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Expository Preaching Exegetical Preparation

Expository Preaching Exegetical Preparation

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Expository Preaching-Exegetical Preparation

Dealing with Your Heart and Digging into the Text
William D. Barrick
Professor of Old Testament, The Master’s Seminary


As readers of the Scriptures, we must approach the text as it has been preserved for
us. Any alteration we might make in the text must be fully supported. Exegesis is the
explication of what the text says, not what we wish the text to say. Every interpretation
must be rooted and grounded in the original languages of the text. Ultimately, reading the
text in translation is not a viable substitute.

“One who made it his life’s work to interpret French literature, but who could only read it in
an English translation, would not be taken seriously; yet it is remarkable how many ministers of
religion week by week expound a literature that they are unable to read save in translation!”
— H. H. Rowley, Expository Times 74/12 (Sept 1963): 383;
cited in Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965), 2-3

Exegesis starts with the text and views it within its syntactical, lexical, literary,
historical, social/cultural, geographical, and theological contexts. Although exegesis of
the biblical text focuses upon the languages, the linguistic factor is not the only factor to
be considered. Everyday life differed greatly from our present day Western culture. In
biblical times, culture changed from one century to another, from one people to another,
and from one environment to another—just as it changes within our own setting.
Attention must be given to identify the separate context for each passage. So much is
unfamiliar to the modern, Western reader: clothing, food, the medium of exchange, local
customs, religious observances, and dialects. How did these factors affect the meaning
for both writer and recipient? That is the exegete’s challenge.

The temptation is to merely catalogue, collate, and arrange information. Exegesis,
however, is more than the collection and filing of data—it is interpreting the information.
Anyone with a photocopy machine, scissors, and rubber cement can copy, cut, arrange,
and paste quotations from sources and references. It takes an exegete to examine,
evaluate, assimilate, and interact with the biblical text in a coherent interpretative
exposition employing only the most pertinent citations. The interpretation should be
synthesized and applied theologically and pragmatically. When the preacher’s sermon
preparation reflects this approach, he has attained a significant goal in his ministry: he
has become an exegete and an expositor of the Word of God.

An old prospector summed up his life in the following words: “I spent five years
looking for gold and twenty years looking for my burrow.” Striking exegetical gold has
about the same ratio. For every nugget the exegete finds, he can expect to spend four
Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
hours looking for it. Exegesis is not for the lazy or the quitter. It is a labor of love
requiring commitment and perseverance.

Word studies alone will not suffice. Indeed, over-occupation with word studies is a
sign of the laziness and ignorance of the vast majority of what passes for biblical
exposition in our times. It tends to be as inaccurate as a translation produced by using
only a dictionary.

Just as a sentence is more revealing than a single word, so the examination of a writer’s syntax and
style is that much more important to a biblical commentator. It is not surprising that fewer books have
been written on this subject than on vocabulary, because whereas students of vocabulary can quickly
look up lists of words in concordances and indices, in the field of syntax the study is more circuitous.
There is no help except in a few selective grammars and monographs, so that the worker really must
work his way through all the texts in Greek.
— Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965), 2-3

Having decried over-emphasis on word studies, we must, however, recognize that the
choice of individual words was significant to the writers of Scripture. It is legitimate for
the exegete to ask, “Why did the writer choose this term as opposed to one of its

Cicero somewhere has written of the scientia iuris: res enim sunt parvae, prope in singulis
litteris atque interpunctionibus verborum occupatae.* Delete the prope and you have a fair
description of the matter of textual criticism. Whether Euripides wrote -]) or ]Ò´ in a
given passage is hardly of metaphysical import. But we must assume that he made a choice
between them. This is sufficient justification for concerning ourselves with the problem. It made a
difference to the poet; it should make a difference to us. This planet, I do not doubt, shall never
want for people to despise such problems and those who try to resolve them. Such contempt is
founded upon the remarkable premise that one who manifests a concern for minutiae must of
necessity be both indifferent to and unequal to profound problems. The Greeks, on the contrary, in
their simplicity had contrived a word to express this reverence before even the smallest truth; and
that word is ×)¤C¤´+O])C. The sacred writer speaks not idly when he reminds us that
E☺ ]¢⌧E4O]ÞºÞ 4C± E¢¤)±_C gC4C± ·O)gÒE+Þ O
— Robert Renehan, Greek Textual Criticism: A Reader
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969), 134
* “knowledge of law: the matters are indeed small, mainly occupied with individual letters and also the
punctuation of words” [WDB]
** “the one despising the little things shall fall because of the insignificant” [WDB]

Preliminaries—Before Commencing Exegesis

Unless the heart and mind are right with God, there is no way that the expositor can
be right with the text.

We are, in a certain sense, our own tools, and therefore must keep
ourselves in order. If I want to preach the gospel, I can only use my own
voice; therefore I must train my vocal powers. I can only think with my own
brains, and feel with my own heart, and therefore I must educate my
Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
intellectual and emotional faculties. I can only weep and agonise for souls in
my own renewed nature, therefore must I watchfully maintain the tenderness
which was in Christ Jesus. It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or
organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for
books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my
holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for
sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and
weapons of war.
— C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (reprinted; Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., n.d.), 1-2

Pray with the psalmists:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm
19:14, ESV).

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”
(Psalm 119:18, ESV).

A text without its context is pretext.

Exposition without expiation is exploitation.

Preaching without prayer is presumption.

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
Exegetical Procedure

The following seven steps are offered as one structured approach to the biblical text
designed to produce a full examination of the language, context, and background with a
view to exposition.

Perform a provisional or preliminary translation of the text. This could be
accomplished by diligently comparing the original language with a literal
translation such as the English Standard Version (ESV), New American
Standard Bible (NASB), or the New King James Version (NKJV). Note any
translational variations from the original language. Determine to discover the
basis for any textual variant followed by the translation or suggested in the
margins of the translation. Remember: no translation is perfect.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor
stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in
the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a
tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf
also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not
stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the
LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for
Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them
as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own
righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of
His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NKJV)

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
Read and reread the text until saturated with it. Begin to ask questions about
anything and everything in the text. What information does it give?—Who?
When? Where? What? How? Why? Pay attention to details—be a Sherlock
Holmes! Record any question that comes to mind—even if it might turn out to
be a dumb one upon further reflection.

Psalm 1:1
Should the first word be “Blessed” or “Happy”? Where is it used elsewhere?
Does “the man” refer to one man, one person, or people generally?
Is “not” a permanent negation?
Does “walks” refer to a life-style or habit? Or, does it refer to attending a
meeting of ungodly people?
Who are the “ungodly”?
Who wrote this psalm?
When was it written?
Why was it written?

Philippians 3:7
Does “But” indicate that this verse belongs with the preceding verses? Should I
start here for the sermon text?
To what does “what things” refer? to the matters in verses 5-6?
Does “were” refer to the distant past?
Who is “me”?
Where is he?
When did he write this?
What is the meaning of “gain”? Where is it used elsewhere?
How often does the writer use “counted” in this epistle? Elsewhere?
How often is “loss” that which is “counted”? What is the meaning of “loss”?

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
3.1 Grammar and syntax.

3.1.1 To what is each word, phrase, clause, sentence, and paragraph
related? in what way? for what purpose?

Psalm 1:1-6
Do the three negatives of verse 1 represent increasing degrees of involvement
in associations with the ungodly?
Is verse 2 simply a continuation of verse 1, or is it an independent element that
is the core theme of the psalm?
Is “For” at the beginning of verse 6 causative, giving the reason for the
statements in verse 5? Or, is “For” emphatic, with the idea of “Indeed”? What is
the meaning of the word and how does it affect the relationship of verse 6 to
the rest of the psalm?

Philippians 3:7-11
What is the force and significance of the perfect (´·_´OC)), “counted”
(verse 7)?
Does “for Christ” in verse 7 relate to “counted” or does it relate to “loss”?
What kind of genitive relationship is involved in “the knowledge of Christ Jesus”
(verse 8)? Is it Christ’s knowledge of the writer? Is it the writer’s knowledge of
Christ? Is it knowledge from Christ as its source?
To what is “being conformed to His death” (verse 10) related?

3.1.2 Where is the prominence or emphasis? Pay attention to word
order and the employment of emphatic words.

Psalm 1:1-6
Are the three negative statements in verse 1 emphatic by means of the
Is “Blessed” emphatic by its position (word order)?
Does the chiastic arrangement of the first two negative statements place
emphasis on “in the counsel” and “in the path”?

Philippians 3:7-11
Is “But” (verse 7) emphatic? See, also, the use of the same Greek conjunction
(C¢¤¤C+) in verses 8 and 9.
Does the word order of verse 7 indicate any particular emphasis?
Do the three uses of “count” (´☺_]+EOC)) indicate emphasis?
What emphasis might the multiple particle O]ÞE4Þ_] present (verse
Is any particular emphasis intended by the use of “rubbish” in verse 8?

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
3.2 Expression.

3.2.1 What idioms are employed?

Psalm 1:1-6
Is “knows the way” (verse 6) and idiom referring to election? care? Or, is it
simply a non-idiomatic phrase referring to God’s omniscience?

Philippians 3:7-11
Is “count them as rubbish” an idiomatic expression? If so, what is its meaning?
If not, what would the non-idiomatic use mean or indicate? How would it affect
the application?

3.2.2 What is the literary form? Is the text narrative or poetry?

Psalm 1:1-6
Psalm 1 is Hebrew poetry. It is either a wisdom psalm or a Torah psalm.
What impact does this classification have (if any) on the interpretation of the

Philippians 3:7-11
Philippians is a New Testament epistle.
What impact does this classification have (if any) on the interpretation of this

3.2.3 What literary devices (chiasmus, repetition, inclusio,
assonance, parallelism, paronomasia, etc.) are employed?

Psalm 1:1-6
What is the significance of the assonance involved in the first three words
(ρε∃Α) ∃ψι)φη−ψ∀ρ:∃α), a^vr?-h*a'v a&v#r) of verse 1?
What is the significance of the chiasm in verse 1?
Are verses 1-5 arranged chiastically? If so, what is the exegetical significance?

Philippians 3:7-11
What metaphor is employed in these verses? What is its exegetical
Does repetition play any role in this passage?

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
3.2.4 Perform a word study for each word crucial to the text. Keep in
mind that many words have no great “golden nugget” of
expositional truth outside their usage within the text’s

Psalm 1:1-6
ψ∀ρ:∃α), {ψιχ∀λ, ηφγφη, …

Philippians 3:7-11
´☺_]+EOC), =´O)+C, ·g4+pC¤EÞ, …

3.25 State the argument and/or the development of the theme in
your own words.

Psalm 1:1-6


Philippians 3:7-11


Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
4.1 The circles of context to determine how the passage fits into each one
(immediate context, remote context, and external setting). The external
setting is in the ancient near eastern cultural, historical, geographical,
political, economic, and spiritual milieu.

Psalm 1:1-6
What kind of context can be identified for Psalm 1?
How does Psalm 1 relate to Psalm 2?
How does Psalm 1 relate to Book 1 of the Psalms?
How does Psalm 1 relate to the entire Book of Psalms?
How does Psalm 1 relate to the entire Old Testament?
How does Psalm 1 relate to the New Testament?
In what period of Israel’s history was this psalm written?
Are there any indications of its historical, cultural, or geographical setting?

Philippians 3:7-11
How does this passage relate to the immediately preceding and following
How does this passage relate to its related major section within Philippians?
How does this passage relate to the entire Epistle to the Philippians?
How does this passage relate to the Pauline corpus?
How does this passage relate to the entire New Testament?
Does this passage have any citations from or allusions to the Old Testament?
When did Paul write this epistle? at what period of time within his life and
Does the geographical, historical, or cultural context of Philippi have any
bearing upon this passage?
Does the previous mention of Jewish elements in Paul’s background flavor the
vocabulary or concepts in this passage?

4.2 Parallel passages and identify both the similarities and dissimilarities
in all areas (especially related to steps 2-7, above).

Psalm 1:1-6



Philippians 3:7-11



Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03
List all potential solutions for the significant interpretative problems
encountered.. Choose one as the preferred solution and compare its adequacy
with all other potential solutions.

Check the commentaries for their interpretation. Watch for alternative
interpretations and note any additional problems which you failed to note
during your own study. Emphasize research in conservative commentaries as
much as possible, but realize that theologically liberal commentaries can offer
a lot of sound material with regard to the original language and its use.

7.1 Be willing to modify and/or refine your conclusions.

7.2 Acknowledge any uncertainties, ambiguities, lack of knowledge,
and/or need for additional information. Outline a method of
conducting further investigation.

Abbreviated Exegetical Procedure

A simple outline to keep in mind at all times contains just three words:


1. Information: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

2. Relationship: What are the relationships of words, phrases, clauses, sentences,
and paragraphs?

3. Emphasis: On what element is the focus or emphasis? What is the evidence for

Expository Preaching—Exegetical Preparation
Barrick Shepherds’ Conference 3/03

Recommended Reading

Old Testament

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using
Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998.
Broyles, Craig C., ed. Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.
Sandy, D. Brent, and Ronald L. Giese, Jr., eds. Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide
to Interpreting the Literary Genres of the Old Testament. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman
& Holman Publishers, 1995.

New Testament

Thomas, Robert L. Introduction to Exegesis. Sun Valley, Calif.: author, 1987.
Thomas, Robert L. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old. Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Kregel, forthcoming.
Rogers, Cleon L., Jr., and Cleon L. Rogers, III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to
the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.

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