How Do Stories Fit Into Expository Preaching?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How do stories fit into expository preaching?

Well, I'm in John right now, so this is right off my front burner. I just did—as we're recording here—John 4, which is a story of Jesus going into Samaria.

Exposition wants to expose. It wants to draw out what is there. And stories have a way of meaning. They don't mean the way an expository text (like Romans 5:1-8) means, but they have meaning. They are told for a reason.

So an expositor reads the story, studies the story, and tries to discern what is the author telling the story for. How is he telling it in a way to make his point, whatever the point is?

I don't think the Bible contains stories that are merely entertaining. There is such a thing, probably; although even in people telling entertaining stories they generally have an idea of some good they would like it to do.

The Bible has stories that it tells—parables that are fiction, and stories of what Jesus did in history that are history—and those stories have intention.

So that's what an expositor does. He looks at the story. He tries to discern out, Why did he go through Samaria? Jews don't like Samaritans. Why did he sit on the well, right there where in broad daylight he is contaminating himself with these foreign, unclean, heretical people?

And he's going to be forced to talk to one. In fact, he goes out of his way to talk to one, and he chooses to talk to one who is an adulteress. Why is he doing all this?

Why did he send his disciples into town so that he would be left alone? Why are they going to buy food from a people who made it with hands that would have been ceremonially unclean?

Why, why, why all these details in this story?

And you start to see, O, this is really about shattering some taboos that are destructive to faith and relationships.

So, stories are a glorious gift to us. And faithful exposition should let them be stories and then try to discern with whatever skill we have why they're there and what they mean.

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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

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