Preaching Clear Sermons (Part Two)
1. The Importance of a Single Idea
There are a number of spheres in life that have recognised the significance in using a ‘single idea’ in communication. This should be our goal in preaching. So, how do we develop a single idea? Through praying and preparation we should be asking ourselves: What do we believe God wants to speak to a certain group of people? This can come through a specific Bible passage or a specific theme whereby you search the Bible to find an appropriate passage. Once we begin to become settled on the specific theme or Bible passage, we should work on the following:
A. Develop a title that communicates that single idea.
B. Often take your title from the Bible passage you will be using.
C. Develop your structure around that single idea.
Here are some examples of sermons that I have preached in the past; ones that sought to capture the use of a single idea.
i. Romans 8:12–13: ‘The Indwelling of Sin and the Holy Spirit in the Life of Every Christian.’
ii. Luke11:22–31: ‘Ravens and Lilies.’
iii. John 10:27–30: ‘The Sheep of His Hand’; the doctrine was the perseverance of the saints, which means that true Christians cannot perish and lose their salvation.
Consider these Bible passages and write down what is the main theme of each passage and what title you would give a sermon from that passage.
1. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
2. Revelation 1:12-20
3. Genesis 12:1-9
Write down, in a few sentences, an explanation as to ‘why you think a good title is important?’ and ‘how can a focus on a single idea influence your sermon preparation?’
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
A sermon must always be taken out of the Bible and the reading of a passage should be followed by an explanation of what the particular chosen passage means. This is called expository preaching. We must preach out of the Bible and not about the Bible in a loose way. Two words, eisegesis and exegesis, need defining in order to help us understand our aim when preparing a sermon to be preached. Eisegesis is something we should want to avoid because this means the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas into the reading of a biblical text. This act of reading into a Bible text what is not there can include mystical ideas for interpretation, the use of allegory that is pushed beyond the scriptural limits or even our own opinions that may deviate from the biblical authors’ intended meaning. Exegesis is our aim because this seeks to determine the intended meaning of a text. Here are three principles that can help us to develop the skill called exegetical preaching, whereby we attempt to accurately understand a passage.
A. Find out the wider context of the passage and its life-setting in relation to the unfolding history of salvation from the rest of the Bible.
B. Consider the context of the passage in relation to the whole of the biblical book that it comes from. What is the literary style of the book? What was the historical context and purpose of the book?
C. What understanding do other parts of Scripture shed on this passage (also called the analogy of faith, which means comparing Scripture with Scripture)?
Our aim is always to discover what a passage is actually saying and how that passage was understood by its original hearers.
Consider these three passages and try to remember how, in your experience, they are commonly interpreted. Write down what you think is the intended meaning of each passage.
1. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).
2. Hebrews 6:4–6 (Try to reconcile this passage with the teaching of Jesus in John 10:27–30).
3. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31–46).