Do you know the best way to know God and his will for your life? This article is about the only sure way to understand doctrine and how to live. It’s about how to study and apply the Scriptures. It’s the anchor for everything we do at Faith Bible Church.
God’s people of all ages have relied on His written revelation for certain knowledge and direction. Sadly, even though God has revealed himself in the Bible, many of His followers do not have a good grasp on how to receive it.
“God’s people of all ages have relied on His written revelation for certain knowledge and direction.”
Some read the Bible like a Magic 8 Ball, hoping for some personalized message about God’s will at any moment. Others look to the Bible to confirm their modern opinions. Still others imagine that every hero of the Bible represents them.
Similarly, teachers and preachers often ignore the history and context and try to directly apply Scripture to the modern reader with sermons like “Slaying the giants in your life” modeled after the David and Goliath story in 1 Samuel. The most common problem is the “launching point” sermon: A phrase or verse is read, and then the preacher launches off into his favorite issue, misapplying or even ignoring the Scripture and the context his verse is in.
There is only one way to be certain of what the Bible says. From the pulpit of Faith, we are committed to speaking God’s Word as it has been revealed. We call this expository preaching. But we go even further: Every ministry context in our church where God’s Word is read aloud, explained, and applied, we are committed to an expository approach. Faith Bible Church is committed to expository everything.
Let me start with how language works. Everything is written to be understood readily by the people to whom it is written. For all history, if a king wrote an edict he intended his subjects to obey, he would write to be easily understood.
This is true of God. He wants us to know Him and His will, and He reveals both in the Bible in different kinds of texts:
An expository approach means reading, explaining, and applying the truths according to what God intended His original audience to receive and apply.
Expository teaching is commanded throughout the Scripture. Parents are to teach their children the Scriptures: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
God calls us to listen to and obey his Word. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
“God created the world by his words. He re-creates us by his written Word.”
Paul instructed Timothy to insist on expository teaching in the local church: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The reasons for reading and teaching Scripture this way are abundant. The Scriptures are inspired by God and profitable for all kinds of growth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). They are a treasure because they are how we know God, His glory and will (Psalm 19:7-13). They also are God’s instrument to open our blind eyes, help us to see Him and change us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17). God created the world by his words. He re-creates us by his written Word (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
Teachers in Scripture were expository teachers. The whole book of Deuteronomy is Moses setting out to explain the law and apply it to Israel. It’s a collection of sermons delivered as Israel went into the promised land (Deuteronomy 1:5). After the Exile, Ezra did this for the Jews who returned (Nehemiah 8). When Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth, this is what he did (Luke 4:16-20). The synagogue system of consecutive exposition was the tradition the church picked up on (Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:13).
There are several kinds of expository approaches. Most of them are modeled after teaching we see in the Scriptures. Consecutive exposition is verse-by-verse, paragraph-by-paragraph explanation through books of the Bible. That is what Moses did in Deuteronomy and Ezra did in Nehemiah 8. Jesus expounded Isaiah 61:12 in Nazareth. The writer of Hebrews does a theological exposition around the theme of Messiah. Peter and Paul also do this in their sermons in Acts 2 and Acts 13. All good systematic theology is done this way. Verses used in their context are collected on a theme to develop doctrine.
How do we do this personally?
First, become a regular reader of whole books of the Bible. Read through the Bible a lot more than you read devotionals. It won’t always have a “special message for the day.” But every day you read, look for who God is and what He is doing. The same God who acted in the Bible acts today. That is always encouraging.
“Over time, this approach helps you get all the treasure from Scripture, not just a few rubies or diamonds that are your favorites.”
If you need specific guidance, pray for that guidance, then find the books and passages that talk about that issue. I personally like to read a Psalm or Proverb every day. This is what they were written for, because they cover the full experience of human life.
But the key is always to start with what God was saying to the people the text was written to. Then, ask what applies to us today. Most of the time it is the principles about God and his Word, not the specifics, that apply to us today. Over time, this approach helps you get all the treasure from Scripture, not just a few rubies or diamonds that are your favorites.
Topical lists and concordances are helpful tools. If you want to know what the Bible says about a topic you can usually type “What the Bible says about …” into your search bar and find that someone has put together a good list. It’s a start.
Oftentimes, the most important passage addressing a topic doesn’t have the word, so think about the underlying issues you are looking for and see where those come in. Always make sure you know the context of individual verse. A good rule is the 20-20 rule: Read from 20 verses before through 20 verses after the verse to make sure you are taking that word or phrase in context.
In a very real sense, we read the Bible like we read any book. We interpret according to the way we read any genre. One thing we do additionally is pray for understanding and wisdom in applying. God uses His Word and then helps us apply it. Expository everything is how we know God and his Word.
Dr. Dan Jarms is teaching pastor and team leader at Faith Bible Church in Spokane Washington, as well as associate dean at TMS Spokane. He has been married for over 30 years to Linda, and has three adult children. He earned his B.A. in English at the Master’s College, B.Ed. at Eastern Washington University, M.Div and D.Min in Expository Preaching at The Master’s Seminary. His other interests include NCAA basketball, gardening, brick oven cooking.View Resources by Dan Jarms