An effective means of presenting the word of God
First Peter 4.11
By Don Ruhl
In what manner shall we deliver the word of God? First Peter 4 informs us that if we speak, there is a way to do it, and that manner ought to bring glory to God, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1Pe 4.11). We should speak the oracles of God, speaking what God has already spoken.
Speak the text of the Scriptures as God delivered them. There are many ways of presenting God’s word, but the best way is just to go through the text as it is written, explaining it as you go rather than jumping around all over the word of God. Sometimes we have to do that, but we run the risk of not understanding passages the way God intends, of not using passages the way God approves, and of missing truth.
When we jump around the Bible, we may not remember that David, for example, came from one culture, one language, one location, one nation, one time, and then when we quote Luke all those things differ.
However, preaching through Bible Books or just a single passage, we keep our attention focused on one time in history, one issue, and so on. Many people hunger to know what Bible passages say, because they have not been around a long time like the older people who have learned the meaning of biblical passages that preachers quote without explaining the context.
This is not simple just take one-verse-at-a-time preaching. What I mean is taking thoughts, which might be a verse or several, whatever constitutes a paragraph, and then expounding upon it.
How does this affect your life? I want to show you why you should care about expository preaching and how such preaching affects your life. Obviously, I believe in other forms of preaching, because I do those often.
It Keeps Things in Context
When you keep things in context (whether with biblical literature or any other form of literature), you gain a better and complete idea of the meaning of a passage.
The Holy Spirit put Scripture in order for a reason.
Jumping around too much without understanding the context causes us to lose our ability to interpret passages. For example, when we come to a verse we do not understand, we stare off into space or think of what other passages say, because that is what we have seen preachers do and that is what we have been taught to do. However, the first thing we should do is read the context.
For example, What do you think of this explanation of “gift” in First Corinthians 7.7, where Paul said “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1Co 7.7)? If we isolate this verse from its context, we might reason like this. Paul was an apostle. He wished that others could be apostles like him with miraculous ability. The Bible uses the word, “gift,” to refer to miraculous ability. However, not everyone could be an apostle. Some had the gift to be an apostle and some did not.
If you know your Bible, you know that while my reasoning was correct, First Corinthians 7.7 does not address what I just wrote. Yet, that is how we often treat Bible verses rather than explaining it in its context. If I preached through First Corinthians, I would have pointed out that Paul addresses several topics. Chapter 7 addresses the matter of marriage versus remaining single. In verse 1, Paul taught that remaining single is good. He recognized a problem for some people with sexual matters. Therefore, in verses 2–5, he explained that marriage is perfectly acceptable, especially for avoiding fornication. He stated in verse 6 that what he had said in verse 5 was not a commandment, but a concession, when he addressed the matter of husbands and wives being away from one another for periods of time. Then he wrote the words of verse 7. Paul wished that Christians could be single as he was, but he recognized that not everyone can do that. To some, God gives the gift of marriage and to others the gift of remaining single.
Expository preaching, therefore, brings out the power of the Bible.
It Addresses the Holy Spirit’s Topics
The Holy Spirit gave us a collection of sixty-six Books, and He carefully orchestrated them to deliver heaven’s message for humanity. I believe that He knew what He was doing when He delivered that message in the form we have it. He knows what we need and how we need to hear it. Preaching through Bible Books retains the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
In the thirty-three years I have preached, many people have offered their opinions on what I should and should not preach, and how I should and should not preach it. Some have accused me of speaking too much on a topic and others of not speaking enough on another topic. However, I believe the Spirit of God knows what we need to hear, how much we need to hear it, and in what form we need to hear it. When I preach expository sermons through Bible books, I seek to remain loyal to the One who gave the Bible. This method helps me fulfill First Peter 4.11 that when I speak I should speak as the oracles of God.
In Second Timothy 3, as Paul reminded Timothy that he had known Scripture, which meant the Old Testament, and it led to his salvation, Paul wanted Timothy to know the power of all Scripture, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Ti 3.16, 17). Preaching through Bible Books insures that we cover all Scripture and all topics the Holy Spirit intends for us all.
It Uses the Holy Spirit’s Argumentation
The Bible refutes erroneous thinking, persuades us of the truth, motivates us to obedience, and anything else that God wants to see in us.
What is wrong with using the argumentation of the Holy Spirit? Does He not know us better than any preacher does? Does He not know what should move and what should not move us?
Preaching through Bible Books teaches us to think as the Holy Spirit does. In Galatians 3 and 4, Paul used an argument against requiring circumcision as a matter of salvation that we can use perfectly for arguing against requiring Sabbath-keeping as a matter of salvation. I presented that idea to a preacher who does not preach through Bible Books and he immediately dismissed my thinking. The same preacher, and most other preachers, would not preach through the Gospels separately, believing that is a waste of time and that what we ought to be doing is trying to harmonize the Gospels. Did the Holy Spirit give us four Gospels to see if we can put together a puzzle? See each of the Gospel writers as a preacher, delivering a message on the Son of God, and preaching through one of those Books simply gives you that preacher’s message.
It Meets Needs in the Holy Spirit’s Way
As flesh, I want to fulfill my needs differently than the Holy Spirit does. I think I know what is best for me, but only the Holy Spirit knows what is truly best.
Consider the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as He directed Jeremiah, who declared, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10.23). I believe what Jeremiah said by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I am not surprised to hear Jeremiah say these words later, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17.9, 10). If that be true, and I believe it is, then it makes sense to me to hear God say the following to the prophet, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word’” (Jer 26.2). With the help of God, that is precisely what I plan to do.
It Examines the Holy Spirit’s Thoughts
In First Corinthians 2, Paul explained to the Corinthian Church why he preached the way he did and why he preached what he preached. He did not speak the wisdom of man, but the wisdom of God. He quoted the Old Testament to prove his point and then commented upon it, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1Co 2.9–16). We do not know what God has prepared for us until we read it in the Bible. When we preach the Bible in the manner that the Spirit delivered it, we receive His thinking. As Paul said in verse 16, it is not that we know the mind of the Lord and what He needs, no, we have the mind of Christ. He knew what we needed and He gave us His mind. You do not need for me to give you my mind, but you need the mind of Christ.
How do you read letters from people who love you? Do you just read parts? How do you want others to read what you have written?
I believe the power resides in the Scriptures, not in me as a preacher and not in my ability or lack of ability to put together a sermon. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. With my preaching methods I seek to give you every word of God.
Let us all humbly submit to what God has delivered.