What is Expository Apologetics?

Have you ever heard of expository preaching?

Some denominations and theological persuasions speak of it more than others.

Here’s a quick definition from Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church:

“Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.”

Sounds fairly simple, right?

Unfortunately it is rather uncommon in the church at large today.

Many pastors do not preach expositionally. That is, the main point of their sermon does not come from the passage of Scripture they are ostensibly addressing.

Instead, the point is one they want to make, with the Scriptural text merely present as a backdrop.

Sometimes this is blatant, and any discerning hearer can tell that the speaker is not presenting the Word.

Other times it is more subtle. What if a traveling preacher gave the same message on love in two different locations, one based on John 3:16 and the other on Romans 5:8? Both passages mention love. If you preach the same sermon on love, isn’t that expositional?

Perhaps not. Notice the difference in those passages—John 3:16 says that God loved the world and Romans 5:8 says that God loves us (believers). The lover may be the same, but the recipient is different.

The message of these passages is not identical. The impact?  A preacher who delivers the same sermon from both texts is not actually preaching expositionally. He is not explaining the text.

[Note: The John 3:16 vs. Romans 5:8 illustration is not original to me, but I forget where I heard it. Some famous preacher.]

Why do I say all this?

Well, this past week I sat for 16 hours listening to Dr. Steve Lawson. Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while know that I am—was—a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas. But no longer.

Now I’m in sunny California! Soon I’ll begin graduate school at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, pursuing my Master of Divinity degree.

This past week was orientation week, including a 4-day 4-hour-per-day intensive course on (you guessed it) expository preaching.

This is an overflow of that class, as I’m working through how what I learned applies to Apologetics.

So how on earth does it apply?

Here’s the thing. The preacher has no inherent authority. Just because your pastor says something from the pulpit on Sunday morning doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

That sounds near-heretical…but it’s true.

The preacher’s authority derives from the Bible.

If what the preacher says comes from the Bible, you must hear and obey.

If what the preacher says comes from somewhere else, you can do whatever you want with it.

The Biblical text is authoritative. Because the Bible is God’s Word, and God is authoritative.

Do you want Apologetics judges to take you seriously?

Do you want an air of gravity to accompany your speaking?

Do you want to proclaim not merely “thus saith me” but “thus saith the LORD”?

Any authority you have in Apologetics—any compelling gravitas—can only come from the Bible.

That’s why the primary source in Apologetics, before C.S. Lewis quotes and cosmological arguments, is Bible verses.

Let’s bring this down to practicals. If expository preaching has authority because it exposits (explains) the Biblical text, then an expository Apologetics speech will have authority because it explains the Biblical text too.

How would that work in a competition round?

I’m not entirely sure. My thoughts are still developing.

Let’s take the deity of Christ. That was one of my favorite topics when I competed—”Explain the meaning and significance of the deity of Christ.”

My go-to speech on that was a five-point presentation of various evidences for Jesus’ deity, drawn from different Bible verses. The acronym was HANDS:

  • Honor
  • Attributes
  • Name
  • Deeds
  • Seat

Jesus has the honor, attributes, name, deeds, and seat of God. Therefore he is God.

(Wow, I still remember it all these years later. I’m surprised. All credit for the acronym goes to my former youth pastor, George Lawson.)

Because I supported each point with one or more verses, the speech was potentially expositional.

But it’s all too easy not to exposit (explain) verses…we  simply cite them and move on.

What if you tried a different approach?

What if you took Colossians 1:15-20 as the core of your speech? You spent your time not covering bunches of points, but walking through this one text.

You explain each step in the apostle’s argument. You summarize his point. You convey his passion for and exaltation of Christ.

Would that be more powerful than a collection of verses?

I think it might be.

Maybe you should try it.

If you do, email me!

That’s all for now. Thanks for letting me spill all these random thoughts on you—hope they’ve been useful!

Stick to the Word.

[Image name “paul preaching” by Robert Tewart, http://bit.ly/2bpljoH. Creative Commons 2.0 license.]