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Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

One frequently overlooked benefit of consistent Bible exposition is that the preacher’s faith and practice is tested by every text. Over the long haul, everything I have ever taught has had to survive the scrutiny of the Scriptures. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to teach through every verse of the New Testament (using the Old Testament for support and examples). Both my doctrine and my life have been radically shaped by the Word of God, as they have had to stand the test of every single text.

In the big picture, preaching verse by verse, book by book brings a divine balance to ministry. It keeps the preacher from leaving things out or from getting on a hobby horse and riding it to death. It forces him to deal with topics he might not naturally be drawn to if not for the fact that the next verse he is preaching addresses them. Put simply, it requires him to teach God’s truth in the way God revealed it. And that’s the best way to teach.

Some preachers allow their audience to determine what topic they will address. As one popular pastor has written:

Adapt your style to fit your audience. . . . The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text, expecting the unchurched to be fascinated by it. You must first capture their attention, and then move them to the truth of God’s Word. By starting with a topic that interests the unchurched and then showing what the Bible says about it, you can grab their attention, disarm prejudices, and create an interest in the Bible that wasn’t there before. [1]Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 294–95.

But such a bait-and-switch approach is really just a recipe for compromise—tempting pastors to tickle the ears of their audience or water down the gospel in an effort to be more appealing. In essence, this approach says that God’s Word is irrelevant, and makes human ingenuity the key to getting sinners interested in the gospel. It is therefore an approach that should be categorically rejected. As James Heidinger writes:

Evangelical pastors and theologians can learn from the mainline experience of placing relevance above truth. We must avoid the lure of novelty and soft sell, which, we are told, will make it easier for moderns to believe. Methods may change, but never the message. . . . We are called to be faithful stewards of a great and reliable theological heritage. We have truths to affirm and errors to avoid. We must not try to make these truths more appealing or user friendly by watering them down. We must guard against a trendy “theological bungee jumping” that merely entertains the watching crowd. [2] James V. Heidinger II, "Toxic Pluralism," Christianity Today 37/ 4 (April 5, 1993): 16–17.

We are called to preach the Bible consistently and accurately, fixed on the text as the revealed Word of God which, through the work of the Spirit, alone has the power to save and sanctify souls. When we do this, we can be confident that God is pleased, since our preaching will be in keeping with His Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)


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#1  Posted by Chuck Shanks  |  Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Thank God for John Macarthur,The radio, T.V. and lack of Christian church meetings in Church is appaling, Expository preaching and teaching (less and Less )is the life Blood of Jesus Church. God please revive and help us

#2  Posted by Rachel Contreras  |  Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Thank you so much for all of your free resources. Although I have never been to your church or even seen you in person - you have been my pastor for several years now. I'm a stay at home mom with two little ones and most of my days start with a sermon from you. I have been so blessed by your sermons. Thank you

#3  Posted by Sharlene McKelvey  |  Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:09 PM

I agree with every point you made, Dr. MacArthur. And like Rachel in the reply above, you are, and also have been my pastor as well, although I am 3,000 miles across the USA from GCC. I just wish to add, Pastor MacArthur, that every point you made in this blog, and those proceeding in recent weeks... but even more so in today's message... are explained by you in great detail in the first few paragraphs of your April 22, 1979 Sermon entitled "The Believer's Warfare" (Ephesians 6:10-13). I just happened to be listening to it today as I am doing my work. I can attest that listening to your teaching, day after day and/or night after night.. because you are faithful in consistently teaching the Bible, verse by verse, and do so in such great detail after your spending countless hours of study each week and in preparation beyond, (I suspect), all others in ministry ... and because of you teach with the utmost precision, please know My God, The Lord Jesus and The Holy Spirit are no longer far away from me; they are real to me and a daily part of me at all times as never, ever before. Further, because you remain steadfast to your expository teaching, I am able to visualize all the history you provide in the days Jesus walked the earth, as well as before, after, and is in relation to the present and can be expected in the future .. please konw that all the details and thoughts you painstakingly explain and provide for us about all things described in Scripture, The Truine God has become an intimate part of me... they have become alive in me for the first time, and I have been a born-again believer since 1976 ... just as you describe in the sermon mentioned above, and also, as you conitnue to detail in all of your teachings, having put hours of deep thought into each word in every verse ... all that you said above describes what your 1979 Ephesians Sermon provided ... all that you mentioned in that one Sermon has become as real to me as it possibly can, at least to this point in my life, and I am looking forward to God's Word becoming more and more alive in me as my life will allow me to listen to your teaching. I pray there will go forth more Bible teachers like yourself...dedicated to teaching each verse and its meaning to the world... I am sure it will continue through the work and teaching as Pastors are being raised up through TMS. I will continue to pray for you and all those who are diligently at work at GCC and through the ministry of GTY to teach the gospel as God would have it taught. Thank you so very much. Maranatha.