Becoming an effective expository preacher is a lifelong pursuit. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once remarked that preachers are born, not made. That is to say, only God can make a preacher. True, but preachers can be developed. One specific way for any expositor to advance to the next level in his preaching is by observing and learning from other gifted preachers. In this sense, excellence in the pulpit is as much caught as it is taught.
Such examples in preaching can be found in a study of church history. Among these noteworthy models are pulpit giants like John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon. Other shining examples can be found in present-day pastors such as John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul. However, some of the best lessons in expository preaching are to be learned from the preachers is recorded in Scripture.
One individual who stands out in the Old Testament as a premiere expositor is the priest and scribe, Ezra. As a proficient expounder of the Law, this reformer of ancient Israel was used to ignite a great revival in Jerusalem. He “set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra’s study of God’s Word was all-consuming and stands as a model of unwavering devotion of one who mined the inexhaustible riches of Scripture and brought them to the people.
It was by no coincidence that after fourteen years of intense study and teaching, a revival occurred at the Watergate. In that decisive moment, Ezra was ready to step forward to expound the Law with precision and power. He read the Scripture and gave the proper explanation of the text along with an impassioned exhortation of the people. He ministered the Scripture with such fervency that the crowd was moved to lift up their hands to heaven, as though they were receiving the word from above. Under this powerful influence, the people blessed the Lord and fell to the ground in humility and adoration.
Similarly, every expositor today must be committed to the careful study and delivery of the Scripture. Let us learn this invaluable lesson from Ezra. Every pastor must guard against the mounting pressures of ministry that would crowd out his study in the Word. Shrinking time in the study results in shrinking power in the pulpit. Let every pastor be concerned with the depth of his message and, in turn, trust God for the breadth of its influence.
To accomplish this goal, every expositor must be sharpening his skills in the study and pulpit. If one is to be improving in his preaching, he would be wise to study the expositional ministries of other gifted men. I want to encourage you give careful attention to such luminous figures as Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, and many more.
But do not neglect the examples recorded in Scripture. Study the preaching of Moses on the plains of Moab. Examine the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Analyze the address of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Consider the exhortations of Paul to Timothy. And note the exposition of Ezra at the Watergate. It was his preaching that ushered in a great revival. May God do it again in this hour.
Steven J. Lawson is the President of OnePassion Ministries. Dr. Lawson is also the Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary and Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. The author of numerous books and articles, the latest of which is The Daring Mission of William Tyndale.