In many churches and seminaries, when preaching styles are compared, usually the two parties being compared are expository preaching and topical preaching. If those in the conversation are aware of the significant differences, generally they are in favor of expository preaching. Those who favor topical preaching usually prefer it because they have never really heard true exposition. To be sure, topical preaching can be good and useful as long as it is grounded in a preaching culture where exposition is predominant.
Nevertheless, in many cases expository preaching tends to devote much of its focus to the Epistles. Pauline Epistles are often preferred because they use arguments that are easy for the expositor to unfold, restate, illustrate, and apply. For those who are bent toward expository preaching, especially from the Epistles, the question remains, “What is the main interpretive key?” Are the Epistles just Paul’s attempt to provide proverbial lessons and Christian morals for the church to obey? Are they just an updated version of laws and instructions from the Old Testament for the New Testament church?
In order to understand Paul’s ethical imperatives, we must first discover his redemptive indicatives. All of Paul’s moral commands emerge out of gospel truths. Eighty percent of the Epistles are Christ-centered doctrine, and the remaining twenty percent are ethical instructions in response to such doctrine. Paul purposefully ordered his Epistles to first point to Christ’s gospel, and then to command obedience. In order to motivate obedience to the commands in the Epistles, the Christ-centered doctrines must first be exposited and enjoyed.
For instance, in order to have the desire to apply and obey the commands of Romans 12ff, we must first revere the glories of Christ’s gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. The session on “Proclaiming Christ from the Epistles” will focus on how Paul’s Christocentric theology awakened his doxology, which inspired and informed his Christian morality.