NOTE: This article is an excerpt from an excellent little book on preaching, The Expositor in the Pulpit, by the Greek scholar Marvin R. Vincent. The book is the content of his lectures given to students at Union Theological Seminary in 1884. The book is a must read for expository preachers and teachers. This section appears on pp. 18 – 19.
The second point in successful exposition is comprehensiveness; what artists call “large” or “broad treatment.” By this I do not mean sketchiness, but firm grasp and handling of the great fundamental ideas of a passage as distinguished from its minor details, and the grouping of the details so as to illustrate those ideas.
Truth has a body and it has clothes. Your first concern is with the body and not with the drapery.
In a parable, for instance, there are certain elements—usually very few—which carry the truth to be illustrated. Then a second class of elements is thrown in to complete the picture, and related to the picture rather than to the lesson. Take, for instance, the parable of the Leaven. Its great lesson is the power of Christ’s truth to pervade and quicken human society.
To set this forth, we have: 1) The heavy, lifeless lump of dough, representing the unregenerate world; 2) the leaven, the principle of life; 3) the hiding of the leaven in the lump, or the contact of the Gospel with society; 4) the pervasion of the lump with the leaven, or the world actually informed with Gospel life and power. In those four are the great essential truths of the parable.
To give vividness to the picture we have the woman and the three measures of meal. There may be a specific meaning to these. Possibly a man and two measures would not have conveyed our Lord’s lesson as well; but however that may be, that meaning is a subordinate matter; and it would therefore be quite beside the mark, and would tend to obscure the great lesson of the parable, to enlarge upon the woman as representing the Church, or on the three measures as representing three parts of the world, or the three sons of Noah, or the threefold constitution of man.
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