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What Is Biblical Exposition & Why Is It So Important?

God’s Word has the power to save lost souls and sanctify the hearts of Christians. We don’t want to read our thoughts into it, we want to get God’s thoughts out. Faithful expository preaching (biblical exposition) will drive the listener to the Gospel every time.

Consider the words of Tozer,

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

2 Goals of Biblical Exposition

  1. Communicate the passage faithfully and accurately to your listeners.
  2. Equip the listener to interpret and study the Bible faithfully on their own.

This is why Snowbird is committed to expository Bible teaching and ministry. It is vital that every preacher and teacher handles the Word of God with accuracy. We must communicate God’s original message and meaning from the text, and teach it in a way that is understandable by your people.

Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.

Charles Spurgeon

Conversation with Snowbird directors:

  • Brody Holloway
  • Zach Mabry
  • Rob Conti


What is Biblical Exposition? (Transcript)

0:00:37.2 Speaker 3: We are very committed to expository teaching and expository preaching. And I’d like for you to just talk a little bit about what that is and what that looks like fleshed out in the preaching ministry of Snowbird or a church or any ministry and why it’s so important.

0:00:54.4 Speaker 1: Yeah. It’s huge ’cause we’re talking about how we handle scripture, which is ultimately what anybody who preaches or teaches, that is what they’re gonna answer to God for. So I think, 2nd Timothy 2:15 is a good place to start. Paul says to Timothy, young preacher, he says, “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.” So that’s why we’ll say like, how you handle the Bible, how you handle the scripture. And what he’s talking about is handling it with accuracy, handling it correctly. ‘Cause man, you’re gonna give an account to God for how you do that. So, and how we handle scripture, when we’re teaching students and when we’re preaching in these conferences is that we wanna make sure we get the message that God has put in the scriptures, that that is what we’re taking out of the text and then fashioning it for people’s understanding.

0:01:56.3 Speaker 1: Taking it from its original context, what God said, what He meant by that, and then articulating it, saying it in such a way that people understand it in their context and in their language and in a cultural setting where they’ll get the illustrations and it’ll hit home with them. So, that’s the hard work that he’s telling us to do is, and make sure you get this right. So we use the term exposition and it can be, it can make it sometimes seem like more than it is. It just simply means, man, we wanna explain the Bible really well. We wanna explain the Bible for what it means. And then, so that for us, for the preacher, the teacher that means, okay, I need to dig in, I need to do the background work to make sure I’m getting the context correct. So the original language, the grammar, the historical setting, the context of how that passage is written. Is it inside of a narrative? Is it inside of an epistle? ‘Cause that’s gonna shape how you understand it…

0:02:57.7 Speaker 3: All right. I’m gonna stop you.

0:02:58.4 S1: Yeah.

0:02:58.6 Speaker 3: We got a 15 year old group of kids in a small group, and they’re listening. They’re watching this right now or listening to this. Explain what a narrative is, explain what an epistle is, and explain… You touched on something that I think it’s important for any person reading the Bible to understand, and that was the original languages. Just very briefly, what are… What do you mean by original languages? What is narrative and what is an epistle? 

0:03:28.7 S1: So the Bible when it was originally written, it was given to God, to men to write down, that it was written in, the Old Testament primarily in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. And so, yeah, that to really understand the context of what’s being said, you can’t… We have great English translations and when, so when a student picks up a NIV or an ESV or a CBS or New American Standard, they’re handling it, and that’s God’s word. And it’s good Godly people have worked really hard to make sure we have, as close as possible to what God meant for us to have. But there are times when it’s really helpful, especially when you’re preparing to preach and teach to dive into that a little deeper and make sure you’re understanding it as best as you can. And then the… What was your, the first question you asked? 

0:04:28.3 S3: You used the word narrative and epistle. You used those two words, just explain a little bit, very briefly, what is a narrative? What is an epistle? 

0:04:34.9 S1: A narrative is a cooler word for a story. [laughter] So, yeah, if you have the Gospels, it’s, they’re the stories. It’s a narrative of Jesus’s life. And so, a lot of times, it’ll be God’s making a point. He’s teaching us something that he wants us to know, but that’ll be stretched over a lot more versus as a story unfolds. And an epistle is just a letter. It’s another word for letter. And so what was happening there is usually you had an apostle, somebody with special authority from God to speak to the church. And he’s writing on behalf of God. And when he sends out, he’s giving instruction, he’s giving doctrine, he’s giving essential teachings for the church. And so there’s a lot more like slammed into fewer verses. It’s more, it’s dense with theology and doctrine and all this important stuff that we need to learn. And so when you’re teaching through or studying through an epistle, you’re really gonna go a lot slower and you may not get as far to get a lot of meaning out. Now when you’re teaching through a narrative, you may cover multiple chapters of the Bible to get one main big point that God is teaching.

0:05:52.5 S3: Maybe an example of a book, a whole book that’s one narrative, I think of Jonah. You could teach, I think we’ve done this where we taught the Book of Jonah in one sermon with one main point. Whereas it’d be very difficult. I mean, guys have done it, but it’s very difficult to teach the Book of Romans, which is one of the lengthier epistles in one sermon. You do it and do an overview, but it’s not, you can’t give it the kind of attention that it needs to be given. So, yeah, that’s good. I really appreciate.

0:06:25.1 S1: And it really is so important ’cause we are handling God’s word. And this is what has the power to save lost people and it’s what has the power to transform Christians from one degree of glory to another. Making us more and more like Jesus as we understand God’s word. So we don’t wanna read our own thoughts into it. We wanna get God’s thoughts out into people and so…

0:06:52.4 S3: Oh, can I interrupt you again? 

0:06:53.4 S1: Yeah.

0:06:53.6 S3: ‘Cause I think you just said something that somebody needs to be warned who might be listening to this. Whether you’re a teacher, a preacher, or someone who listens, you’ve got your favorite TV preacher or someone you enjoy listening to their podcast. You just said something that essentially, we have to be careful and even there’s a warning there for the preacher that these are not my words. And so as a preacher, you don’t get to approach the scripture and to figure out what does this mean to me as the launching point. Now, in the end with, you mentioned application. Yeah, we wanna say, “Okay, what does it mean to me in the context of how do I respond to what God is saying?” So there is a… I do need to say, “What does this mean for me or how do I respond to this?” But the point is, a preacher who takes a passage of scripture and says, “Here’s what I think about it, or here’s my opinion on this.” Or you have to be very careful with that, ’cause God is not… He speaks clearly. There’s depth and there’s mystery. But he’s speaking clearly to us through His Word. And so the job of the preacher is to make sure we say only what he is saying no more no less. So anyway, nothing to… I just wanted to insert that ’cause you, I think that’s profound when you said that, it just made me think there’s some people that maybe don’t understand. That’s just a big deal. We’re tampering with the word of God when we don’t say what it’s saying.

0:08:26.9 S1: And it sets people up ’cause that preacher who’s doing that and maybe comes to a passage and/or is gonna preach, and they read a passage and then but they never really get the meaning out of that passage. They have got their own sermon kinda already prepared. It’s more based in what they see in culture. And then they find a passage that they think on the surface is saying that, and they may say really good things in that sermon because maybe they’ve got good teaching from how they’ve grown up. They’ve got good doctrine, the right essential foundational things about Christianity. They’ve got those things in place. So they’re not teaching bad things. They’re just teaching badly, because it sets up the listener to be dependent on a preacher to tell them what the Bible means. When we teach expositionally, one of the great by-products of that is that by, just by example. And the more and more you sit under expositional preaching and teaching, you yourself learn how to approach scripture.

0:09:39.5 S1: So if I’m always listening to somebody who takes scripture out of context, even if they’re making a good point by it, a Biblical point, I’m learning that I can take scripture out of context. I would never think of it that way. I’d never say it that way, but I’ll do it. I’ll go, I’ll wait for situations to roll into my life. And then I’ll look for something in scripture to address it. But I’ll just find something that does it on the surface and take it out of its context, And now I’m wrongly applying scripture to my life. I’m not seeing God correctly. I’m not seeing the world correctly. So yeah, one of the great by-products of teaching expositionally is people who sit under that, they’re gonna learn how to approach the Bible, study the Bible, apply the Bible on their own. And that’s the goal of good preaching and teaching is we’re discipling. We’re teaching them what this passage says on one level, and on a deeper level we’re teaching them how to come to scripture.

0:10:32.5 Speaker 2: Yeah, I think it’s such a good point, ’cause if you’re sitting under poor teaching, you’re actually being trained on how to interpret the Bible in a poor fashion. Whereas if we’re doing a good job actually teaching and preaching the Bible, then someone is able to say, “Oh, I can see exactly how they did that. They’re just walking through this text. I can do this when I go home by myself.”

0:10:56.8 S3: That’s good.

0:10:56.9 S1: That would be the best compliment somebody could give you as a preacher, is that they went home, read the passage and that they were able to find why you preached the way you did.

0:11:09.4 S3: That’s right.

0:11:09.8 S1: Just from the scripture, like that’s great.

0:11:12.5 S3: What is a, one of you guys give a concise definition. I’m gonna throw out a couple of words here. What does the word hermeneutic mean? What is a hermeneutic? 

0:11:22.1 Speaker 2: Yeah, hermeneutic is… We… It’s… We use it mainly for the Bible. But it is any way of studying a text, trying to figure out the meaning of the text. And so you’ll have different things that will color the way that you interpret. So we would talk about we have a historical, grammatical hermeneutic. So we wanna know what is it saying in the historical context, what you talked about and then in the literary context as well. So we let those things govern the way that we interpret scripture.

0:11:54.4 S3: One thing that you and I have always appreciated was a sermon we heard on this topic. And I remember there were two quotes that to this day stand out. They’ve informed the way that I preach. This was years ago. One is if, I like to condense things down into simple thoughts. So if we took all of this and kinda condensed it as a preacher into a couple of simple thoughts, one would be the preacher, the reader doesn’t inform the word of God. The word of God informs the preacher. So I should be saying what the word of God has informed to me, or has informed me with as the other thing that we’ve talked a lot about is, I don’t come to the scripture to master the text, but to be mastered by the text.

0:12:49.9 S1: So I’d like to say one thing I think is really important, especially whether you’re listening to preachers or you yourself are a preacher or a teacher of God’s word, is that man, I’ve read a lot of books on exposition and how to preach and it is super helpful and you should, we should, we should study it like the hermeneutic. That’s a science, it’s a discipline, it’s an art form. And so we should sharpen those skills. But I think there’s a danger in following into a ditch of it’s exposition needs to look like this and pick your favorite preachers or group of preachers that my form of exposition should just like, look just like Mark Devers or John MacArthur’s or John Piper or Chuck Swindoll or…

0:13:37.9 S3: Steven Furtick.


0:13:38.9 S1: And…

0:13:39.6 S3: Wait he doesn’t do expositions. I’m sorry, go ahead.

0:13:46.7 S1: Yeah, it, because there’s so much freedom here. There’s one guy, he said, exposition is truth poured through personality. So there’s some basic principles of what exposition is, of getting the word of God correctly. Knowing what God said, and then fashioning it for people and giving application to that. Here’s what it meant to them originally, and here’s what it means now, and here’s what it might look like in your life. And if we do that well, there’s so much freedom. I think, Brody is a phenomenal storyteller and he thinks of illustrations. They just fly out of him in normal conversation. It’s part of the gifting that God’s given him and how he teaches. And I love that, but I don’t need to necessarily feel pressured that I’ve got to come up with, and I should have five jokes in between these points, or I should have this kind of story that that’s not how I’m gifted, but I should use story and use the illustration to do it but.

0:14:45.6 S3: I’m just gonna say a name. I’m gonna drop a name. My favorite preacher to listen to. This is gonna blow y’all’s mind. Y’all know him. My favorite preacher to listen to is Jeff Martin. It’s my favorite preacher to listen to. I listen to Jeff Martin probably more than I listen to any other preacher. He’s a pastor, he’s a good friend of ours, one of Zach’s Seminary roommates and Jeff Martin, pastors Redeemer Community Church in Johnson City. And he does a phenomenal job of contextualizing, he’s in the community there, the community and the feel is very, it’s got kind of a hipster feel to that community. There’s a lot of outdoor enthusiasts.

0:15:26.7 S3: You’ve got paddlers, you’ve got mountain bikers, you’ve got adventure outdoor type people, you’ve got a high, high, there’s a lot of college students there ’cause there’s two… It’s a college town. There’s two colleges. So they have a ton of college students is… A ton of college students that attend. And he does a phenomenal job of practicing all these things. And one of the things that I always appreciate is the care that’s given and the balance of the mining out of the main point. And I could say this for any preacher that I appreciate for you guys, I… This is why I always feel like I’m in the presence of guys who personify what we’re talking about. That’s why I love working here. I’m surrounded by guys that do this well. Each of you guys do this well, the hard work of mining that main point out, and then bringing illustration in that has purpose.

0:16:26.9 S2: I think for a responsible student pastor if they see their goal as the long-term discipleship of their students, the most important thing that they can instill in their students is the ability to study the word of God on their own. And to understand what God is speaking today to them. And that is why we are gonna do everything we can in our power to help them see an example of that, and then not just see an example of that, but to walk them through, through breakouts, small groups, and personal conversations.

0:17:01.5 S3: Yeah. And I guess the closing thought on the whole conversation or in answering this question would be, faithful expository preaching is always going to drive… The text is going to drive the listener towards the gospel. Like the gospel is somehow connected every page of scripture. It is critical that the gospel be held up and held out by the teacher, the preacher, the speaker. So some point in the exposition of that text, the teaching of that text, the gospel’s gonna be present. It’s gonna be clear. And I think that’s, I think what is the phrase? It’s the crowning moment of the sermon or the message is when the gospel is clearly on display and it’s beautiful and it’s powerful and it’s ultimately the goal of expository preaching.

June 28, 2023

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