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Expository Preaching Defined – Part 4

Expository Preaching and Holy Spirit Power

In this post I will provide some brief insights into Holy Spirit power in expository preaching.

Expository Preaching is: “The oral proclamation of a properly interpreted passage of Scripture, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by a God-called messenger, to an assembled body, for the glory of God and the accomplishment of His purposes.”

            “1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5) 

The above passage touches human reality at several levels as it relates to Holy Spirit power in preaching. First it reminds us that our ability as wordsmiths, along with our ability to persuade, although important, are not primary [remember Moses?] (“I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom … my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom”). Obviously Paul was making reference to the famed philosophers and rhetoricians common to Corinth. The people of the city were impressed by the eloquence and logical argumentations of these pagan scholars. They were so impressed, in fact, that they made allegiances to them. John MacArthur Jr. noted:

Paul devoted much of the first letter to correcting practical and doctrinal issues that marred the church. The first

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issue was human philosophy (chapters 1 and 2). The Corinthians had become enamored with pagan philosophies that dominated their day, viewing them as a necessary supplement to God’s wisdom. In no uncertain terms Paul warned them of the incompatibility of human wisdom and divine wisdom.[1]

In a world filled with people who are impressed with stars of the stage and screen, the simple truth is that God has used people with a variety of skills in speech and word craft. The preacher’s power is not in looks, skill, or prowess. Something beyond him causes people to take notice, to listen, and to respond.

Second the passage teaches that the power of the message is not in ourselves (as noted), but in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.) No human being, regardless of how gifted in oratorical ability or philosophical acumen, delivers an eternal-life altering message. The message does not receive its life-changing power in the prowess of the preacher. It is the message of Jesus and His sacrificial death that touches the hearts and souls of those who may be in our audience. Paul stressed that it is not the messenger that is important, but rather the message that changes lives.

Third, the passage teaches that God will use us as preachers of His truth in spite of physical issues [weakness], intimidation of the task [fear and much trembling] (I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling…). It is likely that Paul was referring to physical ailments when he used the word weakness. He had been subject to physical abuse because of his ministry (2 Cor. 12:7). He also had trouble with his vision (Gal. 6: 11) and perhaps other illnesses (2 Cor. 12: 7-10).[2]

I can remember the many times over the years that I have not felt well on a day when I was to preach (usually Sundays). Unless I was violently ill with something contagious I always got up and went to preach. It is amazing how God always provided the strength (even a renewed energy) to stand and proclaim His word in spite of how I felt physically. In fact, it was as though no ailment plagued me (afterwards is another story altogether). Paul simply acknowledged that in spite of his illnesses, frailties, or personal fears; God sent him to preach anyway. God also provided the strength. [Note: I am not advocating that one should preach even when ill. I merely am acknowledging that the times I have done so God has strengthened me with a power that is beyond me – each preacher/teacher must make his own determination as to whether it is appropriate to preach when physical issues are the reality.]

Fourth, the passage acknowledges that the life-changing message of the gospel is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. Paul wrote: “… in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” The Word of God is to be proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preachers should seek it, hunger for it, and pray for it so that their preaching is, like Paul’s, “not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Holy Spirit PowerOne of my favorite books of the Bible is The Acts of the Apostles. In this historical narrative many miraculous and powerful events are recorded that are related to the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter boldly had proclaimed the truth and name of Jesus in chapter 2 and again in chapter 4. In fact, in chapter 4 he is noted as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 8). It must have been an awesome sight to see the once cowardice disciple now fearlessly proclaiming the truth related to Jesus.

God has sent His Holy Spirit to empower his preachers. In chapter 6 the primary requirement for service was the fullness of the Holy Spirit (verse 3). In verse 10 men were not able to resist the “wisdom and the Spirit by which he (Stephen) spoke.” The power of Holy Spirit of God is an essential aspect of life-transforming proclamation.

When a church sits under the authority of God’s Holy Spirit-empowered Word and lives it out in substantive glory to Christ, the only explanation is that God is real. Thus, people with different worldviews can be drawn to the gospel. God’s Word, preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, is utterly invasive. There is no hurt beyond its reach and there is no heart beyond its grace.

I trust these thoughts about Holy Spirit power in preaching have been Helpful.

~Tony Guthrie, PhD.

[1] John MacArthur, Jr. and the Master’s Seminary Faculty, Redisovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition,  (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), 110.

[2]Max Anders, General Editor, Holman New Testament Commentary: I & II Corinthians, Volume 7. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Press, 2000),  26.


Feel free to call or text Dr. Guthrie at 404-933-0418

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