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Executive Editor of Preaching magazine contributes to an ongoing series
Most pastors would like to think of themselves as “biblical” preachers. We love God’s Word and recognize its authority; it’s the rare preacher who fails to acknowledge that scripture should play a prominent role in our proclamation. But what do we mean when we use the term “biblical” to define our preaching?
My sense is that most users of that term use it in the sense that their sermons analyze and explain a particular biblical text. Though definitions of exposition will vary, most emphasize a sermon that is rooted in and driven by the biblical text.
Unfortunately, many preachers have confused exposition and exegesis, not realizing that exegesis is what we do to get ready for exposition; it is not the same as exposition. Too many sermons I hear and read are really exegesis on parade rather than authentic exposition of the text.
While exegesis is an analysis of the text – studying its language, grammar, historical and cultural background – in order to understand its meaning, biblical exposition is an opening or unfolding of the text to help the listeners understand both its meaning and its implications.
As Charles Spurgeon observed, “the people in the marketplace cannot learn the language of the academy, so the people in the academy must learn the language of the marketplace. That is why the pastor’s primary task in preaching is to translate.”
That process of translation is true exposition. Exposition is the process of taking the results of our exegetical study and fashioning it for understanding – shaping a message in such a way that the people can understand this biblical truth for themselves and then recognize how it applies to their own lives.