I am very thankful for my training at Dallas Theological Seminary, especially my training in Bible exposition. The motto of Dallas Theological Seminary is “Preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). I received a Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry, both of which serve as the foundational pillars to my ministry.
I have always desired to serve in a region where Bible exposition is not prevalent, especially in areas where access to Bible doctrinal teaching is limited. Since graduating from DTS, God has given me opportunities to preach His Word in Japan and Thailand. For the past eleven years, I have been preaching at an international, nondenominational church in Rangsit, Thailand. As this church does not have a full-time pastor, I am one of several pastors who preach regularly. I am grateful to regularly expound on God’s Word to this congregation. Recently, the coronavirus has curtailed many of my opportunities, but I can preach at least once a month through virtual online meetings.
Currently, I’m teaching from the Book of Galatians. In this epistle, the apostle Paul wrote to a group of churches (most likely in South Galatia) after his first missionary journey. He was disturbed by believers who were abandoning the true gospel of “hearing by faith” and replacing it with another gospel consisting of “works of the Law.” False teachers called Judaizers insisted that it was not enough to believe in Christ alone, but one must be circumcised for salvation. It was a faith-plus-works doctrine, which nullifies the finished work of Christ on the cross. God’s Word explicitly states that salvation is by grace through faith and not works (Eph 2:8–9). Therefore, any addition of works invalidates the gospel message. Paul informed the Galatians that anything added to the finished work of Christ is “another gospel.” He declared to them that “another gospel is no gospel at all.”
I have noticed a general lack of solid expository preaching, and as a result, many believers do not fully understand their salvation. Unfortunately, many falsely conclude that they can lose their salvation. My remedy for this is exposure to a regular stream of expository preaching. I believe Christians can be conditioned by the true doctrine of faith and not be led astray by false teachers or doctrines.
When I Preach…
I spend many hours preparing. Once I have chosen my passage, I study it in its original language to learn the author’s intended meaning. This process is defined as exegesis. After, I look for the theology and timeless truth of the passage. This process is known as exposition. Finally, I work on how to translate the central meaning of the passage to my audience. This process is called homiletics. For example, a product of my preparation is explaining to my audience that if they are worried about a particular sin they may have forgotten to confess, or if they believe there are future sins for which they will not be forgiven, immediately I see that they are not believing in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Throughout my sermon, I emphatically reiterate that another gospel is no gospel at all!
Some to Speak, All to Hear
God equips some to exegete what He has said, and He equips us all to hear what He says. Indeed, we want to hear from God now more than ever during this pandemic. We want to know where God is in all of this. How do we move forward? Make no mistake, God is speaking. Today, our Bible is His voice that can be just as loud and permeating as it was when Moses first heard Him speak the first five books of the Bible. Our direction is found in His Word.
Even though there is a barrage of information streaming on what we should and shouldn’t do and a plethora of voices speaking in this melee we call pop culture, believers are called to read and listen to the preaching of God’s Word. It is His complete revelation to us. This notion makes extra-biblical prophecy, or visions, which may or may not come to pass, unnecessary. Unfortunately, the church where I preach is divided over this, as some church members appear to be seeking signs and wonders along with prophetic visions instead of God’s written Word. God gave us His Word (2 Tim 3:16), and this must be our guide. How will the church know God’s Word? They will know it through expository preaching.
The Mandate for Preachers
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary in 1924 to train men for ministry. He intended for the Bible to be the primary textbook. In his book, An Uncommon Union: Dallas Theological Seminary and American Evangelism, Dr. John Hannah explains Chafer’s burden to start a seminary of this caliber.1 Since the inception of Dallas Seminary, students have been taught all sixty-six books of the Bible. They are not taught about the books; they are taught the books.
The motto of Dallas Seminary comes from 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word.” Imagine Paul writing this from a prison cell in Rome. It was his solemn charge to Timothy. For the pastor, preaching the Word is his top priority. It is not an option. When the pastor preaches through Bible exposition, the result is a more robust and stable church.
In Biblical Preaching which is considered the gold standard by many expositors, Dr. Haddon Robinson defines expository preaching as,
The communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.2
In simple terms, expository preaching is teaching what the passage is about and then how it applies to those listening.
The Result: We Hear from God
In my experience, the best method for expository preaching is preaching sequentially through books of the Bible. The authors wrote each book to a particular audience for a specific purpose. The preacher learns the intended meaning of the passage through exegesis. Then he understands the theology of the passage. Finally, he discovers how it applies to a contemporary audience. The preacher must spend many hours studying to accomplish these objectives for his sermon. In worship service, expository preaching is the primary way God communicates with His children. I believe expository teaching must take top priority among the congregation when gathering for worship. Through the preaching of God’s Word, the congregation learns God’s thoughts, His ways, His will, and everything we need to live a life of holiness.
The Alternative: We Don't Hear from God
As previously mentioned, unfortunately, there is a general lack of expository preaching in many pulpits today. In my twelve years of living in Bangkok, I have seen unimaginable aberrations of preaching! The prosperity/word of faith gospel is rampant here. It is also referred to as “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” doctrine. It may appear attractive, but the Bible doctrine is not bent toward human ideals of prosperity. Much of the topical preaching I see consists of verses taken out of context and used as proof texts. Topical expository preaching, by contrast, involves taking two or more passages in context, doing the same work of exegesis, exposition, and homiletics.
Believers gain clarity and conviction through Bible exposition. When there is no expository preaching, many false teachings can result. The question we need to ask is not whether we want to hear from God, but instead, how can we hear from God?
When a pastor preaches God’s Word, the church is built up and equipped for ministry. God gave gifts for this specific purpose in Ephesians 4:11–12. He gave gifts, such as pastors and teachers, to equip the body of Christ for the work of ministry.
Fads will come and go. What may be popular today may not be popular fifty years from now. But God’s Word never changes. The Bible is God’s complete revelation to His people.
- John D. Hannah, An Uncommon Union (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), Chapter 3 – Founding the Seminary.
- Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014).
About the Author
Dr. Michael Karpf (ThM, 1993; DMin, 2019) is currently serving as a missionary pastor at AIT Christian Fellowship in Rangsit, Thailand. His passion lies in exegeting the Scriptures.
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This article was previously published in DTS Magazine online. To find more resources, please visit DTS Voice.