The following is a guest post by Andrew Hebert, the lead pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, New Mexico. You can follow him on Twitter at @andrewhebert86.
I’ve always considered myself to be an expositor. While I didn’t grow up in a church where the Bible was taught expositionally, I listened to good Bible preaching on the radio and recognized it when I heard it.
I graduated from a small Bible college in Dallas that is known for developing expository preachers. I learned the rules of hermeneutics, spent countless hours refining my exegetical skills, and listened to lots of preaching to learn the difference between good and bad exposition. I would have considered myself to be a good expositor.
About three years ago, I realized that my preaching was missing something. In fact, it was missing the most important thing: the gospel. I had learned how to exegete the text of Scripture like a good Jewish scholar. I wasn’t reading the Bible like a Christian. I had learned to read the Bible left to right, recognizing that the New Testament couldn’t be understood without the Old Testament, but I hadn’t learned to read it right to left, recognizing how the Old Testament cannot be fully understood without the New Testament. I had missed the forest while I was busy preaching the trees.
A big influence on my approach to expository preaching was Walter Kaiser. Rightly, Kaiser emphasizes the authorial intent of the text. However, the missing ingredient in my preaching was my failure to account for how the Divine Author was putting the entire Scriptural narrative together. I did a good job of explaining what Moses, David, or Isaiah intended in the text, but failed to show how the gospel was the ultimate message the Divine Author was communicating. In other words, my preaching wasn’t expository enough.
Here’s an example of what my approach to preaching looked like. In preaching Psalm 15 – “Lord, who can dwell in Your tent? Who can live on Your holy mountain? The one who lives honestly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart…” – I would have turned the Psalm into an imperative sermon. “Do you want to dwell with God? Then you better do justice and practice righteousness!” This kind of preaching is nothing but legalism. This preaching says, “If I obey, God will accept me.
The gospel is exactly the opposite. The gospel says, “God has accepted me because of what Christ has done on my behalf. Therefore, I obey.” A gospel-centered approach to Psalm 15 would be to acknowledge that none of us have done justly or practiced righteousness, and therefore, none of us deserve to dwell in God’s tent or live on His holy mountain. Only Jesus deserves that. And yet, Jesus died on the cross to absorb the wrath of God in my place because of my failure to practice righteousness. The only way to be acceptable to God is to find shelter in Jesus.
Gospel preaching, or preaching with Jesus as the hero, makes sure that our imperatives are rooted in the indicatives of the gospel. We do justly and practice righteousness because of what Christ has done for us, not in order to receive God’s acceptance.
Biblical preaching isn’t truly expositional until it situates the text in its greatest context, the “Big Picture” of the good news of Jesus. The question we have to ask when we approach any text is how the gospel comes to bear on our fullest understanding of that text. Anything less than that fails to truly expound on God’s full revelation. We should read and preach the Bible in light of the entirety of God’s revelation.
Church With Jesus as the Hero is one of the most practical books I’ve read on how to re-evaluate everything we do in the church – from the pulpit ministry to the children’s ministry – in light of the gospel. What I have come to understand about preaching is merely the first step of many others into a full gospel ministry. My hope is that everyone who encounters my church will walk away thinking more highly of Jesus and understanding how the gospel comes to bear in their lives. David Prince and his staff have provided a roadmap for how to do just that.