Iain H. Murray, associated for so many years with the Banner of Truth Trust, has a very wide knowledge of reformed theology and biography. His cautions about some aspects or perceptions of expository preaching are well worth noting.
If, says Murray, expository preaching is defined as preaching which seeks to explain and apply the text of Scripture, then there is no argument. But expository preaching has come to mean, for many, consecutive preaching through a passage, or book, of the Bible. This method has a number of advantages (both real and apparent), but also a number of disadvantages:-
1. Not all preachers are capable of consecutive expository preaching. Spurgeon did not think that it was best suited to his gifts, and even D.M. Lloyd-Jones was twenty years into his ministry before he introduced it.
2. It can emphasise too much the ‘instructive’ element of preaching, and limit the power of preaching to stimulate, arouse, and motivate the Christian life.
3. Similarly, consecutive expository preaching can too easily be confused with a ‘lecture’. In a previous age, expository lectures were in fact given, and these were distinguished from sermons. Interestingly, Lloyd-Jones’ messages on Romans (given on Friday evenings) were conceived as ‘lectures’, whereas his messages on Ephesians (given on Sunday mornings) were conceived as ‘sermons’.
4. This kind of expository preaching too easily becomes a ‘running commentary’ on the text. To be helpful, a sermon needs focus and unity, whether the text is a single verse or a paragraph.
5. Evangelistic preaching does not fit the ‘expository’ model. There are some texts that are particularly suited to evangelistic sermons, and these will be neglected if we insist on systematically preaching our way through whole books of the Bible. When did you last hear a sermon on, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Based on ‘Expository Preaching – Time For Caution‘