There are basically two main types of preaching, or two types of Bible study…expository and topical. 

Expository preaching is going through a portion or book of the Bible, verse by verse, understanding the context and how it applies to us.  In describing expository preaching in his book, PREACHING, John MacArthur wrote, “The message finds its sole source in Scripture. The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis. The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context. The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture. The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today.”  As we carefully study different books of the Bible, it often becomes evident as to who the book was written to and why it was written.  We then can understand the context when we understand the purpose of the book. 

I appreciate how the Apostle John tells us why he wrote his books. 

* On the Gospel of John, he wrote, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:30-31).

* On the first epistle of John, he wrote, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13).

* On the book of Revelation, he wrote, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Revelation 1:1).

These statements help us to understand the purpose of the book and so help us look at the book in the light of why it was written.  Looking carefully at the books of Ephesians and Colossians, we can see there are very similar portions in each book.  Yet, the spiritual needs of those in Ephesus differed slightly from those in Colosse, so we also see some difference in the purpose and teaching of these two books. 

The other main type of studying and preaching is ‘topical’.  This is when we choose a particular topic we want to learn about and search the scriptures for knowledge about that topic.  We may want to learn more about the deity of Christ, the lives of different people in the Bible, the different prophesies in the Bible, the different doctrines in the Bible, etc.  As we mature in our Christian lives, we often desire to know more about specific topics.  We read in Isaiah 28:9-10, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”  The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, so we can explore its truths and compare scripture with scripture to learn correctly.  This is also a very valuable way to study our Bibles.

So, which is best…expository or topical studies and preaching?  While both are essential to Christian growth and maturity, I would have to say it is most important that we learn what the Bible teaches us in the context it is given.  Therefore, I believe that expository study is better.  However, topical study/preaching is also so very valuable to the believer.  It is good for the believer to use both methods of study to continue to grow in the Lord’s things.  (434.4)