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Preach the Word


"The Teacher... searched out and set in order many proverbs" (Eccles.12:9).

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.


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 its form.


Consider these sermon forms:

Textual sermons
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).

Expository sermons
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 and study.

Topical sermons

  1. A text may suggest a topic (e.g., Jn. 3:16 may suggest God's Great Love; 1 Pet.2:9 may invite a message on The Priesthood of All Believers).

  2. 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).

  3. 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).

Typical sermons
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.)

Biographical sermons
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 the Hebrews).

Apologetic sermons
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!

Ethical sermons
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.

Evangelistic sermon
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.

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Copyright 2007 Vernon Ralphs

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