"The Teacher... searched out and set in order many proverbs"
Introduction We now consider contents of the sermon itself. The way we
commence and conclude a sermon is obviously important. The use of
illustration is vital too.
1. THE SERMON FORM
Sermons should have a commencement (in which a text or subject
is introduced and the attention of the congregation is gained); a
continuation (when the theme or topic is illuminated and applied); and
a conclusion (when the sermon is applied and an appeal is made).
How many points?
The three-point sermon has much going for it. Ancient rhetorical
speeches recognised the attraction of three premises to support an
argument. Business manuals advise three points in business addresses.
You can develop this paradigm by having three subheadings with an
illustration or text in each section. However, there are many patterns
you can use. Experiment with different constructions. One old
preacher's sermons used multiple points, which he developed one by one.
He compared himself to a perfumist, who delighted his clients by
opening his jars of perfume in turn. The type of sermon may determine
2. FORM EXAMPLES
Consider these sermon forms:
This type of sermon sets out to exegete a Bible verse and apply it. A
text may be atomised. In this instance always bear the context of the
verse in mind in your exegesis. As a rule don't atomise poetry - such
as found in the poetical books of the OT (Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes,
Song of Solomon).
An expository sermon expounds a portion of Scripture larger than that
normally used in textual sermons. This kind of sermon has its dangers,
the chief one being lack of preparation. You can deceive yourself into
thinking that a larger passage of Scripture requires less consideration
A text may suggest a topic (e.g., Jn. 3:16 may suggest
Love; 1 Pet.2:9 may invite a message on The Priesthood of All
A string of texts may suggest a theme (e.g., Rom.6:23,
Acts 2:38 and 1 Tim.4:14 and God's Gifts).
A biblical book may promote a topic (e.g., The People
Jesus Met in
John's Gospel. Ephesians represents the Church as a body, a building
and a bride).
Then there are subjects and themes which are peculiar to one Testament
(e.g., the Patriarchs and Israel in the OT and the ministry of Jesus
Christ and the Church in the NT). There subjects which common to the
Bible (e.g., man's experience of God and prayer).
This sermon features biblical types. Jesus spoke of himself as the
Bread of Life, the Light of the Word, the Door, the Good Shepherd, and
the Road. He saw himself as a vine with his followers like branches
taking life from him (Jn.15:1ff.). The NT book of Hebrews is full of
typology. The preacher is on good ground while biblical types are being
used, that is, those that are explained by Scripture itself. But there
is a danger. Extensive allegorisation or spiritualisation can go too
far. Be careful to interpret scripture with scripture. Bear in mind
that parables normally apply one, or at the most two, points. Parables
are not allegories. (The Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the
Tenants (Mt.13:1-9; 21:33-41) are exceptions to this rule.)
Character studies are always interesting; people like to hear about
people. Bible characters may be profiled (e.g., Moses' life may be
divided into three periods of 40 years each (see Acts 7:23,30,36).
Characters may be compared. Bible couples include Adam and Eve, Cain
and Abel, Jacob and Esau, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha, John
and Jesus, Paul and Barnabas. Some OT characters, such as Aaron,
Joshua, Moses and Melchizedek are types of Christ (see the Epistle to
Apologetics state the truths of Christianity defensively - they present
reasons for what Christians believe. Today the Church needs preachers
who will state what the Bible teaches about sin, the future life,
justice, honesty, marriage and sexuality. Magazines, newspapers and
television programmes often provide an introduction to topical issues.
The preacher should be able to defend the faith with reason as well as
with emotion. The unbeliever needs convincing, and the believer often
needs reassuring. Logic on fire is an irresistible force!
Think macro-sermons. Preach justice, mercy and faithfulness (Mt.23:23).
Two major elements which must be addressed are those of loving God and
loving one's fellow man (Mt.22:40). Sermons must interface with
everyday life. Sermons must be practical and achievable. Expository
preaching allows the Bible to apply its truths. For example, preaching
through Ephesians will bring to bear subjects such as sexual morality,
relationships, employers and employment, and applying the Word of God.
We must preach the good news (Mk.16:15,16). Preach the Word with
concern (2 Cor.5:14). James S.Stewart says we must preach the
incarnation, forgiveness, the cross, and the resurrection of Christ
(Teach Yourself Preaching). Aim for repentance, faith and surrender.