For many pastors, expositing an entire Old Testament book like Exodus can feel daunting. Chris Newkirk, Pastor of Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ, recently did just that. We sat down with him to ask seven questions about his church’s experience walking through Exodus. We hope this Q&A encourages you to preach through entire Old Testament books to bless your congregations and show them the Christ-centered narrative thrust of all Scripture.
Phoenix Seminary: How long did it take you to get through Exodus?
Chris Newkirk: Our church family walked through the book of Exodus verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter over the course of 39 sermons. We spread those over a year and a half, using the natural narrative breaks of Exodus to preach various, shorter New Testament books.
PS: Why do you like to alternate between OT and NT books in your preaching?
CN: At Whitton we have a deep commitment to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This is not only the pattern that we see in Paul’s ministry it; naturally flows from our doctrine of Scripture. So, even in what we choose to preach, we aim to teach our congregation that the entire counsel of God’s Word (‘All Scripture’) is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Furthermore, by alternating between Testaments and even genres within those Testaments, we hope to train our people how to read their own Bibles faithfully and give them an appetite to do so.
PS: What did you find to be the central message of Exodus?
CN: Although Exodus is a relatively long and quite diverse book, the central message that we returned to throughout our study was simply this: God sovereignly saves a special people for his own glory.
PS: What did preaching through Exodus teach you about God?
CN: As with every book in Scripture, Exodus is all about God. He is the hero and the focus of each and every section. Therefore, we learned a tremendous amount about God. Exodus contains two of the most explicit passages of God’s own self-disclosure: Exodus 3:14-15 and Exodus 34:6-7. Yet, even more broadly than the explicit self-revelation passages, Exodus shows us that God is the singular, sovereign, supreme God of the universe. He is the God who makes and keeps covenant with his chosen people. He reigns over creation itself (the Red Sea, the plagues), king’s hearts (Pharaoh), salvation (the Exodus, Passover, Sinai), and even the smallest details that we might otherwise call coincidence (Moses’ being found by Pharaoh’s daughter but then reared by his own mother on Pharaoh’s dime). We also learn a tremendous amount about God’s holiness and redemptive plans through the commands, laws, and tabernacle in the later chapters of Exodus.
PS: How did your people benefit from hearing Exodus preached weekly?
CN: First of all, our church family loved our study of Exodus just as they had when we walked through Genesis the years before. We constantly heard good feedback on what people were learning, how they were being encouraged, and how they were applying what they had learned. One man came up after our final sermon and said, “So, when do we start Leviticus?” – what a blessing to a pastor’s heart. By God’s grace, the congregation not only benefited from studying one book, they learned core truths and biblical stories that are vital to understanding every other part of Scripture. People learned to see and cherish Christ. They learned what it looks like to love God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). And, people were drawn to rest in the hope that God is working to not only create a people but to dwell with them in a restored and better Eden.
PS: Any tips or recommendations for those considering preaching through Exodus?
CN: First off, DO IT! Pastors tend to shy away from preaching consecutive exposition through larger Old Testament books. But, it is worth it and, if preached faithfully, your people benefit greatly.
Second, preach the entire thing. Although it is fine to preach sections of books, ultimately, our people are most blessed and benefited when we let Scripture speak for itself. Our people are grown and stretched as we preach not only the sections that seem to us to be relevant but the whole narrative. After all, our hope and prayer is that God’s people would read their Bibles devotionally just like we are modeling in our preaching.
Third, preach Christ. One of my mentors tells a story about how, after preaching an Old Testament text, a member came up to him and said “That was a great synagogue sermon.” The point was clear, where was Christ? Pastor, you don’t have to get creative or do interpretive ‘off-roading.’ Christ is rich and ever present in Exodus—its themes, typology, doctrines, and theological trajectory. Show your people Christ in all the richness of Exodus, and they’ll be richly blessed.
PS: What commentaries, articles, podcasts, or other resources helped you prepare to preach Exodus?
CN: A two commentaries that proved really useful in our study were John D. Currid’s 2 volume commentary set and T. Desmond Alexander’s commentary
I also consider Philip Ryken’s Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory and Tony Merida’s Exalting Jesus in Exodus to be very helpful resources for expository preaching.
Dr. Newkirk is the lead pastor at Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been involved in vocational ministry for 15 years, in Oklahoma, Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington D.C. In addition to pastoring, Dr. Newkirk has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Reformed Theological Seminary, and he teaches adjunct at Phoenix Seminary as part of our Ministry Apprenticeship Alliance program.