Preaching Through Books of the Bible

Pastor Mark will be taking some vacation time this week so I will be preaching for him on Sunday morning (and Sunday night, also). Every time I do this I am reminded again of the wisdom of preaching through books of the Bible. Why is this a good idea?

First of all, it is a good idea because a pastor doesn’t have to spend precious time during the week seeking out a text from which to preach. Do I preach from the Old or New Testament? A narrative passage or a doctrinal passage? The Gospels, Acts, or Epistles? Major prophets, minor prophets, or Psalms? The questions and deliberations can go on and on ad infinitum. (I have finally decided that since Pastor Mark has been in the New Testament on Sunday mornings for a while, I would go to the Old Testament, and finally settled on Isaiah 53 as my text. On Sunday night I will just jump in and take the next passage in Matthew as he has been going through the Sermon on the Mount. However, making decisions such as that is difficult and time consuming.)

Second, the people listening are able to get a good idea of the context of the passage because they have heard messages about all the preceding material in the book. For example, at the prison I have been preaching through Romans and since I am now in chapter 12, they all have a reasonable idea of the theme and message of the book. Of course, one does have to lay some context every week for new people, but it doesn’t take much time to review in one’s introduction what has already been presented.

Third, the church gets a clear picture of the whole counsel of God. Pet doctrines and favorite topics are pushed aside to deal with the next text in the book. Plus, there is the added of advantage (although it makes things difficult sometimes) of not being able to skip over complex or unpopular passages. It is good for everyone to look, struggle, and strive to understand all of the Word of God, even those passages where we have to say, “I am not sure about all of this, but I believe the Scriptures are saying….”

Last of all (although there are many other strengths of expository preaching), people know that you are not “picking on them” when you preach passages that contain strong Biblical rebukes. I was once preaching through the Book of Malachi and entitled a Sunday night message, “God hates Divorce.” A couple going through a difficult time in their marriage was present, and when she saw the bulletin whispered, “Look at that! He is preaching at us tonight,” and he responded by simply saying, “No, he preached on the preceding verses last week.” (By the way, that was almost twenty years ago and they are still together and doing well from all that I know.)

Preaching on “felt needs” is seldom a good idea, because most people have the wrong idea about what they really “need” in life. Pastors need to preach the whole counsel of God and allow God’s Holy Spirit to apply that Word to the hearts of all that are present. Balanced preaching from all of the Word of God is as important spiritually, as a balanced diet is important physically. People don’t need to hear what we think, they need to hear what God says. I will close with the words of Paul to a young pastor: 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound1 teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1)

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1 Comment

  1. September 10, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    Excellent post. I do the same thing for the same reasons. Someone once complimented me on being “fearless” in not dodging difficult issues. I responded that it was fearlessness at all, it was faithfulness to the text. Keep preaching brother!


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