Exposition – The Beginner’s Theological Vocabularium


“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”—2 Timothy 4:2

This word comes from the Latin word expositionem which means “a setting or showing forth; narration, explanation.” It is used sometimes as a public display, as in the Crystal Palace Exposition of 1851 (possibly the first use of the word in that manner) often shortened nowadays, to Expo, as in the 2020 World Expo held in Dubai. It combines two root words: ex, meaning out, and position, which has an obvious meaning, but is also used in logic and philosophy from the late 14th century word, posicioun, meaning, “statement of belief, the laying down of a proposition or thesis.”

In Christian circles you’ll hear it more as the adjective, “expository,” typically referring to a type of sermon. Expository Preaching is when the preacher follows a message directly from scripture, as opposed to Topical Preaching, which follows a specific subject, inserting scripture where needed. The late Pastor Timothy Keller explained this as…

“Expository preaching grounds the message in the text so that all the sermon’s points are the points in the text, and it majors in the text’s major ideas. It aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible (being sensitive to systematic theology). And it always situates the passage within the Bible’s narrative, showing how Christ is the final fulfillment of the text’s theme (being sensitive to biblical theology).”—Timothy J. Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Penguin Books, 2016

Expository Preaching requires a good grounding in the proper study of how to interpret and explain scriptures (hermeneutics) and a wide grasp of systematic theology, in order to place the scripture within the overall structure and message of the Bible as a whole.