Chip Thornton

Chip Thornton is pastor at First Baptist Church-Springville.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “expository preaching.” What is it?

Walt Kaiser says, “Expository preaching takes as a minimum one paragraph of Biblical Text and derives from that Text both the shape (main points and subpoints) and content (ideas and principles) of the sermon.”  

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones modeled this as closely as anyone. He was a medical doctor turned preacher in England in the mid-1900s. God used him to spark a revival in the land. The spark that ignited the revival was consistent expository preaching.  

He felt expository preaching was done best by preaching through books of the Bible, paragraph-by-paragraph. He preached 60 consecutive sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. He preached 11 sermons on Psalm 73. His longest was a 372-sermon series through Romans ... and he never even made it to the final two chapters. That is about 7½ years of Romans if he preached 50 of 52 weeks each year. He stated, “A sermon should always be expository. In a sermon, the theme or the doctrine is something that arises out of the text and its context.” Lloyd-Jones was cautious that, if pastors depart from expository preaching, then the temptation would be to proclaim their own message rather than God’s message.  

He likened it to his days as a doctor. As a medical doctor, he diagnosed the condition and dispensed the proper prescription. As a spiritual doctor, the Scripture diagnoses man’s condition and dispenses the proper prescription. He said, “I would lay it down as being axiomatic that the pew is never to dictate to, or control, the pulpit.” As a medical doctor, he never allowed his patients to write their own prescription. Likewise, God never allows sin-sick men to prescribe their own medicine. God’s Word sets the agenda, diagnosis the condition, and provides the remedy as His servants preach the Word expositionally.

The next time you hear a sermon, ask yourself:

1. Does it follow the movements and content of the biblical text?

2. Can I trace each point back to the text?

3. Is the main point of the text the main point of the message?

4. Would the biblical author make the same application as the preacher?  

If the answer to those any of those questions is, “No,” then there is a problem. You may be listening to a word from man rather than the Word of God. Lloyd-Jones would call that an “abomination,” ... and he wouldn’t be kidding around.

Chip Thornton is senior pastor at First Baptist Church-Springville.