Help me understand something, please. (I can already sense the mounting outrage, feel free to throw shade in the comments section). I’ve preached weekly for over 15 years now, and my style has always been a topical/expository hybrid. I’ll jump from passage to passage each week, but in each message I’ll only deal with one primary passage, walking through it verse-by-verse. Sermon delivery is an art, and God has gifted many preachers in many ways to effectively communicate the word of God. In my experience there are several effective ways (topical, narrative, verse-by-verse) to preach. If you want to preach verse-by-verse, it can be very effective. More power to you.
But for verse-by-verse purists, that’s simply not enough. Typically when someone touts the verse-by-verse style of preaching (preaching through an entire book of the Bible, verse-by-verse), it’s never just one of many acceptable ways, it’s the only way. Some have even gone so far to say that verse-by-verse is the only ‘biblical’ way to preach. If you’re John MacArthur, you even write a book proclaiming verse-by-verse as the only biblical option out there.
So, to all the verse-by-verse purists out there, here’s where I need your help, because this has been a head-scratcher for years to me: if verse-by-verse is the only way to effectively preach because of its adherence and commitment to Scripture, where is the Scriptural command to preach verse-by-verse? And what do you do with the examples of Jesus and Paul? How many times do you see Jesus taking his disciples verse-by-verse through the book of Leviticus? Could you classify the Sermon on the Mount as anything other than the definition of topical? Or what about Paul? His written words are regarded as inspired by God. Verse-by-verse preachers feast on the words of Paul, and yet his treatment of the Old Testament is topical, not verse-by-verse. Look at a book like First Corinthians, which is a letter not dedicated to a verse-by-verse exposition of an Old Testament Bible book but a topical letter dealing with modern, relevant problems for the Corinthian church.
Here’s my pushback to all the preachers to proudly proclaim that verse-by-verse is the only ‘biblical’ way to preach:
- There’s no Scriptural command to preach verse-by-verse.
- All evidence we have of Jesus is that he preached topically, not verse-by-verse.
- All evidence we have of Paul is that he preached topically, not verse-by-verse.
So where do verse-by-verse preachers get the justification to say the only way to preach biblically is to preach verse-by-verse? Help me understand, please.