote from Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones,

Is it not clear, as you take a bird’s-eye view of Church history, that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching has declined? What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church. And of course when the Reformation and the Revival come they have always led to great and notable periods of the greatest preaching that the Church has ever known. As that was true in the beginning as described in the book of Acts, it was also after the Protestant Reformation. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Latimer, Ridley–all these men were great preachers. In the seventeenth century you had exactly the same thing–the great Puritan preachers and others. And in the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield, the Wesleys, Rowlands and Harris were all great preachers. It was an era of great preaching. Whenever you get Reformation and Revival this is always and inevitably the result (Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preaching & Preachers, pp. 24-25).

Finally this plea was voiced, “Let us pray for a recovery of such preaching in our day to the glory of God alone!” Amen!

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