Becoming a seasoned expositor of God’s Word requires a method. And the starting point of this method is of primal importance. Biblical exposition must begin with reverence for God. If you want to be an expositor, you must get the starting point right. In short, start and stay with God.
Hermeneutics are the rules used 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 attention is given to methodology, our focus must be on the God of the Bible, prayerfully worshipping Him in Spirit and truth.
Below are several examples of core biblical truths from which we can establish the 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: humility, contrition of spirit, and a trembling at His Word. These spiritual dispositions are mocked by the world, but essential 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 is a learner. And that is 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 is not to long for theological studies (although that has its place), coffee-table debates, or philosophy. God desires, even commands, believers 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 believers 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, lacks a sense of discernment.
Since the beginning of the church, people have labeled virtually everything “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 noble the intentions.
Never go to God’s Word merely for a sermon; go to God’s Word for truth
The preaching or teaching comes from these 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 in the church at 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 apart from grace. To grow in knowledge alone treats God’s Word as a mere textbook and removes God Himself from the hermeneutical task. God does not permit either extreme in biblical exposition.
Receive the Word with Eagerness
Fifth, you must receive the Word with 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 summarized in 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. There will always be a spiritual component to biblical exposition that the world will not understand.
In summary, the fundamental starting point for 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 mere emotion); and to receive the Word with great eagerness.
For those who find these core biblical truths unimportant or simplistic, read and fear Jesus’s rebuke of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1–7, who after doing so many noble things “had left their first love.”
This post is adapted from Greg Harris’s The Bible Expositor’s Handbook—Old Testament Edition (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2018), Chapter One. Used with permission.