Theology: Bibliology

Considering the Typography of the Bible

I don’t often come across something I have not previously given much thought, although in this case, I suspect I am not alone in in this. Biblical Typography, that is, how our bibles are layed out on the page, how they divided into paragraphs, as well as chapters and verses, is a rather interesting subject to think through. But as I said, I had not given it much thought, prior tonight, and it was the following video which sparked this interest. Give it a watch and then let me know what you think. Lets consider the typography of the bible together

Note, all credit for this content belongs entirely to the author of this video.

Trusting God Through The Numbers

The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, his company as listed being 74,600. Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, his company as listed being 54,400. Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, his company as listed being 57,400. All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march. “On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, his company as listed being 46,500. Numbers 2:1-11

bible-and-coffeeIf like me you have read the bible through at least once, you would have read through the numbers lists and genealogies, such as the verses quoted above. And like me, you probably found it very difficult reading. Keeping concentration is hard and we struggle to put into perspective why these texts are a part of the bible. So why did God include in His word, large parts of Genesis, Chronicles, Numbers and even a chapter in Luke and Matthew each such lists? And what can we learn from them? In literature, I am unaware of any other work that labours so hard with lists, genealogies and numbers, except Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and then only in the appendixes. So why does the bible have them? And does it benefit us to read them through, and as often as we read the rest of the bible? I came up with four reasons why they are important.

  1. The genealogies and number lists demonstrate that the bible is a historical document, comprising of multiple genres of writing and written down by many different people over many many years rather than a complete fabrication out of the heads a person or group. As you know, the genres include writings, historical accounts, poetry, proverbs, law, genealogies, court records, letters, public proclamations written down and so on. Even a cursory glance through the bible will reveal this is so, and in examining some texts will Illustrate what I mean.
    Some verses are written from the first person:

    In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. Daniel 8: 1-2

    or from the third person such as:

    Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Joshua 3:1-3

    And then there is songs:

    Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150

    Or proverbs:

    Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:18-19 

    And finally (by way of example) prophecy:

    The word of the LORD came to me:
    “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Ezekiel 18:1-3

    Besides all this, we see order, an account of God’s interaction with the world, from the day He created it, till the day He will destroy and remake it. And His salvation plan, starting with the Woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15) to the calling of Abraham, and his descendants, ultimately climaxing in Christ, and the events soon thereafter. No work of fiction would be able to encompass so much differing content and still be even remotely coherent.


  2. This is probably the most important reason why genealogies and numbers are important. They tell us, Christians today in the 21st century that we are connected to an actual, unbroken and continuous line of saint, men of old who were just as much in awe and in love with our God as we were. We are connected to an actual history, and its our history. The events of the early church are the events of our church’s past. indeed, while we are not Israel, the various events of the Old Testament is part of the history of a believer. If nothing else, this should give us tremendous trust in God’s faithfulness. If He can keep the world spinning, and keep His people for so many centuries, He will certainly keep us, as He has promised. (Hebrews 13:5).
    Have you ever read your family tree? My family has several volumes covering some of the branches of my family history. I remember pouring over these books, reading about the first member of my family in South Africa (One of the 1820 Settlers in the Eastern Cape if you’re interested). Thomas Hartley and his sons, and their exploits, and how they settled, and what they did and so on. I’m sure you know what I mean. In the same way, we read of (for example) Steven, the first Martyr, and realize that he is our Ancestor in the faith, a man who, like I am, was called and converted to Jesus Christ, who boldly proclaimed Him and, as I may be, was called to lay his life down for his Lord.
  3. The numbers and genealogies is one of the nails in the coffin of the debate “Is the bible the word of God?” Because of the number of authors, as well as the different genres and the number of years over which the full text of the bible was written and compiled, the idea that it would be cohesive, let alone coherent is very difficult to imagine. It is totally understandable that unbelievers can look at the bible from a far perspective and reject it out of hand for this reason. Except when you read and study it you find it to be both coherent and cohesive, in both small portions and as a whole. God wrote it, The incredibly complex detail is impossible otherwise. And it all hangs together. Part of this coherence is the genealogies, it tells us people are involved, and that they were involved in events planned and played out by our Lord. At such and such a time, such and such happened.
  4. Finally, it tells us that the bible is not fiction. I have, in reality been saying this is the previous 3 points, but allow me to summarize in this way, because by noting it directly we can draw some particular applications. If the bible isn’t fiction, then we can, in the first place, take it seriously, knowing that its author intended it to be understood as truth. It certainly claims to be true and I have found many many reasons to believe that it is true. And if true, because of its claims, it most certainly must have and effect on our lives, it cannot help but do that.


So in summary, God wrote the bible, and He is the author of all of it. This includes long lists of names, numbers and details of people. Boring as this may be, in the literary sense it nevertheless can teach us a number of things. It tells us about an actual history that actually happened. And we are connected to that story, we are part of the story which ultimately God is playing out. God’s word is true, trustworthy and needed for knowing God. Get hold of one and read it regularly, and remember as you read through it, especially through Chronicles or Numbers, this is from God.

Creation And The End Times

This is the final installment in the current series on the Doctrine of Creation. We have examined the how and the why of Creation, as well as looking at the importance of this doctrine and most recently, we examined how in more detail how the rest of the bible stems from this doctrine. Now let us turn our attention to a somewhat unusual: the end times. This post is essentially about sovereignty, and God’s ability to carry out His will in exactly the manor and timing of His choosing.

I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:9-10

End Times PictureSomething that is clearly lost when the doctrine of creation is denied, is the doctrine of sovereignty. And God’s sovereignty pertains over not only past and current events, but future events also. As Isaiah 46:9-10 says above, God knows the end from the beginning, indeed it goes further, it says that God declares the end from the beginning. In the same way that He knows and ordains that which happened in the beginning, so He knows and ordains that which happens at the end. How do we know that Christ will return? Answer, because He said He would. How do we know that Satan, sin and death will finally be defeated and the curse removed? Because He promised that He would do it. But there are more ties to this than just that.

Why is it that we look forward to the day that Satan is cast into hell? because of all the destruction that he has cause throughout the history of creation. That all started in Genesis 3. How about sin, the scourge of humanity, will be finally removed, that those who are born again and have been fighting to remove it from our lives, that will be gloriously completed for us by Christ; it all  started back in Genesis 3. Why is it that we are so looking forward to the end of death? Because since our forefather Adam sinned, death as been the single constant factor that has haunted all humanity. This was warned about in Genesis 2:17, and began happening to us after Adam sinned, Genesis 3. Or the curse, that which has made men live, by working hard, sweat pouring off our brow, and women, having pain in childbearing, and always desiring to take the man’s curse also. Ah the rest that will be at that time. That all started in Genesis 3:16-19.

Hermeneutics HatI would like to make a hermeneutics clarification though. The bible is meant to be taken literally, not allegorically. That is why we use what is called the, grammatical-historical hermeneutical method. Basically, we read the verse, understand and interpreting it from within its own grammatical and historical contexts, to get an understanding of the text. I make this clear because I am not trying to draw a direct line of parallel between the events of Genesis, and of Revelation. People may be tempted to infer that I am saying for example, that the 7 days of creation, line up with the 7 years of tribulation or 7 trumpet judgement or whatever. Bad hermeneutics. Also consider that that Genesis is historical narrative and revelation is apocalyptic literature. They are not parallel. Apocalyptic literature is full of imagery and literal events; and the bits that are imagery are clearly that. Genesis is not full of imagery. It is historical, although sometimes poetically written.

Timeline from beginning to end

But regardless of literature type the point is clear. God can, does and will do everything according to the council of His sovereign will.He determined, designed and did (sorry couldn’t think of a better word that kept the alliteration) the beginning. All of His creative process came to pass. Then He predicted how it wall all end. He has determined each detail of the end, and will carry each point out, till there is a new heaven and a new earth and the old has passed away Revelation 21:1.

To put it in a sentence, “Trust God, He can, will and does everything He says He will, just as He has in the past.

Creation, How The Rest Of The Bible Stems From It

So far we have looked at the questions of how and why God made the world as well as a look at why this doctrine is important. In that last post we considered briefly that if we couldn’t trust the bible about the beginning, how then could we trust it in the middle and the end? I concluded that we couldn’t really. It either had to all be inspired, or not all. We also looked at how a huge number of important doctrines found their origin in Genesis. I am going to elaborate on tRoots of the Biblehose two points here.

First, at the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record, (anyone younger than 25 [including me;] ask your parents) I would like to remind you that the word Genesis means, ‘origins’ or ‘beginnings.’ To put it according to my Dictionary App, it is ‘the origin or mode of formation of something‘. And this is the name given to the first book of the bible and frankly the name is an excellent description.

Let me state my terms. By claiming the bible inspired by God, (2 Tim 3:16) we are concluding and believing that it is also accurate (inerrant) and authoritative. The central question to my first point is: Why does the whole of the bible need to be inspired? Surely as long as the Jesus bit is accurate, what does it matter? IT MATTERS. It matters firstly because of all those key doctrines mentioned before, their origin and authority is in question and doubt if Genesis is not inspired. It matters also because destroying Genesis’s inspiration destroys the New Testament’s inspiration also. I cited it earlier but 2 Timothy 3:16 says All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Now the phase ‘all scriptures’ can stretched to refer to the New Testament, but remember, when Paul wrote this letter, there was no New Testament, most of it may have been written by this point, but it was by no means compiled. Therefore when Paul talks about ‘all scriptures’ he very specifically means the Tanak, or the Old Testament text. And to make it even more certain, the Jews took the Torah, (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy) to be even more and especially authoritative.

Loosing LettersAll this to say, if Genesis isn’t accurate, doesn’t describe the creation of the world the way it actually happened, isn’t inspired; Then Paul is wrong and we have no reason to trust the New Testament. BUT Paul isn’t wrong, neither is Genesis. It accurately portrays the creation of the world, and origin of the universe, exactly as God did it, with as much detail as He has chosen to share with us. A popular view today is called ‘red letter Christianity’. This view say that the red letters, that is, those pieces of text that are Jesus’ words, are more important and inspired than the rest of the bible. That view is in error, the whole of the bible is inspired, equally and fully.

In short, by removing Genesis, you cut out your own roots, shoot yourself in the foot and basically sow the seeds for the destruction of your faith. This may not happen to you, but your children, seeing you disbelieve the bible and its authority, reject it, to the destruction of their faith.

Now lets think back to my list from the last post

-Doctrine of sin: Genesis 3:6
-Doctrine of the curse: Genesis 3:17-19
-Doctrine of Salvation: Genesis 3:15
-Doctrine of Divine Judgement: Genesis 6:5-7 et al
-Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement by blood: Genesis 3:21; Genesis 4:3-5
-Doctrine of Sovereignty & God’s Power: Genesis 1; Genesis 2
-The order of the universe, of days, months, years etc.: Genesis 1
-The order of creation – man being higher than animals: Genesis 1, 2

Add to this a few more that I’ve thought of

– The ordinance of marriage as being between 1 man and 1 woman Genesis 2:24
– Why do we wear clothes? Genesis 3:7, Genesis 3:21
– Why do men have to work? Genesis 3:17
– Why does childbirth and rearing such a painful thing to a mother? Also, why are women usually the more oppressed gender, and why does feminism exist Genesis 3:16
– Why do people get sick, suffer, get old and die? Genesis 2:17, Genesis 3:19
– God makes the rules Genesis 2:16-17
– God’s sovereign right and ability to judge all the earth Genesis 6:5-7
– God’s sovereign right to show grace to anyone He chooses Genesis 6:8

and probably quiet a few more.

To nail home my point, I will conclude by giving a written up gospel presentation, written as if I was presenting a monologue to you. But whenever I mention a doctrine or gospel concept, instead of citing the verse, I will cite that verse in Genesis that pertains to that doctrine.

Genesis 1The gospel message begins like this: Although you were created (Genesis 1:1) in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), you have rebelled against Him(Genesis 3:6), broken His law.(Genesis 2:17) For example, you probably lied, which would make you a liar; taken something which isn’t yours and without permission, which is theft, or looked at someone with lust, thus committing adultery(Genesis 2:24). When God judges you by His own righteous standard, you will be guilty, your conscience affirms it(Genesis 3:8), and have no place to hide(Genesis 3:10) from Him to whom you have to give account(Genesis 3:11). The punishment for sin is death(Genesis 2:17), the eternal death, hell. But the same God who is perfectly just(Genesis 6:5,7), is also rich in mercy(Genesis 22,23), not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He offers grace(Genesis 6:8) by provided a way for you to be forgiven of your sins, By being bashed, bruised(Genesis 3:15) and killed on the cross, Jesus Christ atoned for all of your sins, and by rising from the dead, He defeated death, crushing Satan under His feat(Genesis 3:15). Only by the shed blood(Genesis 3:21; Genesis 4:3-5) of Jesus could this be accomplished. In response to this kindness and to receive Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He offers, you must repent of your sins, and put your faith in Jesus Christ.

See what I mean?

Five Reasons Why Expository Preaching Is Important

In the previous two posts on this subject I have described a personal testimony about how expository preaching has played a significant roll in my own life followed by a look at precisely what is expository preaching. I now want to turn my attention to why expository preaching is important. I have thought of five points for your consideration although surely there are more.

1. Because Of What Expository Preaching Is

I have look at this aspect extensively in the last post (I encourage you to read it here). In short, this form of preaching because of its systematic way of dealing with the text, it is the best way of representing accurately what the text actually says.

2. Because of What The Bible is

The bible is God’s word, written down for us, for grammar-confuses-the-nature-of-the-holy-spirit.jpg.crop_displayteaching, for reproof, correction, training in righteousness and so on (2 Timothy 3:16). However, as a piece of literature it is a fairly complex document. We would consider it an instruction manual. But it is not just a book of rules that sets out a “when this happens, do that” system. Instead it is a compilation of letters, songs & poems, proverbs, law, census material, history and apocalyptic literature. All this to say, it takes some effort to study and understand it well. Now I believe that anyone illuminated by the Holy Spirit can understand many of the precepts of the bible, certainly enough to get saved, and to grow in holiness. But to fully understand the depths of its treasure you are going to need such items as a Bible dictionary and a concordance, very much assisted by other books such as commentaries and if you really want to dig deep, study the original Hebrew and Greek. All this helps you understand the all important context. An easier way is to be under expository preaching, where a pastor has spend many years studying at a seminary to be able to do all of this for you.

Now, I’m not saying we should never study our bible, absolutely we should and must; but because of what expository preaching is, it allows the preacher to do all of the above for us. Expository preaching wades through the different forms of literature allowing us to get the meaning and application, one verse at a time. You could argue that topical preaching can have the same effect,  possibly so, but I would argue that expository preaching does a far better job because the preacher follows the flow of the passage because the subject is the next verse rather than the preacher’s latest random topic that he decided on. It also allows us to read what the bible actually says rather than using the bible to say what the preacher wants to say.

3. Because of the Roll of the Preacher

It is the roll of the preacher is to proclaim what God has said, specifically in the bible. Let me say it again, his role is to proclaim, to preach, what God would have His children know, NOT what the preacher would have God’s children know. In a sense, this is how it works: The preacher steps back and simply allows the meaning of the text to hit the ears of the people. The preacher plays an important roll. He is the one who studies and now knows Greek and Hebrew. He has studied context, studied commentaries, studied the passage, parallel passages, cross referencing every which item the text contains, squeezing every last drop out of the text in a way that the average lay Christian could never do. He spends a week studying that one or two verses so that he can preach the passage. This is the expositor, the preacher who goes verse by verse, understanding the text in a way most people never could.

stevelawson-preaching-2And using all of that preparation, he allows the bible to speak for itself. If the next verse is on prayer, that’s what he preaches, but not just on prayer in general, but on the specific points that that particular text emphasises or teaches. Or if the next text is on (to pick a random subject) election, then he proclaims precisely what that passage teaches on election. Or sin, or judgement, or Christ’s atoning love for us, or spiritual gifts. or… and so on. Very often, topical preaching, especially in those churches where topical is the main form of preaching, the sermons deal with pleasant, uplifting subjects, very rarely if ever do they cover the hard, or worse, the scary passages in the bible.

Thus to sum up, its the preacher’s job to proclaim God’s word, not his own, even if his own lines up with scripture. That’s very much a bottom line statement.

4. Because the Bible Commands it

2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:1-2

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

2_timothy_titleThe statement I just made above, about the preacher’s job, that statement is based on the above verse (2 Tim 3:16,17 –  2 Tim 4:1-2). God commands his preachers, in light of the fact that all scripture is breathed out by Himself, to preach that scripture, preach the word. I could elaborate further, but frankly I don’t think I need to, the meaning of that text is pretty self evident and speaks for itself.

5. Because it Forces us to Confront Difficult Passages


Please click on the audio player above to listen to this point. I think I will let Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones say this one, he can do it infinitely better than I could. The context of what he is talking about in the following audio, is the Calvinism- Arminian debate and the various sides involved. The text he refers to is Ephesians 1:4


A Little Something To Get Hot About

As a Christian I am concerned with the right understanding of scripture. The theological term for bible-translations-from-discipulusripturae-at-wordpressinterpreting scripture is hermeneutics. What follows would challenge even the most able theologian’s hermeneutics because of exceedingly poor translation/ paraphrasing. I personally use the ESV, although for a long time I used the KJV (mainly not only) and was saved reading the NIV.  These various translations use one of two philosophies of translation, know as Formal Equivalence and Dynamic Equivalence . To help you remember them, put them this way, a formal equivalent attempts to translate the text word for word, keeping as much as possible to the original text and meaning and author’s flow. A dynamic equivalent text goes for a thought for thought translation, where the translators attempt to convey the author’s meaning in a passage rather than the actual words.

This usually means that thought for thought is easier to read whereas word for word is the most accurate. Now almost all bibles fall into one of these two categories to a greater or lesser extent, by which I mean, some translations (for example, the NIV) will attempt to blend the two. There is also a third category, namely paraphrases which are not translations but rather the author has taken an English version and rewritten it, usually to make it appeal to a certain audience. And example of this is the ‘Living Bible’ which was written for the author’s children to understand.

Examples of Formal Equivalents:


Examples of Dynamic Equivalents:

NIV (I would put this one on this side); NRSV; NLT; CEV;

Examples of Paraphrases:

The Living Bible; The Message;

Both FEs and DEs can be useful, at different times and for different purposes, but there is a line to be drawn here, because DEs are essentially the translator’s interpretation of the text, in other words, they have done the hermeneutics for you. And the line is to be drawn between good hermeneutics and bad hermeneutics. If all this is a bit theoretical for you, I have listed a few examples, but be warned, if you love God’s word, this will be painful.

The text is Matthew 6:9-13, commonly known as the Lord’s prayer. First is the KJV, probably the best known and memorised version. Note that any () are in the original, whereas any of my comments are between [].

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Next is the ESV version:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Other than the lack of “for yours is the kingdom” which I will deal with another day, and the updated language, you will notice that they are essentially the same. Next up is the Message paraphrase. There are two problems with this version. The first is that the author, Eugene Peterson, claims to have used the original languages in its writing, and thus many people believe and use this paraphrase as a translation rather than as a paraphrase. The other problem is that the Message deals very poorly with some of the tough subjects in the bible, Completely misrepresenting what the author intends and in some cases, simply changing the meaning. For example, lets see it’s version of Matt 6:9-13 (although it doesn’t actually have verses):

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are. [you would have thought, something like ‘we worship you’]
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals. 
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.[Yes?, er no actually Amen means: and so shall it be]

That was the message, and if you though that was bad, please consider the next example. I came across it several years ago and can’t find the source, so I can’t credit (if that’s the right word) the author. Warning, like me your blood might boil over while reading this:

God, our father (our mother)

[Whoa lets stop right there: ‘mother?’ er no, God is genderless, but in the bible He always portrays Himself using male pronouns as the father figure, rather than as the mother because of the roles these two parent figures take in the home. I will lay it on the line, anyone who believes God can be refer to God as ‘mother’ has an idolatrous understanding of who God is and who He portrays Himself to be.]
[Also, what about, who is in heaven]

may your name be honoured
may your Way become our way
[way? this is not some mystical idea, its God’s Kingdom rulership on earth]
as we surrender to your will
Give us what we need, for today
Just as you free us when we have fallen,
help us not to hold on for too long to pain caused by others. [Too long?]
Guide us and give us wisdom to distinguish between your voice,
and what only seems like your voice. [sigh… so this author hears demons and God in her head?]

And there you have it. Absolutely awful and much dishonouring to God and His word. The application, choose which translate you use and read carefully and with much discernment. Each of FE translations listed are good, and some of the DEs are useful (some are very bad, CEV for example).

Confused by the various abbreviations? here is a key.

Defend The Bible?


“Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Expository Preaching, What Exactly Is It

Yesterday I wrote about how Expository preaching played an important roll in my life and God’s mercy in bringing me to a church that preaches in that way. Read that article here.

And the next question there is what exactly is expository preaching; how do we define the phase and what does the words mean?

open_bible According to the word “expository” is is defined in this way: “serving to expound, set forth, or explain.” Thus expository preaching is the art of expounding, setting forth or to use a more modern term, explain the bible. The point being, it takes the text and sets it forth, explaining it so that a congregation of people get a richer, fuller and ultimately an accurate and convicting view of what that scripture says. To put it another way, to help explain to those who listen what the text means, in its original context, to its original hearers so that we can apply those teachings accurately to our lives.

john-macarthurIt is usually done systematically, By which I mean the preacher doesn’t jump from passage to passage all over the bible, but rather he preaches from Chapter 1 Verse 1, and goes through to the very last verse. This means that the preacher preaches on whatever the next thing in the text is. If he gets to Luke 11 (as my pastor recently did) then he preaches on the Lord’s prayer. To get there, he navigated through and taught on Luke 1 – 10, which included everything from, Christ’s authority, to demons, the Holy Spirit, the seventy two evangelists and their role compared to ours and so on. In the case of my pastor, being half way through the Luke 11 at time of writing, he has preached 85 sermons, and we’re into the forth year of this Gospel. And we, as a congregation can’t get enough of it.

The question can be asked: Does the bible command expository preaching? The short answer is yes. The text that immediately springs to mind is 2 Timothy 4:1-2, where Paul exhorts Timothy to Preach the Word. Remember the context? In the previous chapter Paul had stated that all scripture is God breathed, and how it was profitable for various things. He then makes it clear, this is important:

1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

ezra_reads_galleryIts also interesting to note how we see many other descriptions of similar things happening. For example several of the revivals that happened within Judah happened because the the King somehow rediscovered the book of the Law, and had it read and proclaimed. Then we have this interesting passage in Nehemiah 8 which describes the priest Ezra doing expository preaching. Consider this passage from Nehemiah 8:8 “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. “ From the context, Ezra was teaching the people of Jerusalem straight from the Law of God. These people, due to the situation they found themselves in, were a generation ignorant of God’s Law and as the text says, they read the Law, read it clearly so that the people could understand, and they gave sense, that is, explained it so that everyone understood exactly what the Law said. It is further interesting that the wooden platform in Nehemiah 8:4 is often translated “pulpit” even as today the preacher preaches from the pulpit.

I hope this has made it clear. Below I will list three sources of excellent expository preaching, and it really is worth listening to a number of sermons in order, to get the full effect of “verse by verse”. Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Hillcrest Baptist ChurchClint Archer (You can listen to those Luke sermons I mentioned here)
Solid Food MediaRW Glenn
Grace To You – John MacArthur

Expository Preaching, A Personal Testimony Of God’s Grace

This issue is one that is very personal to me. About two and half years ago it was one of the central things in my mind at the time, I was think about it constantly. Why? because I was seeking a new church and the number one thing I was looking for was expository preaching. This is no small claim, bearing in mind that I was leaving my church, my church that I had been going to for more than 10 years, that I had gotten saved at, and done all of my most formative growing from and which I served and loved very much. This is not an easy thing to do. Why was I leaving? It had become necessary, as you see, it was a very left-leaning liberal Methodist church, and I was a conservative, bible believing Calvinist, not in the least a good combination. But for all that, my main reason wasn’t because of the issues that you expect. I was, for example, content to be a ‘silent’ Calvinist, within that congregation, because it was my church. It also wasn’t because of the baptism of children/ believers issue, although by that time I was a convinced ‘believers Baptist’ or even because of there being a woman preaching, although I have to say, this was probably the second most important problem I had. But the thing that drove me to resign membership and begin the hunt for a new place was expository preaching, or to be precise, lack thereof. You see, this church had long since given up any form of expository preaching, but instead opted for a form of seeker-sensitive topical, and they were bordering on emergent by the time I left. As a consequence, the gospel was never to be heard, neither from the pulpit, not from times of fellowship, except with a few of my friends who felt similarly to how I felt.

cluesoWhen I left, I knew what I was looking for. I attended one or two services at a popular Baptist church and at a charismatic mainline church (I know that sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t necessarily) at which a number of my friends attended but neither preached much different to what I was used to at the Methodist church. Sermons leant topical and there was minimal to no gospel being preached.

In desperation I turned to the internet, and here God showed me kindness beyond what words can describe. I searched Google for the following words: “expository, Durban”, (Durban is the city in which I live)  There were two sites on the list, at least at that time, a Baptist church in Morningside, a bit too far away, and another in Hillcrest, somewhat closer. And the Hillcrest site there was the following phrase. “We are committed to expository preaching…”, That was what I was looking for. I took the next opportunity to attend the church (the following Sunday) and was blown away. I had only heard such things on podcasts and believe me, being their in person was a thousand times better than any podcast. What follows is a note I wrote, recording my first impressions of this church:

Tonight 09 August 09 marks the first time I’ve visited a completely new church, the Hillcrest Baptist Church (HBC). This place is unlike any church I’ve been in, even the odd Baptist churches around. The service is small in number, although it seems that morning services are bigger. I am going to begin by laying out a few observations:

  1. For better or worse, the congregation was entirely white.
  2. There was absolutely no gimmicks.
  3. There is no cross that I saw, but the pulpit is the main focus of the sanctuary.
  4. Before the service there was little talking, and a fair bit of bible reading, praying and silence (not total) before God.
  5. The songs were hymns (most modern, one or two old), rich in theology and meaning and not 7/11.
    The people in worship was interesting. The service was uncluttered and it was hard to tell how passionate people are, during the singing. From the perspective of listening, it was great, everyone sung along lustily and with great vigour, but nobody raised their hands at all or moved about much except during the chorus of one song, where two people did.
  6. No one seemed to greet me in the beginning, but I am partly to blame. I came in early, before any door stewards arrived. I raise my hand when asked if there are any visitors, and received a card containing info about a name and address type questionnaire.
  7. After the service a large number of people, mostly young, pinned me down, introduced themselves, and in one case, asked me my testimony, which I was happy to share. This kind of response has never happened before ever and anywhere, someone asking me if I am saved, then for my testimony. All the people who I talked to were in earnest about the things of God and eager to share fellowship with me, going so far as to invite me to mugg.
  8. The sermon was longer than I’m used to, about 45 mins, but that wasn’t a problem, in fact I really enjoyed the preaching (Pastor Clint Archer) and I know God was entirely glorified through it. The man is a bold character with an unusual accent. I would call it Afrikaans mixed with a little American; if that makes sense. The Text was Micah 1 vs 1 – 9 and it was what you could call a full blown expository sermon. To that end, its the best I’ve heard anywhere in the area. The man is not seeker sensitive (hallelujah) and does not water down subjects like sin, or judgment, neither does he misuse grace or mercy. First time in ages I didn’t walk out feeling depressed.
  9. The congregation is intelligent theological, the sermon was not dumbed down, so the pastor talked about doctrines such as substitutionary atonement and justification and the people followed.
  10. The passage did not appear on the screen and EVERYONE had an open bible on their lap. Virtually everyone kept it open during the sermon also.


Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to join, settle down and become a part of the family. I praise God particularly because this was the first and only church I tried that was unknown to me (I had been to the other Baptist church and the Anglican church before) and He led me straight to it. I have heard and read stories of people searching and agonising for months, trying to find a gospel preaching church, and I got one without missing a single Sunday or sitting through a slough of preaching good, bad or otherwise. He truly deserves all the glory for this, and I am amazed, even today when I think back, seeing God answer that prayer (I certainly had been praying for a new church) immediately and so powerfully.

Tomorrow I plan to post more about expository preaching, answering the question, “What is Expository preaching?” I invite you to subscribe via email (on the right-hand sidebar) to get this post delivered to your inbox. Also, have you experienced anything similar to what I have, let me know, feel free to drop a comment below.

Soli Deo Gloria

8 Profitable Ways to Read the Bible

NOTE: This article is quoted verbatim from this article, on

1. Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing — is to do it; and the way to read the Bible — is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it — which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears — the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

2. Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood — is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, “What is this all about?” Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

3. Read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart — as you open God’s book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth — whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall — they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God’s Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind — that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand — you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray — that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture — that God is speaking to you, and you are not to “dictate,” but to listen!

4. Read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

5. Read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s food will not feed the laborer today; and today’s food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God’s Word every day.

6. Read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. “All Scripture is profitable.” [2 Timothy 3:16]. To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people’s Bible-reading is a system of perpetual ‘dipping and picking’. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

7. Read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning — and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean — it does mean! Cecil’s rule is a very valuable one, “The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular theological system.”

8. Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

I might easily add to these hints, if space permitted. Few and short as they are — you will find them most profitable when implemented.

~ J.C. Ryle

Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 131-134.

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