Some of the more popular knocks on expository preaching make the claim that it’s too predictable, not led by the Spirit, and forces you to stay in a specific book of the Bible for far too long. Years ago, in an interview with Ed Stetzer, Andy Stanely charged expositors with “cheating” in their verse-by-verse approach to the pulpit ministry.
We certainly know of people who give expositional preaching a bad name by turning it into a data dump or a running commentary in a monotone voice. However, those exceptions should not be the defining marking of true biblical preaching.
Recently, as I was preaching through Luke’s Gospel, I came to the genealogy in chapter three. As I prepared that sermon, I wanted to urge the church and all new members who are coming into the life of our church to consider why I would commit an entire sermon to list of 77 names.
We Embrace the Principle: Tota Scriptura
The Reformers popularized five Latin slogans during the Reformation to emphasize their commitment to Scripture and to the doctrines of grace.
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
This list of slogans intentionally begins with sola Scriptura. When we read creeds and confessions of church history, we notice that they often begin with an article on the Scriptures. All doctrines and positions will emerge from a specific connection to the Scriptures. A firm commitment to the Scriptures prevents additives and heretical alterations to the pure doctrines of the faith. The Reformers were champions of God’s Word and stood courageously upon the firm foundation of the Scriptures.
However, we must not forget that the Reformers were likewise committed to tota Scriptura. In other words, there are no wasted words in the Bible. Every sentence and every verb is placed there with intentionality by the Holy Spirit. Our commitment to the Bible must include a commitment to the whole of Scripture—including the genealogy.
If the church hears their pastor wax eloquent about the inerrancy, the authority, and the sufficiency of Scripture (especially on Reformation Sunday), and they watch him skip over the genealogy when preaching through a Gospel or through the text in Genesis—it could unintentionally create confusion and cause people to doubt the importance of every paragraph in the Bible.
Expository preaching forces us to deal with every verse of Scripture and this prevents us from avoiding hard texts, difficult doctrines, and potentially divisive subjects. Sometimes a church needs to be stirred up on a specific issue and rightly so by what the Bible actually teaches. If a pastor is willing to skip a genealogy because it’s perceived to be boring or because it’s a tongue twisting pronunciation exercise—he will likely be willing to skip over other verses (and doctrines) if it serves him best or protects him from undue controversy with people he’s entrusted to shepherd.
In short, preaching the genealogy will bolster the church’s confidence in the totality of Scripture and create in them appreciation for their pastor who refuses to skip and jump around through the Scriptures—which nearly anyone can do.
We Can Learn Theology in a Genealogy
While a first glance at a list of 77 names might appear as if it’s rather shallow and lacking in theological depth for a sermon, if you take time to unpack the names and what’s being communicated by the author (in this case, Luke), you will discover a wealth of theology. If you’re intimidated by the pronunciation of the names, start early and practice. You might get a name or two wrong in your pronunciation, but you’ll likely get the theology right if you have a commitment to unpacking the text properly.
Both of the Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) point to Abraham. This is important in order to establish the Jewish line of Jesus. One must never underestimate the importance of the Abrahamic covenant in the story of redemption. Abraham is looked upon as the Father of the Jewish people, but we see a promise given to Abraham and in this covenant we see how God calls, saves, and establishes his covenant of grace with sinners. It was not by works of righteousness that Abraham performed. It was by grace through faith. A simple word study of Abraham that flows through the New Testament will demonstrate how important this covenant is in the story of God’s saving grace. Luke mentions Abraham on purpose.
Not only do we see the theology of the Abrahamic covenant, we likewise see the name David mentioned. This points us to the Davidic covenant. Luke is seeking to emphasize that Jesus is the King of kings—the King greater than David. The gospel of Luke ends with a supremely jarring statement: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50–53).
Why is this such a shocking section of verses? The shocking statement is found in verse 53 as they worshipped Jesus and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Earlier in the Gospel account, the disciples were filled with great fear when Jesus announced his departure. Now, they’re filled with great joy. What’s the difference?
The difference is centered on the reality that they were given a glimpse into the Kingly position of Jesus who himself said to them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me….” In short, they came to understand that Jesus is the King who is greater than David. All through the New Testament, we find references that validate the disciples’ view of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords (see 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16; Phil. 2:9-11).
Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul and sing
Of Him Who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.
In the case of Matthew, he’s writing to a Jewish audience and has a goal of communicating the legal right of Jesus to assume the throne of David as the Messiah of Israel. Matthew takes the line of Joseph in order to make his case. Luke, on the other hand, traces out the line of Mary (without naming one woman’s name-including Mary) to make the overarching point that Jesus came to save a people from every tongue, tribe, people and nation on planet earth. We can see this by where the two genealogical lists stop. Matthew and Luke both flow in opposite directions and have different stopping points. Luke goes back to Adam with great intentionality to emphasize the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Jesus’ name means savior. Luke places an emphasis upon the use of the word “savior” unlike the other Gospel accounts. Therefore, as Luke traces the genealogy back to Adam he’s pointing beyond the border of Israel. He’s making the case that Jesus did not come to save the lost sheep of Israel only. He came to save all of his people from every nation around the world—both Jew and Gentile.
This is why we find verses like Romans 1:16 that emphasizes “Jew” and “Gentile” in the saving plan of the gospel. We hear echoes of this in 1 John 2:1-2 as Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The emphasis of the “world” is to point beyond the border of Israel.
Luke begins with Jesus (the last Adam) and ends with Adam (the first Adam). The full study of salvation points to the reality that Christ came to reverse the curse of the first Adam.
- The first Adam damned us.
- The last Adam saved us.
- The first Adam led us away from God.
- The last Adam brought us near to God.
- The first Adam imputed to our account the guilt of sin.
- The last Adam imputed to our account the righteousness of God.
- The first Adam cursed us by birthright.
- The last Adam saved us by faith.
This is why we should preach through a genealogy. Every verse matters. We must unpack the author’s intent of including such a list of names as he points to the life and ministry of Jesus—the Christ of God. A refusal to skip over a genealogy demonstrates the heart of a true expositor who is committed to rightly dividing the Word of Truth.