Mike Bullmore begins his 9Marks at Southern 2013 session with this “strong claim:”
Preaching God’s word is the fundamental task of pastoral ministry and there is no more important or effective way that you can build up . . . your church than in your preparation to preach week by week and in your presentation of the Word on Sunday.
That’s quite a claim. “No more important or effective way” to build your church than through preaching. But not just any kind of preaching. The kind of preaching Bullmore is talking about here is biblical exposition,
that in which both the content and the intent of the sermon is controlled by . . . the content and intent of a particular passage of Scripture.
In other words, it’s not “just coverage of biblical material.” It’s the “accomplishment of a biblical intention.”
The Necessity of Biblical Exposition
So why would anyone continue to engage in biblical preaching when there are so many attractive alternatives out there?
Bullmore gives four general answers to that question:
- People’s lives are at stake.
- The health of the church is at stake.
- Our own integrity is at stake.
- Ultimately, the glory of God is at stake.
But in this session Bullmore narrows the focus to one particular answer based on Dueteronomy 8:2-3:
The Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
So why is biblical exposition necessary? Because, Bullmore argues, “the people to whom you are preaching need it in order to live.” It’s like in John 6 when “many of [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer walked with him,” Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go aways as well?” and Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Four Theological Convictions
What exactly is it about the word of God that serves to motivate us in preaching it expositionally? Bullmore enumerates four theological convictions that argue for perseverance in biblical exposition:
1. The God-breathedness of Scripture
Our God speaks and writes and continues to speak by what he has spoken.
Therefore, “we preach the Bible because God said something here and your job is to say what God said.” And that’s why it is imperative, Bullmore contends, that we not “tamper with God’s word. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to God.”
This theological conviction also serves as motivation to fulfill the biblical injunction in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.”
2. The Understandableness of Scripture
God isn’t hiding from us or playing games with us. He took the initiative to reveal himself to us so we could know him.
It’s not surprising then that Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” That is to say, there is a right handling of the word of truth and a wrong handling.
Admittedly, certain parts of the Bible are difficult to grasp, and that’s why Bullmore says there is “no room for arrogance.” However, there is still “lots of room for confidence. In fact, there is room for conviction. The Scripture will yield to believing study.”
3. The Usefulness of Scripture
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that because the Scripture is God-breathed it is necessarily “profitable.” The Bible is both useful and valuable. Therefore, Bullmore rightly concludes,
God’s word can be trusted to set the agenda for your preaching. God’s word can be trusted to set an agenda of usefulness for your people. You don’t have to fish around trying to find relevant stuff to preach on.
Be assured that whenever you give people the word of God you give them something inherently valuable and useful.
4. The Efficacy of Scripture
Do you know of any other book that “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”?
Scripture, Bullmore reminds us, initiates faith, gives new spiritual life, helps us grow, sanctifies, searches and convicts, liberates, refreshes and renews. So if you want your listeners to experience the saving and sanctifying power of God’s word, then give them the Bible in your preaching and watch God work.
So why is biblical exposition necessary? Here’s why:
Because of the God-breathedness of Scripture and because exposition is a way of speaking that. And because of the understandableness of Scirpture and because exposition is a way of achieving that. Because of the usefulness of Scripture and because exposition is a way of demonstrating that. And because of the powerful efficacy of scripture and because exposition is a way of touching that off, igniting that. This is why we preach God’s word according to its nature and its purpose. This is why we do faithful exposition of Scripture.