Once a pastor has committed himself to the faithful exposition of God’s Word—often known as expository preaching—he is faced with the question of what exactly to preach on a weekly basis. The Word of God, of course, but which specific passages? There are three basic approaches a preacher can follow.
First, he can select a different passage every week, with each passage having little or no relationship to the previous one. In this way, each passage would be handled in an expository fashion, but there would be no deliberate flow or cohesiveness from one week to the next. For example, he might preach Ephesians 5:22-24 the first week, Psalm 119:9-16 the second week, Mark 10:13-16 the third week, and so on. You might call this random exposition.
Second, he can select a group of passages, each of which deal with the same topic or theme, and then preach them week after week until the series is completed. For example, he could do a series on having a biblical view of God’s Word by preaching Psalm 19:7-11 the first week, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the second week, 1 Peter 2:1-3 the third week, etc., until he is ready to move on to the next series. You could call this thematic exposition.
There is a third approach, however, which I believe is the best option for the preacher who is in the pulpit on a regular basis, and that is consecutive exposition. Put simply, consecutive exposition consists of preaching verse-by-verse through entire books of the Bible. On Sunday mornings I have most recently preached through the entirety of Philippians and Habakkuk, and I am currently preaching through 1 Peter. Last week I preached 1 Peter 2:4-8, this Sunday I will preach 1 Peter 2:9-10, followed by 1 Peter 2:11-12 the next week, and so on. When I complete 1 Peter, I may take a few weeks to do some “stand-alone” messages—or even a brief series of thematic exposition—but sooner than later I will start again on the very first verse of a new book. This is consecutive exposition.
All things being equal, I highly recommend this as the primary approach for a pastor to take. There may be strategic times to step back from a book study, but I believe there are the most advantages to consistent consecutive exposition. Why do I say that? For several reasons, most of which I have probably borrowed from others, but here they are:
1. It introduces the congregation to a wide range of Scripture.
2. It ensures that infrequently traveled areas of Scripture are covered.
3. It increases the probability of accurate interpretation.
4. It cultivates sound habits of personal Bible study in the congregation.
5. It saves the preacher time on:
- selecting the next passage
- planning the next series
- studying the historical background and literary context of the next passage
6. It enables the preacher to plan ahead with ease.
7. It prevents the preacher from:
- constantly gravitating toward favorite passages or themes
- avoiding passages that are difficult to interpret
- avoiding passages that confront his beliefs or lifestyle
- targeting the sin of specific individuals in the congregation
- using the pulpit to battle theological opponents in the church
8. It provides opportunity for both the preacher and the congregation to see that all of Scripture is indeed profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, even those passages which don’t initially seem relevant to their lives.
Questions to consider:
- What are some other advantages to consecutive exposition?
- What are some potential disadvantages?
- What are some good reasons to depart from consecutive exposition from time to time?