Why I Preach the Bible

When my brother Steve graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, the commencement speaker was Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the renowned pastor, and Bible teacher. His address to the graduates was based upon 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”

He must have repeated the theme “preach the word” twenty times in that message. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and do just that! I knew that was my calling in life and his words were a reminder of its importance.

As a young person, I had grown up in a thriving church. Our pastor invited guest Bible teachers to come to speak in annual Bible conferences. I remember being enthralled as well-known teachers such as Dr. McGee, Warren Wiersbe, Lehman Strauss, Theodore Epp, Oswald J. Smith, Walter Wilson, and others explained the scriptures. Their straightforward expositions of the word showed me the power and relevance of the Bible.

At Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago, I studied under scholars who were committed to the authority and truthfulness of the Bible and to the importance of biblical exposition. Studying the Bible as a seminary student helped forge the conviction that the power in ministry is not in the rhetorical skill or emotionalism of the preacher. The power of God is in the written word itself.

A survey of Psalm 119 reminds us of this. Here are a few excerpts. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word” (v. 9). “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (v. 11). “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path” (v. 104). ” The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (v. 130). “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” (v. 160). “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (v. 165).

There are churches that are organized to provide support groups and lay counseling programs. Others are organized around evangelism and world missions. Some churches emphasize the priority of worship. Some promote social action. All of these are important ingredients in healthy churches. I believe they are derived from, not substitutes for, the systematic exposition of the Bible.

What is biblical exposition? In the words of John Stott, it is, “bringing out of the biblical text what is there and exposing it to view.” The text in question may be a sentence, a verse, a paragraph, a chapter, or even a whole book of the Bible. (I once heard Dr. John Phillips deliver an exposition of the entire book of the Revelation in one forty-minute message!) An exposition explains the meaning of the text, shows its relevance, and helps the listener apply the scripture to life.

There is no substitute for the expository teaching of the Bible. Dr. W. A. Criswell was so committed to it that during one 17 year period he preached through the entire Bible from his pulpit in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. I did not try to do that in my preaching ministry. But I was committed to teaching the Bible book-by-book and verse-by-verse.

James I. Packer once said that “the Bible is God preaching.” Thus the authority in biblical preaching rests not in the personality or style of the preacher, but in the word of God itself. The word is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It reveals Jesus Christ to us and enables us to understand how to receive God’s salvation. No wonder we preachers are told to “preach the word.”

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner