Evangelical leaders urge faithful and worshipful preaching at Expositors Summit
Leading evangelical pastors John MacArthur and H.B. Charles Jr. joined Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. to emphasize the primacy of preaching at the Expositors Summit at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oct. 28-30. The plenary addresses were expository sermons with focused application for the pastors’ preaching ministry of the gospel.
“For those who are the disciples of Christ, there is one thing we simply can’t do without,” Mohler said. “And that is the teaching of Christ, the teaching of the Word.”
In the opening session of the summit, Mohler preached on “The Binding of Isaac” in Genesis 22, reading the story through the lens of gospel revelation. Mohler highlighted elements of the narrative pointing to Christ in the New Testament — the son Isaac carries the wood up the mountain himself, the sacrifice comes just when it is needed, and God himself provides the offering at the story’s climax.
Mohler also emphasized the historicity of Genesis 22 despite numerous narrative reconstructions that dismiss the story as representative of “divine child abuse.” Mohler argued that reading any part of Genesis as mere myth ultimately undermines the authority and integrity of the entire Bible.
“If it’s just a story, it’s a terrible story,” he said. “On the other side, if it’s the truth, then we’re saved.”
Mohler also offered a fresh reading of the Mary and Martha story in Luke 10:38-42. Rather than seeing Martha as the less faithful sister, Mohler observed that Jesus does not rebuke Martha, so her hospitality is not condemned but encouraged. Yet Martha lacked the more necessary thing, according to Mohler: the teaching of Jesus.
Christian ministers need to be watchful about how their busyness and anxiety distracts them, Mohler said. While both Martha and Mary are doing the right thing, the “one thing necessary” is to preach the Word. This story is not a morality tale, but a story about the Bible: preachers and teachers of God’s Word should not let other necessary things distract them from that important task. The apostles’ appointing of deacons in Acts 6 demonstrates the primacy of the preacher’s task — people who serve the church like Martha allow those like Mary to sit under teaching.
“The church needs a whole lot of Marthas so the Marys can demonstrate the importance of the preaching of the Word,” Mohler said.
Charles, pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, presented Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 3, identifying how prayer is a reflection of God’s glory, and is only worthwhile when it is rooted in God’s worthiness. After demonstrating how Paul’s instructions for Christian living flow from detailed teaching about Christian truth and doctrine, Charles turned to the purpose of prayer. Prayer works because of God’s absolute sovereignty, he said, not because of anything intrinsically valuable about prayer itself.
“You don’t learn how to pray by studying prayer,” Charles said. “You learn how to pray by studying God.”
Charles also urged preachers to delight in the glory and plan of God in the final address of the Expositors Summit. Using Ephesians 2:4-7 as his text, he walked through the story of each believer that text presents, emphasizing the unilateral and effective work of God to bring his people from spiritual death.
“The bad news is, you cannot save yourself,” he said. “The good news is you don’t have to.”
The whole salvation program, Charles argued, finds its ultimate purpose in the broad display of the “immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God’s plan is chiefly designed for his glory through Christ, Charles argued, but believers in the church reap the benefits of the deep love and mercy of God.
“Christianity is not about your best life now,” he said. “It’s about your best life forever.”
During a panel discussion, Mohler asked Charles and MacArthur about the highlights, difficulties, and overall influence of expository preaching in their ministries.
MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, highlighted the uniqueness of being at one church for 40 years, identifying both the challenges and benefits of rarely being able to preach from the same text twice. Charles noted the positive long-term effect expository preaching has had on his congregation, and Mohler observed how much more sensitive to biblical theology his preaching has become over the years.
MacArthur’s session was the culmination of a four-part series on the parables he began during the Mullins Lectures the day before. During his opening address, MacArthur laid out Jesus’ purpose for the parables: hide the truth from those who rejected his teaching.
MacArthur challenged preachers to be faithful stewards of their task to maintain and cultivate the vineyard of God’s church in his message from Mark 12, the parable about the stewards of the vineyard.
He said each element of the parable in Mark 12 represents a figure in redemptive history: the vineyard owner is God; the vineyard stands in for the people of God; the stewards of the vineyard are the Jewish religious leaders; the servants sent by the vineyard owner reflect the Old Testament prophets who are rejected and killed by the stewards; and the son of the vineyard owner is Jesus, the Messiah.
At the climax of the story, the son is killed by the stewards and the vineyard is taken from them and “given to others,” meaning the disciples. The stewardship of God’s people has passed to us, who are called to boldly and unapologetically preach the Word.
“You are the new stewards of the kingdom of God,” he said, addressing pastors. “This is a monumental calling for which you must be faithful.”
Audio and video from the Expositors Summit will soon be available at sbts.edu/resources.