Becoming a seasoned expositor of God’s Word requires a method or a series of specific steps. Equally important, however, is your starting point. Biblical exposition must start with reverence for God. So you want to be an expositor? Before looking at the method of becoming an expositor, you must get the starting point right. In short, start—and stay—with God.
The Irreplaceable Point of Beginning
Hermeneutics are the rules we use to interpret the Bible. They serve an indispensable role in the formation of your methodology. While a sound method cannot be overlooked, God-honoring lovers of the Word need an even more fundamental starting point. Before the method or the how-to, our focus must be on the God of the Bible, prayerfully worshipping Him in Spirit and truth.
Below are just a few examples of some of the core biblical truths from which we can establish the point of beginning for biblical exposition. That beginning point entails knowing how to approach God and His Word.
Humble Yourself Before God
First, you must humble yourself before God. Isaiah 66:1–2 reads,
Thus says the Lord,
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
“For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Note the three divine requirements for approaching God and His Word: being humble, being contrite of spirit, and being one who trembles (in fear or excitement) at His Word. All of these spiritual dispositions are mocked by the world but are necessary for believers.
Be a Learner
Second, you must be a learner. In Matthew 11:28–29, Jesus says, “Come… learn of me” (KJV). The word learn in the Greek serves as the base word for disciple. A disciple, then, is a learner. And that is just what God calls us to be. He did not say, “Come and I will teach you a method.” He wants us to learn of and from Him.
Hunger for God’s Word
Third, you must hunger for the pure milk of God’s Word. First Peter 2:1–3 states,
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
The biblical command here is not to long for theological studies (although that has its place), coffee-table debates, or philosophy. God wants us, even commands us, to long for the pure milk of His Word as a newborn baby would for his mother’s milk. Sadly, often as we grow in our faith, we get “weaned away” from the pure milk of the Word.
Grow in Grace and Knowledge
Fourth, you should strive to grow in grace and knowledge. In 2 Peter 3:18 the author urges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Both grace and knowledge are required for spiritual growth. To grow in grace only, not grace bound to biblical knowledge, has no basis for evaluation.
Since the beginning of the church, people have called virtually anything “growing in grace.” Even if what was done is contrary to Scripture. Simply put, growing in grace must have solid biblical evidence for it. Otherwise, it is not truly growing in God’s grace, no matter how good the intentions are.
Never go to God’s Word merely for a sermon or Bible lesson; go to God’s Word for truth. The preaching or teaching comes from those truths. Paul thus warned the church in Colossians 2:18, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.” Paul concluded Colossians 2 this way: “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (v. 23). Many at the church in Colossae would have considered most or all of these components to be wonderful aspects of their Christian spiritual growth. Yet God, through the apostle Paul, did not find them to be acceptable to Him.
So growing only in grace has no biblical boundaries for how it is accomplished or measured. Or even if it has occurred at all. But we must consider the other extreme, to grow only in knowledge without grace. To grow in knowledge only treats God’s Word as a mere textbook and removes God Himself from the hermeneutical task. God does not permit either extreme in true biblical exposition.
Receive the Word with Eagerness
Fifth, you must receive the Word with great eagerness. Acts 17:11 describes the Jews at the synagogue of Berea:
Now, these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
The prayer of the “Berean Christian” might be best summed up by Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” God is the ultimate teacher, author, and illuminator of His Word. While I do not want to sound overly mystical, there will always be a spiritual component to biblical exposition that the world will never understand.
In summary, the fundamental starting point of the true Bible expositor is to come humbly before God, contrite in spirit, and trembling at His word (Isa 66:1–2); to come as learners, as His disciples (Matt 11:29); to hunger for the pure milk of God’s Word (1 Pet 2:1–3); to strive to grow in grace (from the inside out while walking with Him) and knowledge (true, biblical knowledge, not our mere emotion); and to receive the Word with great eagerness. For those who find these core biblical truths unimportant or overly simplistic, read—and fear—Jesus’s rebuke of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1–7, who after doing so many things right “had left their first love.”
So You Want to Be an Expositor? Part 2
This series is adapted from Greg Harris’s The Bible Expositor’s Handbook—Old Testament Edition (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2018), Chapter One. Used with permission.