This article is not just for the preachers, but for anyone who teaches the Bible, whether in a Sunday school class, small group, or friendship. And doesn’t that include every Christian (see Eph. 4:15, 25, 29)?
Here’s the big idea: teaching and preaching expositionally means teaching and preaching ecclesiologically.
“Ecclesiologically” is a mouthful, I admit. But I am using the fifty-cent word both to get your attention and because I cannot think of another word to communicate how Bible teaching should build us up not just as individual Christians but as churches. We are family members, after all, and a good study or sermon will address us as family members.
Think about what the Bible is. The Old Testament is a record of Abraham’s family history, and Israel’s national history, and the nation’s laws, and the nation’s songs, and the prophets’ indictments against the nation and its leaders. So it is with the New Testament. The Gospels and Acts present the story of our Savior and King and how the church was born. The Epistles were all written to churches or church leaders.
The Bible gives us letters for the whole church, not personal letters. It doesn’t just teach how to be a “good Christian.” It teaches us that we are saved into a family, and that being good Christians means knowing and loving the family (Mark 3:34–35; 1 John 3:10; 4:21).
Here’s an illustration: My father once sat the whole family down for an honest conversation about how poorly we had treated one another that week. It led to transparent admissions, confessions, apologies, forgiveness, and peace in the family.
Now, think of all the “one anothers” in the New Testament letters: rejoice with one another, honor one another, speak truth to one another, forgive one another. Isn’t that like my dad, trying to provoke a family conversation?
So when you are planning your Sunday school lesson or Bible study, your first question should always be, What does this text say? Answering that is foundational. But another question you should always ask is, What does the point of this text teach us as a church? Maybe you’re teaching on 1 Peter 1:16: “Be holy because I am holy.” It calls Christians to personal holiness, certainly. But Peter also views us in relationship to one another (2:5–10), which means the call to holiness includes encouraging people to help one another fight for holiness. You might ask, “So, friends, do you confess your sins to others? Do you invite correction? Are you willing to confront another in sin?” It’s a family struggle, as when my dad exhorted the whole family.
Maybe you’re teaching the Levitical food laws, which taught Israel to be marked off and distinct. Shouldn’t our churches pursue the same through taking care with their membership rolls and church discipline?
In just about every text, teaching expositionally includes teaching ecclesiologically.