Otto, whose name is a palindrome like Bob, asks a great question:
I read your commentaries and explanations of the Scriptures with much interest. Thanks for the wonderful ministry of GES. I have a question: Was the intention of the Bible writers that each book or epistle be explained verse by verse or chapter by chapter to the congregation? For example, was the intention to go through a book and preach in one year or so, or was the intention that those books be read in one setting? Another example: Let’s say the Epistle to the Ephesians was intended to be read to the congregation in one setting or through expository sections that may take 6 months?
First, it is fairly clear that Paul and the other writers of NT Epistles expected their letters to be read in one setting to the church or churches to which it was addressed. Except for longer epistles like Romans or Hebrews, all of the letters can be read aloud in less than thirty minutes.
Second, if the NT authors knew that what they were writing was Scripture, which is not certain, then they likely expected their letters to be read again, after the first reading, this time in smaller portions, likely with exposition. That was the way in which they handled the OT Scriptures in the synagogues before they came to faith in Christ.
Third, since the Holy Spirit knew the NT Epistles were Scripture, He intended the letters to be read again and again, most likely in smaller portions each week with exposition.
Fourth, and this is key, neither the OT nor the NT teaches us how to teach God’s Word. There appears to be plenty of freedom. R. B. Thieme took years to go through various epistles. For example, he gave 1414 messages on Ephesians, 758 messages on Romans, 91 on 1 Corinthians (of which 28 are on chapter 13 only), 88 on 2 Corinthians, and 116 on Philippians, to name just a few (see here p. 33 for a full listing of all his messages).
Today many churches that practice verse by verse exposition limit any one series to a dozen weeks or less. Other churches might have a series that lasts one year. But that is about the max for most Bible churches today.
I preached through Genesis a few years ago in my former Plymouth Brethren assembly where I spoke once a month. It took me four years to cover the fifty chapters of Genesis. Generally, I try to cover about half a chapter per message when I speak on the Epistles. So, I’d take about 12 messages to preach through a book like Ephesians.
There is a lot of freedom on how we preach and teach.
The key to teaching God’s Word is this: teach God’s Word. Too many preachers have some pet peeve they want to preach, and then they go to the Bible to find a few verses that relate to that. They don’t really preach the Word. They preach their pet peeve, whether it be dating, financial investing, raising children, voting, exercise, diet, or any other topic that receives very little direct attention in Scripture.
I find that if I preach through a book or letter and teach the author’s/Author’s message, then I’m not trying to come up with my own message that I might baptize in a few verses that aren’t really on that subject.
I do preach topical messages on occasion. But they are harder, because they require me to explain multiple passages in various books, all dealing with the same subject. I don’t believe in just quoting a verse and acting like that proves my point. I feel the need to explain verses that I cite.