Effective Expository Preaching

While preachers today have many different forms and methods of preaching at their disposal, one of those time-tested methods that brings forth the meaning and context of Scripture is known as expository preaching.  As one of the widely known masters of this method, Frederick Brotherton Meyer organized his principles for effective expository preaching in his work titled, Expository Preaching: Plans and Methods.  

Regarding Meyer’s sermonic principles, while he does not rank order them per se, one can gauge his degree of importance through his discussions.  First, his overarching sermonic principle for every ministry is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He states that “the one supreme object of the Christian ministry is to preach Christ, and Him crucified.”[1]

Second, once he establishes the ultimate objective of any ministry, he turns the focus to the one who is preaching the message, and defines his second sermonic principle.  In order to effectively preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the preacher must reflect the character of Jesus.  In other words, the hearers of the Gospel must be able to see the visible change in the speaker of the Gospel—the preacher.  Meyer states that “what we need is the old, old story preached by new, new men!”[2]

Third, while remaining focused on the preacher, he describes the partnership between the preacher and the Holy Spirit.  He states that “There are…certain conditions which must be fulfilled, if a minister is to enjoy the helpful partnership of the Spirit.”[3]  Ministers must be spiritual men, they must only seek the glory of Christ, and recognize that the “Holy Spirit’s power proceeds along the line of the Word of God.”[4]

Fourth, in conjunction with the power rooted in the Word as described above, Meyer stresses the importance of a ministry saturated by Scripture.  A successful ministry must not only be rooted in Scripture, but Scripture must saturate its very being.  In turn, this saturation fosters the cooperation of the Spirit of Truth.[5]

From the saturation of Scripture, Meyer turns his focus to the elements of the sermon itself and discusses the hermeneutics behind the message.  When the preacher completely immerses himself into the context of the passage being preached, the sermon comes effortless and fluently.  He states that “the highest point of sermon-utterance…comes oftenest and easiest to a man who has lived, slept, walked, and eaten in fellowship with a passage for the best part of a week.”[6]

Finally, in his sixth sermonic principle, Meyer discusses the importance of continuously seeking the whole knowledge of God’s truth.  A preacher must seek the whole knowledge of God’s truth, because “nothing is more perilous than the partial knowledge of God’s truth, which is based on sentences torn from their rock-bed and viewed in isolation from their setting.”[7]  In essence, this whole knowledge prevents the wrongful use of prooftexting to foster error within a church.

In conclusion, I mostly agree with Meyer’s sermonic principles.  While he doesn’t necessarily rank order them, he does offer clues on which ones he thinks are most important.  Personally, I would not rank order them at all but, instead, view them holistically.  In other words, I would view them as a complete package in which the whole is much more effective than each of its parts.


[1] Frederick Brotherton Meyer, Expository Preaching: Plans and Methods (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1912), 3.

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Ibid., 12.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 12-13.

[6] Ibid., 30.

[7] Ibid., 78.

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