The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Exposition of ScriptureApril 19, 2017
Preaching is technical business. Like an excavator who searches for treasure, the expositor of Scripture must have the right tools, the right knowledge, the right methods, and the right location. He doesn’t flippantly and superficially wing his message. He must be a resilient researcher, a wise wordsmith, a theological thinker, a literary laborer. He must be a sincere scientist knowing it is his responsibility to figure out how things work scripturally. Technical business is this deal of preaching.
However, if the business of preaching is only “technical” then the preacher is nothing more than a history teacher, a grammatical expert, or at best, a lecturer of religious things. Preaching indeed is technical, but it is also spiritual.
The role of the Holy Spirit in the exposition of scripture is not merely a beneficial element of preaching, it is essential, imperative, and of great necessity in the proclamation of truth. The apostle Paul said, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). If preaching is primarily the act of pointing men to Jesus Christ, it is safe to say, we cannot do this without the aid of the Spirit of God. It is true, the expositor of scripture must be well-trained in the technical obligations of preaching, but he must also be well-aware that his technical abilities will act as dead, dry cables if not connected to the power of the Holy Ghost.
There are several things we must remember about the role of the Holy Spirit in exposition every time we approach the Word of God.
The Revelation and Inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Exposition
Scripture is God-breathed. Every time we take a text, we should remember that we are dealing with divine language. Peter, in his second epistle, said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The men who penned down the books of the Bible were merely instruments and vessels. The Holy Spirit “moved” in the inspiration of Scripture as the divine Author. Trying to expound Spiritually-revealed Scripture apart from the working power of the One Who gave us the Scripture is a cold, lifeless, dead-end endeavor. The apostle Paul said, “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (2 Corinthians 2:10). When we expound the Word of God, we must be dogmatically aware that we are dealing with Spiritually-revealed truth that was given to the writers in a Spiritually-inspired manner.
The Illumination of the Holy Spirit in Exposition
The Bible is NOT the collection of human wisdom; therefore, it must be illuminated to the expositor beyond the realm of his finite thinking. John MacArthur succinctly defines illumination as “the work of the Holy Spirit that opens one’s spiritual eyes to comprehend the meaning of the word of God.” The canon of Scripture has been collectively and exhaustively given to us through the revelation of the Holy Spirit; in addition, the same Holy Spirit must illuminate, in our hearts and minds, the meaning of the text for us to comprehend it accurately and successfully. Illumination is not the revealing of new ideas or truths to the expositor, but rather the “opening of one’s spiritual eyes” to the truth that has already been given. This happens when the preacher carefully and cautiously explores, digs, and exegetes the Word of God. Robert L. Thomas said, “Accurate exegesis is ultimately dependent upon the leading of the Holy Spirit in the exegete’s research. Apart from His guidance, not only does the meaning of the text evade him, but also valid application of the text will prove elusive.”
The Conviction of the Holy Spirit in Exposition
Jesus said, speaking of the Holy Spirit, that He would come to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” He also referred to the Spirit as the “Spirit of truth…who will guide you into all truth” (John 16:8,13). Something happens when an expositor is shown truth from God’s Word. It forces him to see himself, as he really is, in light of the glorious Scripture. This is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit; this is illumination that turns into investigation. By “investigation” I mean into the heart of men. This happens when the preacher prepares his message, and it also happens when the preacher proclaims his message. Only the Holy Spirit of God, Who wrote the text, can spiritually illuminate it to the expositor and then, in turn, use that same truth to investigate the condition of the preacher and his congregation. The Spirit convicts, always in conjunction with truth from the Word. Jesus said, “God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
The Communication of the Holy Spirit in Exposition
An expositor can know his context, understand his proposition, and effectively structure his outline, but without the power of the Holy Spirit in the delivery of his message, he will be grossly fatigued and the congregation will be greatly exhausted. The apostle Paul, recalling his visit to Thessalonica, said, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Exposition of scripture requires both spiritual understanding and spiritual unction. The authority the preacher has in his delivery is not within himself (neither is it manifested through demonstrative actions and behaviors); but rather through the communication of the truth. The Spirit, through the truth, enables the expositor with authority so that what he communicates resonates in the deep places of the heart.
Preaching is more than a technical experience, it is a spiritual encounter. May God raise up spiritually-equipped, spiritually-enlightened, and spiritually-empowered expositors in these last days!