What’s the best way to teach God’s Word? Some teachers always teach God’s Word in topics—meaning they choose a topic, find all the parts of the Bible that have to do with that topic, and then out of those passages form a message on that topic. Topical preaching is good, but it’s not my favorite. Some teachers like to choose themes—like redemption, or salvation, or holiness—and preach about how that theme is developed in the Bible from beginning to end. This is another legitimate way of preaching. Some, however, use the Bible like a trampoline—they land on it every once and a while but most of the time they’re in the air, totally disconnected with it. Some teachers use the Bible like salt and pepper—every once and a while they sprinkle on some verses to make it sound Christian. Some of these ways are worse than others, and none of them are what we are about to do. What we are about to start is sequential exposition.
What is sequential exposition? Let me define the two words: sequential comes from the word sequence, which speaks of an order, a progression, like a chain. First this, then that, then this. That’s sequence—its opposite would be chaos—something without any order or progression. The next word is the word exposition, which is a noun form of the verb expose, which means to put on display, to make clear, to bring to light.
What then, is sequential exposition? Sequential exposition is going through the Bible in the sequence it has been laid out for us, and exposing the meaning of the words, sentences, and paragraphs. It is the orderly progression from chapter one verse one to the final chapter and verse. It’s the most important kind of teaching, and it’s what we’re going to be doing for the next few months in the book of Colossians.
Why is it the most important method of teaching the Bible? First, because the whole Bible (even Leviticus!) is God-breathed and profitable. There are far too many churches are no longer preaching the unadulterated Word of God. This is especially sad because the preacher’s main duty is to preach the whole counsel of God. I don’t have the freedom to pick and choose which books and verses I like and which ones I want to avoid. So when I’m plowing through the Bible verse by verse I simply preach what God has already said, in the way he has said it, in the order and progression he has said it, with the emphasis he has placed on it. In other words, when I do sequential exposition, I am letting God call the shots. What I preach, when I preach it, how much time I give to the subject is all pre-determined by God.
So for example, and I sequentially preach through Colossians, we’re going to encounter various teachings. In chapter one we get a lot of information about Paul, his ministry, and the person and work of Christ. In chapter two, we get Paul contrasting the Christian gospel with the false teachings that were infecting the church. In chapter three we get a great section on how Christians ought to behave. In the last chapter, Paul sends news and greetings. And as I teach through each section, God will set the agenda as to what is taught, not me. God arranged Colossians through the mind of Paul, and I’ll simply follow his lead.
Amazingly, God has spoken to us in a book– words on pages. These words are fixed, unchanging, and external. They are there– we can’t change them, alter them, or adjust them. They are the most important words ever spoken, and they hold explosive relevance for each one of us. And so, if they are indeed God’s words, then we must study them. And the best way to study them is through sequential exposition.
Gear up for the next few months of a sequential exposition through Colossians; I know that God has much to teach us through this marvelous portion of Scripture.