Expository Preaching


by Mike Ratliff

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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV)

My wife and I attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in our area this morning. I have been a Baptist as long as I can remember and this was my first time in a Presbyterian Church. The congregation was on the small side, but every pew was full. I’m not sure what I expected, but I want to share with you my brethren that this heart worshiped God in spirit and truth this morning. Also, I found myself saying ‘Amen!’ (silently) quite a bit during most of the service. The order of service was something I have never experienced before, at least not like this. It was divided into four parts.

After the prelude and announcements we entered part one which was “Our Service of Praise & Adoration.” It began with the Pastor reading from Matthew 28:1-10 in the Call to worship. Then he prayed. I have heard sermons with less theology in them than this prayer. My heart began to burn within me about that time. Then we sang a hymn called “Thine Be the Glory.” I had never heard that hymn before. However, it directed our hearts upward to our God. After the hymn the pastor and all of us read Chapter XIV, Section II from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Here is the text.

“By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatening, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

Then we sang a hymn by Isacc Watts called “As When the Hebrew Prophet Raised.” It was very edifying. This ended the first part of the service. Then we entered the second part which was “Our Service of Renewal.” The Pastor read from Luke 6:20-26 then he prayed for himself and us in our ‘”Confession of Sin.” Then He read from Luke 6:37-38 which was our “Assurance of Pardon.” Then we sang a hymn called “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” This ended part two of the service.

Part three was “The Means of Grace Employed.” The Pastor read Luke 16:19-31. This was the text from which he took His sermon. After reading the text, he preached. His sermon was one of the best examples of expository preaching I have ever heard in which he exegetically showed us how each part of our Lord’s teaching on the rich man and Lazarus referred to the Jewish Religious leaders of our Lord’s day as the ‘rich man’ while Lazarus referred to the publicans and prostitutes and to all those the Pharisees looked down as ‘sinners.’ Again, my heart is still burning within me during all this. Why? Could it be that the focus of the service was to glorify God and edify the flock through the preaching of the Word? He ended his sermon with prayer and this ended part three of the service. 

Then we entered the fourth and last part of the service which was “Our Service of Thanksgiving.” This was the time the collection or offering was taken. Then we sang a hymn called “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!” In the bulletin there is a line directly under this part of part 4 which states, “Please be seated at the end of the final stanza and prayerfully meditate upon the Word Preached!” The last part of part four was “Our Lord’s Benediction.”

Well, that was my Sunday morning. As I stated earlier, my heart was burning through all of it. Why? Well, God was in focus the whole time. I didn’t count how many times the Pastor referred to our Lord and salvation and grace, but I know it was way up there in the double digits. As I stated, the focus was on God through it all from the perspective of our service to Him from a grateful heart. His grace and mercy as being necessary for us was always in focus as well. Our utter unworthiness for this salvation was understood and expressed as well. However, one of the most important things I came away with from this was how the Word of God and prayer were used specifically to put us in the right focus before our Holy God. 

Lastly, there is a right focus in this church on prayer as a vital part of our relationships with those all around us. It is understood that our sanctification includes all of our relationships and circumstances being lived out within the context of obedience and service to God. Humility on our part is crucial in this. My wife and I agreed, God willing, to return next Sunday. 



17 thoughts on “Expository Preaching

  1. We are SO happy for you Mike, (and wife)!!! As we read your post we sat here smiling the whole time. You had a very blessed Lords day 🙂 You’ll have to ask the pastor if he knows Rodney King from the Des Moines Orth. Reformed Presb. Church. Isn’t it wonderful to actually go to church and really know you are worshiping Him??? We want to know how next Sunday goes! Thank you for sharing. And thanks for the link on expository preaching. Seems to me its the only way to preach 🙂


  2. hey mike. i am glad you were blessed today…

    hope you have many many more days of such blessings…

    in HIM,…


  3. “Isn’t it wonderful to actually go to church and really know you are worshiping Him???”

    I wish you had phrased that differently. Perhaps you did not mean it to come across as denominational idolatry. Expository preaching is very good, but if you read Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Wesley, and almost every well known preacher you will find that they preached topical sermons most of the time.

    As a matter of fact, expository preaching is teaching the topics verse by verse. Every verse deals with a topic, all preaching is topical with different ways to get there. 🙂


  4. Rick,

    That comment by Paul and Luann wasn’t idolatry it was an expression of joy because they were sharing with me in my joy of having worshiped God in spirit and truth. The church I went to yesterday was all GOD FOCUSED not man focused. That is what a worship service is supposed to be about.

    Also, your statement about those men preaching topical sermons most of the time; I both agree and disagree. Their sermons were topical, but they used expository preaching to do it. Go read Bunyan’s and Owen’s and Edward’s sermons for instance. I can provide a link to Spurgeon’s sermons if you like. He preached topically but was heavy on the expository side as well. The sermon I heard yesterday was about the power of the God’s Word in preaching and the hardness of the hearts of those in unbelief who will not believe the word even if someone rises from the dead. So, you see a good sermon will have topics, but it must be grounded in the Word preached in an expository way.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  5. All Biblical sermons will be expository. But sometimes people claim that verse by verse in chronology is superior. The structure is irrelevant, the substance is paramount.

    Listen as MacArthur preaches a verse by verse sermon and Sproul preaches the same verses and they come up with different views. Shallow topical sermons are of no use, but solid Biblical sermons are just as edifying as going through a book (which I have done many times).

    It sounded as if the commenter was saying you had not been actually worshiping God until you went to that denomination of which they are a part. Perhaps it was the sentence structure. There are many churches that are not man centered who use different service structures, and in the end it is our own hearts that must be God centered, even within the structure about which you spoke.


  6. 🙂 Rick, Amen, yes all Biblical sermons are expository. You know you hit on something I have noticed as well as I listen to Sproul and MacArthur, etc. expound Scripture. I have noticed that if you follow good bible teachers long enough that you see their own views shift. I have the original J.M Study bible for instance and the notes in it are not nearly as precise or correct as J.M ‘s full commentary on the Bible. He has grown. I have noticed the same thing in Sproul and Piper. God grows us.

    What I really liked about the worship service yesterday was the focus. It was all on God and our recognition of our desperate need for Him and His grace. It was all about Him and His glory. Amen!!!

    In any case, my wife would agree with you on the expository preaching/topical preaching thing. 🙂 I like a lot of meat. She wants the high points. I want the whole steak, she wants the ribeye. 🙂

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  7. It is great to hear expository preaching, instead whether you fit somebody’s purpose. Even the antiChrist and the ten kings have purpose. Anybody can have purpose. But not everybody has been granted repentance unto salvation.

    I love it when people label me with names like, fundamentalist, Bible Thumper, Jesus freak, or Holy roller. The reproach, the scorn, the derision, and the persecution set us apart and call us out. We are marked as enemies of the world system because Christ has redeemed us. Do we take all of this “Bible stuff” seriously? You better believe it. God judges sin, and it still has consequences. Woe to those who live as if God will do neither good nor bad, who think that tomorrow will be just as it is today!

    “At that time, I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, “The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.” Zephaniah 1:2

    “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass, its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” James 1:11


  8. “Isn’t it wonderful to actually go to church and really know you are worshiping Him???”

    Good point, Josh. Our purpose is lifting up and glorifying Him. Some preach that God’s purpose is making us happy. That is blasphemy and error no matter what form of “preaching” you use!


  9. Rick, What we meant was that most of the so called churches today have Ichabod written over the top of their doors and you very rarely can find enough real believers to count on one hand. Mike did peg what we were trying to get across. I’m not great with ‘words’ but Mike knew what we meant. It didn’t ruffle Mikes feathers, so don’t let the wording ruffle yours…… 🙂 No harm was intended for sure.


  10. “Even the antiChrist and the ten kings have purpose. Anybody can have purpose.”

    My previous comment pasted the wrong sentence. The above statement from Josh is what I wanted to copy. Sorry.

    Thanks, Paul and Luann. I agree! 🙂


  11. Mike, I have often thought of commenting on your posts,but when I read your leaving the church I wanted so to let you know that my family has had the same trying time. We have always been baptist but we left because of spiritual formation practices . We also had a group of families that were my husbands responsibility but the division was to great. For almost 2 years we attended another baptist church but knew it was not what the Lord wanted for us. Finally my girls said please come to the pca church we have found, so we went and had a similar experience as you, the preaching was biblical and the worship service was as you described. We have been attending 4 months and have found differences as expected {we are pre trib etc} and we have found that the people are what we call grace settled {HA} by that I mean that there is a total grace and a real lack of concern about reaching out. We had a long discussion about all this with the pastor and we are going to continue attending because the teaching is very good and the service is reverent, i miss the church i once knew but we will continue to preserve. Even so come Lord Jesus!


  12. C.Hopson,

    The church we attended yesterday does reach out in several ways. For instance, they have a ministry directed to Grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren. The OPC has a Home Mission’s board, etc. You know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist and I never attended one that was not rock solid. However, now it seems that they have gone after the Church Growth stuff. It is quite sad really because it was not necessary. I suppose it is an over occupation with numbers or It could be a way to increase revenue. I don’t know, but it has really caused a great deal of havoc that has caused many of us to flee.

    Yes, even so come Lord Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  13. C. Hopson,
    “we have found that the people are what we call grace settled {HA} by that I mean that there is a total grace and a real lack of concern about reaching out. ”

    Please tell us you unintentionally inserted the words “lack of” in your comment.


  14. Right on Rick! Dry seasons are evidence of longsuffering. As you know, sometimes our walk with the Lord can seem very dry, lonely, and desolate. In these times, we tend to let our feelings discern our salvation instead of God’s Word. Yesterday, I felt myself doubting in the midst of one of those unpleasant dry seasons. As we endure more and more of these “valleys,” we mature spiritually. Our faith is tested in order to mature us, break us away from trusting in our flesh. It is necessary for us to experience dry seasons or “valleys” so that we experience holiness with Christ-like temperance.

    Another point about calamities in our life. It is not always God’s will for us to have perfect finances. Sometimes God will remove a comfort zone or two in order to give us a meek or “grateful “countenance. This time can be frustrating from where we are, but it is one of those mercies that benefit us in the long run. Adversity is an undesirable aid to helping us “put off” the old man, with all of its lusts and worldly passions. I don’t like calamity or financial struggle, but sometimes that struggle is exactly what teaches us how to be patient and even wise. If God chooses to teach us the easy way all of the time, I don’t think that that would do some of us much good.

    “If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian, He is not likely to be as gentle as He usually is pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble thing to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer, and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them, the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.” A.W. Tozer


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