Commited to Verse By Verse Exposition?

July 1, 2008

“A famous example of verse by verse exposition is seen in his (Calvin’s) return to Geneva after his banishment three years earlier. In September 1541, Calvin re-entered his Geneva pulpit and resumed his exposition exactly where he had stopped three years earlier – on the next verse. Similarly, Calvin became seriously ill in the first week of October 1658 and did not return to the pulpit until Monday, June 12 1559 – when he resumed at the very next verse in the book of Isaiah.”

(Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin, page 33)


  1. Whereas Spurgeon famously did not. Yet both were outstanding examples of Biblical, Christ-centred preaching.

    One preacher told me recently that he could no longer preach ‘long series’. This wasn’t so much the result of a reflection on the much-vaunted shrinking of attention spans in the T.V. age – more that the faces in front of him are constantly changing. Work and leisure patterns mean that people come and go from the town with alarming frequency and benefit more from shorter series they can hear the whole of, book overviews, or individual messages.

    Spurgeon’s approach in London demonstrates that while verse-by-verse (or even paragraph by paragraph) exposition might be the norm for most preachers – this highly valuable part of our tradition isn’t an inflexible rule from the Bible, which must be followed come what may.

  2. Looks like one of the dates might be off a little. I believe Calvin still preaches from the grave, so to speak, but I’m not sure you were going for that here. John Piper gets a great response when he shares this particular story in his biographical message on John Calvin. It’s a very good listen.

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