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THE EXPOSITORS STUDY:

CAREFUL AND DILIGENT BIBLE STUDY IS THE KEY TO


EFFECTIVE EXPOSITORY PREACHING

Jerry Wragg Associate Pastor, Pastoral Ministries Introduction:

I. Pre-study hermeneutical principles for accurate interpretation: 1. You must have a passion and zeal for Gods Word. 2. You must have a teachable spirit and a willing heart eager to obey what you learn. 3. You must be completely focused on God throughout your study time. 4. You must seek to understand the passage literally and naturally. 5. You must seek the plain sense meaning of the passage. 6. You must dig out what actually is in the passage; dont read into the text.1 7. Diligence, faithfulness, tirelessness; Bible study demands maximum effort. The number one reason for poor teaching is stated clearly by J. Adams this way: I have had the opportunity to hear much preaching over the last few years, some very good, some mediocre, most very bad. What is the problem with preaching? There is no one problem, of course. . . . But if there is one thing that stands out most, perhaps it is the problem I mention today. What I am about to say may not strike you as being as specific as other things I have written, yet I believe it is at the bottom of a number of other difficulties. My point is that good preaching demands hard work. From listening to sermons and from talking to hundreds of preachers about preaching, I am convinced that the basic reason for poor preaching is the failure to spend adequate time and energy in preparation. Many preachersperhaps mostsimply dont work long enough on their sermons.2

Five Preparation steps for the teacher:


1 2

Adapted from the Teaching Philosophy and Training Manual: Grace Community Church College Ministry. John MacArthur, Jr., Rediscovering Expository Preaching Dallas, Word, 1992, 209-210.

Step 1, Prayer During the week . . . locked up with my book, . . . study and . . . communion mingle as I apply the tools of exegesis and exposition in . . . open communion with the Lord. I seek His direction, thank Him for what I discover, plead for wisdom and insight, and desire that He enable me to live what I learn and preach . . . A special burden for prayer begins to grip my heart on Saturday evening. Before I go to sleep, I . . . spend one final time going over my notes. That involves an open line of communication with God as a I meditatively and consciously offer my notes up to the Lord for approval, refinement and clarity.3 Andrew Blackwood, Professor of Homiletics for years at Princeton Theological Seminary, counsels the preacher to lay down one rule and never make an exception: Start, continue, and end with prayer.4 Henry Holloman . . . says, Behind every good biblical preacher is much hard labor in preparation (1 Tim 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:15). However, only prayer can assure that his work is not wasted and that his message will spiritually impact the hearers. As the biblical preacher interweaves prayer with his preparation, he should focus on certain petitions: 1. That he will receive understanding . . . in spiritual as well as mental comprehension. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16) 2. That Gods message will first become personal in strong conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) 3. That he will clearly and correctly convey Gods message in the power of the Spirit in effective communication. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) 4. That the Spirit will use the message to produce a proper mindset and heart attitude for spiritual transformation. (2 Corinthians 3:18) 5. That the whole process and finished product will accomplish Gods purpose in glorifying God through Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11)5 Holloman summarizes this way, Knowledge and organization is what we must do, but prayer gives us what only God can do.6 Ps 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law. Ps 119:135 Make Thy face shine upon Thy servant, and teach me Thy statutes. Lk 24:32 And they said to one another, Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?

Step 2, Overview
3 4

Rosscup, James, Preparing the expositor. Shepherds conference notes; 1993, 154. Ibid, 155. 5 Ibid. 153-154. 6 Ibid. 154.

Read the epistle or book at a single sitting at least 20-30 times. Planning to read through the book once a day for a month is one way to accomplish this goal. The overall context of the book is obtained during this stage. For larger books like one of the gospels, reading 5-7 chapters a day should be sufficient. Step 3, Introduction Read the introductory sections in several good commentaries. Study Bibles and Bible handbooks will provide a general understanding and background of each book. In this step you should give more particular attention to matters related to this writer, these readers, their city, the church in this city, and other data of special relevance to the portion being studied.7 Questions to ask: Who wrote the book? When? What is its theme? Why did he write it? Who did he write to? From where did he write the book? Tools: Study Bibles Bible Handbooks Bible Dictionaries Good Conservative Commentaries Bible Encyclopedias Dr. Thomas states the importance of studying the historical background this way; It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of historical background, both general and special, in the Grammatico-Historical method. It should be kept in mind at this stage, however, that interpretation itself has not yet begun. One should therefore, guard himself zealously against conclusions in regard to controversial areas. He should assimilate only such information as is non-prejudicial on debatable points at this stage of study.8 Step 4, Context Read the chapter 4-5 times. Carefully observe verses around your passage. Identify the immediate context and the wider context. Determine how the immediate context and the wider context relate. What is the flow of the passage? Step 5, Observation Read your passage carefully 20-30 times. Be careful, systematic and persistent. Write down everything you observe. Write down any questions you have. At this point I like to diagram the passage. This helps isolate each clause, phrase and word for a thorough inspection. John MacArthur speaks of the observation step this way: The first step in studying an individual passage is to read it. I read it repeatedly in my English Bible until it is pretty well fixed in my memory. I try to do that early in the week of preaching it or even before, so I have time to meditate on it. Before I get into actual preparation, I want to be mentally grappling with the passage. Once I begin concentrating on my sermon text, it dominates my thinking, conversation, and reading during my time of preparation.9

Robert L. Thomas, Introduction to Exegesis Grace Book Shack, 1987, 25. Ibid, 25. 9 MacArthur, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 219.

What to observe 1. Conjunctions -- and, but, therefore, for, and others. 2. Verbs -- Note the tense, voice, whether singular or plural. 3. Patterns in context -- Look for similar verb forms in the passage, such as five participles or three gerunds in a string 4. Repeated words in a verse and within a context. 5. Words a given writer uses: for example, Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the phrase the kingdom of heaven. 6. Contrasts 7. Comparisons 8. Exhortations 9. Commands 10. Definite articles or their absence 11. Adjectives 12. Adverbs 13. Genitives -- For example in Revelation 1:1, the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14. What the verse does not say that may be important. 15. Evidence of the writers own passion, feelings, heartbeat, and goals, or his anger, disappointment, etc. 16. Variety in the way a writer refers to Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Christiansfor example, he may refer to Christians as saints, brethren, believers, etc. 17. Look for words or phrases that may be explained in books on manners & customs, dictionaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, and good commentaries. 18. Geography -- locale, distance, terrain, climate, vegetation, etc. 19. Reference to chronology 20. How much space a writer devotes to a given subject or facet in comparison to what he gives to other aspects of the picture. 21. Doctrinal views 22. The writers style10 II. Broad Principles for Biblical Interpretation The good Bible student is like a detective, a historian, and an explorer. He must be careful and diligent to apply sound principals for biblical interpretation. His goal is to teach a message that is Gods Word and not some other message. Dr. MacArthur gives 4 rules for properly interpreting the text: 1. Use the true text, Gods Word. 2. Employ the science of hermeneutics, with its interpretive principles. 3. Let these principles expose the meaning of a passage (i.e., do an exegetical study of the text) as a person follows prescribed rules in playing a game. 4. Teach the exposition that flows from this process.11 There are many different schools of interpretation:
10

Rosscup, Jim. Hermeneutics Syllabus, 1988, 7-8.

11

John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy: Expository Preaching, The Masters Seminary Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 3-15, especially 9-10.

Allegorical method Liberal method The existential principal Literal method

The following are principles for the literal interpretation of Scripture: A. The Clarity of Scripture Holy Scripture is an ancient book, a very large book, and a book with many perplexing passages. How sense is to be made out of individual passages and the Holy Scriptures as a whole is the problem of the clarity of Scripture.12 1. External clarity 2. Internal clarity (Ps. 119:18; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-14; 1 Cor. 2:10-14; Eph. 1:18ff) B. Accommodation of Revelation The Holy Scripture is the truth of God accommodated to the human mind so that the human mind can assimilate it.13 God has intentionally accommodated His revelation so men would be able to understand. Genesis 11:7 John 10:9, John 15:5

C. Progressive Revelation Themes in the Bible become clearer the farther we move from Genesis to Revelation. God reveals Himself and His truth through a gradual process. This process maintains continuity through successive times to different generations, which receive a more developed understanding about various related facets of His person and plan. - Matt. 5:17-20 Gal. 3, 4 Gen. 3:15

D. Scripture Interprets Scripture


12 13

Ramm, Bernard, Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Baker, 1970; 97-98. Ibid., 99.

One or more Scripture passages help interpret the right meaning of another text. Obscure passages in Scripture must give way to clear passages. John 3:5, Ezekiel 36:25-27 Matt. 26:64, Daniel 7:13, 14

E. Analogy of Faith Analogy of Faith says there is one unified, consistent, and harmonious system of faith in the Bible. No point ultimately contradicts another, if we understand it as God intends. Romans 4:1-5 James 2:14-26 (Justification by faith with works)

F. The Singleness of Meaning of the Scripture This principle means that a biblical text has one basic meaning or interpretation, not two or three. There is one correct interpretation, but after it is obtained we may make several valid applications to our lives or the lives of other people. I Samuel 17:40 Hosea 11:1

G. Historical Appropriateness The treatment of a passage needs to be fitting, appropriate, and in harmony with the situation at that point in Scripture. We should interpret certain passages with a realistic sensitivity to how much God may have revealed to the people living at a given time in biblical history. What would they, given the light God allowed them to possess at that point, have most naturally understood a statement to mean?14 Joshua 2

H. The Checking Principle Check whatever sources would stand the best chance of giving you reliable information on a passage or point. Use good commentaries, books, and journal articles. Consult reference sources that are relevant to the point you are studying. Seek to use the most trusted, respected, accurate books in a given area of information. I. Priority of the Original languages This principle simply means to consult the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek to find first-hand what really is said as to word order, words, and what they mean in expert lexicons by specialists, tenses of verbs, and other points of grammar or meaning.15
Rosscup, 63. Ibid, 65.

14 15

Galatians 1:6-7 Jude 15

What if you dont yet know Hebrew and Greek?

III. Specific Principles A. Word Study 1. Words may be studied etymologically

2. Words may be studied culturally

3. Words may be studied comparatively

B. Grammar Since words are the units of a language, then the sentence is the unit of thought. As a result we should be working with parts and wholes at the same time. A biblical word occurs in a context, and in some instances the context tells us far more what the word means than pure philological research.16

C. Context 1. Context of entire Bible 2. Context of Old Testament and New Testament 3. Context of book 4. Context of immediate text

D. Cross-reference a. Actual cross-reference b. Apparent cross-reference


16

Ramm, 136.

c. Repetition of a whole set of words d. Its value e. It keeps us from error

E. Literary Mold Does the passage occur in the context of straightforward history or in a context of frequent figures of speech? Here you must consider the literary style - Parables Principles involved: 1. Determine the specific problem, occasion, need, or situation in context that led to this parable 2. Determine the main point, the central idea that matches (answers) the problem 3. Discover the cultural setting 4. Use cross-reference 5. Interpret details properly because are merely filler details in the story

- Figurative language; more than 200 kinds of figures have been distinguished in the Bible. Simile Allegory Ellipsis Metaphor Paradox Irony Hyperbole Oxymoron Proverb Principles for interpreting figurative language: 1. Examine the whole context 2. Look at the next phrase 3. Look for other factors in the more immediate context 4. Cross-reference 5. Interpret literally and identify the analogy that transfers over 6. Recognize that sometimes the spirit and not the strict letter of a statement is the intended idea (Pluck out the eye) 7. Allow for anthropomorphism 8. Allow for phenomenal language (The moon turned to blood) 9. Allow for hyperbole 10. Allow harmony with common sense 11. Look at grammatical reasons for believing it to be figurative

Conclusion: The principle of studying, living, and teaching what you learn - Ezra 7:10

Going from Text to Sermon


Organize Prepare a folder Read text (30-40x) -Personal Conviction -Context -Familiarity -Illumination 1 Cor. 2 -Themes Read into material -Helps to see basis for arguments of text -Helps identify literary types -Helps discover authorial uniqueness -Writer -Audience -Place and time Do literal translation (Block diagram preferable) -look for hinge verbs -know subordinate clauses -key lexical emphasis Do lexical and syntactical (tackle interpretive problems) -Word studies -Syntax -Read analytical/exegetical commentaries Synthesize, then work through theologies (if applicable) Develop main emphasis into short sentence (should be close to proposition) Identify proofs for the main emphasis from the text (pay attention to subordinate clauses)

Create outline (time to alliterate and organize) Write the body of the message, then conclusion Think through your introduction Read and reread your final copy