There are two basic forms of preaching: expository and topical. Hughes Oliphant Old defines expository preaching as “the systematic explanation of Scripture done on a week-by-week…basis at the regular meeting of the congregation.” Expository preaching grounds the message in the text so that all the sermon’s points are points in the text, and it majors in the text’s major ideas. It aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible. And it always situates the passage within the Bible’s narrative, showing how Christ is the final fulfillment of the text’s theme.
By contrast, the main purpose of “thematic” or “topical” preaching is not the unfolding of the ideas within a single biblical text but rather the communication of a biblical idea from a number of texts. Topical preaching may have any one of several aims. It may be to convey truth to nonbelievers (evangelistic preaching) or to instruct believers in a particular aspect of their church’s confession and theology (catechetical preaching). Festal preaching helps listeners celebrate observances in the church year such as Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost, while prophetic preaching speaks to a particular historical or cultural moment.
I would say that expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community. Why? Here is the main reason (though of course there are many others): Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true. This approach testifies that you believe every part of the Bible to be God’s Word, not just particular themes and not just the parts you ...1
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