The Expositor in the Pulpit – Part 1

 |  November 1, 2016

When I was a teenage preacher, in virtually every pastor’s study I entered I saw on the shelf the four-volume set Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent. The work was originally published in 1887 and it remains in print. It is Vincent’s best known work.

Vincent (1834-1922) was a Greek scholar, professor, and pastor who produced works ranging from a translation of J. A. Bengel’s famous Gnomen of the New Testament (1864), to a sermon book, to a history of textual criticism of the Greek New Testament, to a short work on Preaching entitled The Expositor in the Pulpit (1884),[1]Vincent’s seven major works, including a book of sermons, is available at LOGOS: Unfortunately, The Expositor in the Pulpit is not included as best I can tell. among other publications.

This latter work was an address delivered to the students of Union Theological Seminary where Vincent taught as Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism. This 33-page masterpiece should be read by every pastor and homiletician. It is quite a gem.

Since the work is difficult to come by in any format, I thought it would be helpful to share some of Vincent’s wisdom in a multi-part series.


Marvin R. Vincent, The Expositor in the Pulpit (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1884).

“Scripture,” says Bengel, “is the life of the Church. When the Church is strong, Scripture shines abroad; when the Church is sick, Scripture is imprisoned. Thus Scripture and the Church exhibit together the appearance of health or else of sickness; so that the treatment of Scripture corresponds with the state of the Church.”

The preacher is, first of all, an interpreter of Scripture. If he is not that, though he may be an orator, a logician, a thinker, he is not a preacher. His manual is the Bible. He comes to the people to tell them what is in it, and what is the bearing of its contents upon their living and thinking. The method of preaching may be, and should be, original; the substance of preaching, in its last analysis, can not be original.

This limitation leaves the preacher all the scope he ought to desire. He may exhaust his own stock of ideas, but he cannot exhaust “the Word.” Within its lines he will find room for all his originality, all his power of expression, all his facility in illustration, all his logical acuteness.

The phrase “Expository Preaching” properly covers all preaching. Exposition is exposing the truth contained in God’s word: laying it openputting it forth where the people may get hold of it; and that also is preaching.

This statement may possibly carry with it a flavor of novelty to certain minds which have been used to distinguish between expounding and sermonizing; and as this is a fruitful mistake, we may profitably devote a few minutes to some current misconceptions of the nature and methods of public exposition.[2]Ibid., 5-6.


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