Engaging Exposition (19): The Work of Exposition: Structuring the Message

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Engaging exposition requires the preacher of God’s Word to develop a comprehensive and structured method for moving from his study notes and research to the completed sermon. John Stott says, “the golden rule for sermon outlines is that each text must be allowed to supply its own structure.”* An effective teacher of the Word of God recognizes the wisdom of honoring the substance and structure of the text. What he says should be faithful to the text as well as obvious from the text both to himself and to those he instructs.

I want to suggest ten basic and related steps to follow. These steps will develop and be true to our short definition of expository preaching: “Christ-centered, text-driven, Spirit-led preaching that transforms lives.” They will also be true and develop our more full description of biblical exposition:

Expository preaching is text driven preaching that honors the truth of Scripture as it was given by the Holy Spirit. Its goal is to discover the God-inspired meaning through historical-grammatical-theological investigation and interpretation. By means of engaging and compelling proclamation, the preacher explains, illustrates and applies the meaning of the biblical text in submission to and in the power of the Holy Spirit, preaching Christ for a verdict of changed lives.

1) Let your exegesis drive and determine the structure of your message.

2) Have as many major points as the text naturally demands.

3) Make sure your major points and sub-points clearly and naturally flow out of the text. Be able to see your outline (or movements) in the text.

4) State your points in complete sentences that are application focused connecting them to the sermon title, MIT and MIM.

5) Make your sub-points connect with the major points that they support.

6) Look for the theological truths the text clearly supports and develops.

7) Cover and fill the skeleton outline with the meat and marrow of your exegesis.

8) Add to your expository content the supporting accessories of introduction, conclusion, application and illustrations.

9) As you hone the finished product, make sure there is balance, symmetry and cohesion to the message as a whole.

10) Practice reading your text repeatedly (and out loud), remembering that it is a sin to read God’s Word poorly.

In “A Treatise on Christian Liberty” Martin Luther throws down the gauntlet and gives us some final words in this chapter to guide us and inspire us:

Let us then consider it certain and conclusively established that the soul can do without all things except the Word of God, and that where this is not there is no help for the soul in anything else whatever. But if it has the Word it is rich and lacks nothing, since this Word is the Word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of righteousness, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of power, of grace, of glory, and of every blessing beyond our power to estimate.

Preaching the Word of God for the glory of our Savior and the good of His saints – this is an essential component for healthy churches in our day. It is an essential component for healthy churches in any day.


* John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 229.

  3Comments

  1. Alex   •  

    I fear that when there are as many guidelines on how to deliver expository preaching as there are commandments for the whole of life – that is, ten – there are too many.

    Too many words quickly degenerate into wrong ones: it is not a sin to read God’s Word poorly – that could never be written by someone who worked with the dispossessed of mind, body or learning. It is a sin to identify the completed expository sermon as God’s Word, as here.

  2. Solomon   •  

    I appreciate the guidelines given above. I felt it would be easier if the Author had given sample sermon that is prepared according to the guidelines given.

  3. JK   •  

    You may see Dr. Daniel Akin’s website for many sample sermons. I am blessed by his works. You will be blessed too http://www.danielakin.com/?cat=35

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