“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Saint Irenaeus and Saint Pothinus, stained glass window in the Saint Augustine church in Paris, France.

Grant Osborne states that the study of Scripture is not complete until one moves from text to context, and a significant goal of preaching is to ensure that Scripture speaks as clearly today as it did in ancient times by taking exegetical care in elucidating the original meaning of the passage under consideration.[1] The process Osborne goes on to describe in accomplishing this task denotes expository preaching, which Faris Whitesell defines as:

based on a Bible passage, usually longer than a verse or two; the theme, the thesis and the major and minor divisions coming from the passage; the whole sermon being an honest attempt to unfold the true grammatical- historical-contextual meaning of the passage, making it relevant to life today by proper organization, argument, illustrations, applications, and appeal.[2]

Jim Shaddix likens the history of expository preaching to the history of text-driven preaching.[3] A key to good contextualization is a seeking a synthesis between the biblical text and the modern application comprised of careful exegesis and thoughtful interpretation: “how what was asked of the original audience (what the author asked them to do) can be relived by my audience.”[4] In other words, Osborne explains, “The interpreter must seek a consistent and significant overlap between the original and receptor concepts before true contextualization can occur.”[5] Some of the big challenges the interpreter faces include things like relativism, syncretism, cultural and supracultural norms in Scripture, and good contextualization requires a valid hermeneutical method comprised of mechanics and principles for developing effective preaching in spite of such hurtles.

Paige Patterson illustrates effective expository preaching by referring to Ezra’s text-based reading of the Torah to the people, while Levitical priests “explained the law to the people as they stood in their places.” The audience was both convicted with sorrow for their disobedience and then rejoiced over God’s grace and forgiveness;[6] this excerpt from Nehemiah 8 demonstrates the process and effect of what the authors elucidate as effective expository preaching, derived from text-driven exegesis, producing appropriate contextualization and application among the receptors.[7] Paul charges Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). [8]As David Allen states in his introduction, “Therefore, the theological foundation for text-driven preaching is the fact that God has spoken,”[9] though Allen laments that this expository preaching has largely fallen into misuse if used at all. I envision engaging an expositional ministerial role one day that incorporates the pastor theologian paradigm described by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, wherein my primary vocational identity is pastoral, while engaging the academic dialogue. Hiestand and Wilson advocate for a pastorate producing theological scholarship for the broader ecclesial community, which they assert will help shape and inform academic, cultural, and ecclesial discourse in order to deepen the faith of God’s people.[10] I recognize the ministerial effectiveness of Patterson’s illustration of Ezra’s text-based expository preaching to the masses, and the accomplishment of text to context advocated by Osborne and the essay authors comprising the Akin, Allen, and Mathews book.

Despite predating a formal notion of the Bible, Irenaeus of Lyons is commonly characterized as a biblical theologian, and he has made significant contributions to biblical interpretation. Irenaeus gives a detailed account of how the totality of Scripture is summed up in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the apostolic preaching, and I share in Irenaeus’s hypothesis that Scripture interprets Scripture.[11] The importance of holding to the pattern of interpreting Scripture as the “rule of faith” was vital, during the second century, in particular, to avoid the stumbling blocks set in the path of believers by the various heretical movements; however, though one might be tempted to conclude that pervasive heretical movements were just a problem of the early church; in fact, apostacy has never disappeared from history and remains an ever present danger to the church in modern times. Therefore, it is my desire to facilitate expository study and do what I can to help others enrich their own study and application of Scripture.

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revised and Expanded the Hermeneutical Spiral A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 410.

[2] Faris D. Whitesell, Power in Expository Preaching (Westwood, NJ: Revell 1967), vi-vii.

[3] Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, and Ned Mathews, trans., Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon, (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010), 37.

[4] Osborne, 426.

[5] Ibid., 426.

[6] Akin, Allen, and Mathews, 27.

[7] Devon H. Wiens, Review of The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Grant Osborne. Direction 24, no 1 (Spring 1995): 116.

[8] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version.

[9] Akin, Allen, and Mathews, 2.

[10] Gerald Hiestand and Todd A. Wilson, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 15.

[11] Keith D. Stanglin, The Letter and Spirt of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018), 32.

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