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The Tragedy of Compromise

by Ernest Pickering

Salad Bar Sanctuaries

Scriptural Guidelines for Preaching

We have seen that the New Evangelical philosophy has influenced preaching in the following ways:

  1. An overemphasis on the positive aspects of preaching while neglecting its warning aspects.
  2. An occupation with psychology.
  3. A replacement of authoritative pronouncement with the concept of "sharing" ideas.
  4. "Issues-oriented" preaching rather than reasoned exposition.
  5. Preaching to what people want rather than what they need.
  6. A retreat from what is viewed as "dogmatism."

In light of this emphasis which has developed within New Evangelical circles there is an urgent need to review the biblical guidelines for preaching. Preaching is the act of communicating Godís Word to men. Certainly within the pages of the Bible we should be able to discover some divine principles for this great task.

Our Preaching SourceInerrant Scripture

Much of the weakness in todayís preaching can be traced back to a weak view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. While there are differences among New Evangelicals over this question, there has been a noticeable drift to weaker positions on inspiration in recent years. Francis Schaeffer in his probing book The Great Evangelical Disaster sounds the warning: "But what is happening in evangelicalism today? Is there the same commitment to Godís absolutes which the early church had? Sadly we must say that this commitment is not there . . . . Evangelicalism is not unitedly standing for a strong view of Scripture. We must say with sadness that in some places seminaries, institutions, and individuals who are known as evangelicals no longer hold to a full view of Scripture."48

If one does not hold to the full inspiration of Scripture, it will certainly affect his preaching. If a preacher has questions concerning the complete inspiration of a given passage, he will not be able to expound it with authority. The command to "preach the word" (II Tim. 4:2) is preceded by the classic passage on inspiration. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16), and upon the basis of that truth we preach. Commitment to the complete inerrancy of the Bible gives the preacher confidence and helps him preach with power and authority.

Expository Preaching

As we have already seen, there is a move on the part of some evangelical leaders to discount the value of expository preaching and to emphasize "issues" preaching. A correct and complete definition of expository preaching is not easy to come by, as can be verified by an examination of various texts on the subject. However, for our purposes here we can say that expository preaching is that style of preaching that endeavors to exegete, explain, and apply a passage or passages of Scripture, taking into consideration the argument of the writer, the grammatical construction, the historical setting, and the theological implications. The expositorís first concern is: "What does the passage say?" His next concern is "What does the passage mean?" Answering these questions involves an application of the laws of hermeneutics. His final concern is "What does the passage mean to me?" This is application. Our first concern, however, should be to discover what God intended to say in the passage, not what we would like the passage to say.

While no formal definitions of expository preaching exist in Scripture, there is an excellent summary of some of its ingredients found in Nehemiah 8:8 . . . "So they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." In a word, the teachers of Israel took passages of Scripture, moved from verse to verse, and explained the meaning of verses in their context. They were, in fact, expounding the Scriptures. Expository preaching has a number of advantages:

  1. It honors the doctrine of biblical inspiration, holding the preacher to the text and emphasizing to the congregation the sacredness of the written Word.
  2. It keeps the preacher from unsupported flights of fancy.
  3. It enables the preacher to cover many different areas of divine truth over a period of time rather than concentrating on favorite subjects and matters of particular interest.
  4. Consistently practiced by a pastor over a long period of time, it provides a congregation with a biblical education that will produce spiritual maturity and depth of Christian living.

The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:

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