There is a debate raging in churches today over how to teach the Bible. Should we teach verse by verse or do topical series? Should our sermons be Bible based or Bible exposition? Should we focus on explaining the meaning of the passage and leave the practical application up to the individual, or should we include that as well?
Perhaps one of the best examples of expository preaching is found in the life and ministry of Ezra. We see his philosophy of ministry in Ezra 7:10.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
Four key phrases give us insight into Ezra’s approach:
- “Ezra . . . set his heart . . .” He committed himself to the task.
- “. . . study the Law of the Lord . . .” He didn’t read other people’s opinions. He read and studied the Scriptures directly.
- “. . . to do it . . .” Ezra wasn’t satisfied with merely understanding the passage. He applied it to his own life and put it into practice before he taught it to others.
- “. . . to teach his statutes and rules.” Teaching the statutes and rules encompassed both belief and behavior, doctrine and application. Ezra wanted people to understand what the Scriptures said and how their worked.
In Nehemiah 8:5, 7, 8, we see how Ezra practiced his craft.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. . . Also . . . the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Ezra read the Scriptures to the people who had gathered in the public square. But he didn’t stop there. He also used others to help the people understand what they heard. Before the people left the meeting, they heard the Scriptures read and explained, and they knew what it meant for their lives.
Based on Ezra’s example, my definition of expository preaching is that when we preach, we should explain the meaning of the Scriptures and how to apply them to daily life. When we take that approach, we demonstrate we are direct descendents of Ezra.