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“Surely those things which Christ and his apostles chiefly insisted on in the rules they gave, ministers ought chiefly to insist on in the rules they give. To insist much on those things on which the Scripture insists little, and to insist very little on those things on which the Scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing; because it is going out of God’s way, and is to judge ourselves, and guide others, in an unscriptural manner. God knew which way of leading and guiding souls was safest and best for them; he insisted so much on some things, because he knew it to be needful that they should be insisted on; and let other things more alone, as a wise God, because he knew it was not best for us, so much to lay the weight of the trial there. As the Sabbath was made for man, so the Scriptures were made for man; and they are by infinite wisdom fitted for our use and benefit. We should therefore make them our guide in all things, in our thoughts of religion, and of ourselves. And for us to make that great which the Scripture makes little, and that little which the Scripture makes great, tends to give us a monstrous idea of religion; and (at least indirectly and gradually) to lead us wholly away from the right rule….” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, III.XIV)
This is a good reminder, especially as we think about preaching.
Our aim in expository preaching is not to use the text to preach our own thoughts, ideas, applications, hobby horses, opinions, or to trampoline off the text into some topic or application we want to emphasize, but to dig into the text and let our emphasis and focus proportionally reflect that of the text (while of course contextualizing for pastoral concerns of our particular church and setting). Let’s be honest; we are not that wise (Prov 3:5-6). Our ideas are utter foolishness compared to what God has to say. Moreover, to insert our agenda or displace the emphasis of scripture is actually somewhat quite audacious — to hijack the very purpose that God had in given that passage.
The following is a general outline of the process I follow when preparing sermons:
Sermon Preparation Process
** Prayer throughout **
- Understanding the text:
- Read the text including its broader context.
- Read the passage slowly, meditatively, and prayerfully – Compile notes.
- Exegete and interpret – Look at text in original language; look at various translations; attend to text critical matters, grammar, syntax, word studies, structure, purpose, relevant parallel passages, theological analysis, etc.
- Consider the passage’s relationship to redemptive history, the Gospel, Christ, and mission.
- Anticipate sermon development: formulate passage’s purpose; develop initial conception of sermon structure; consider illustrations and applications.
- Use resources (e.g., commentaries, sermons). Compile notes on key observations.
- Sermon construction:
- Determine main point/purpose.
- Develop sermon structure.
- Fill-in sermon substance: introduction, prayers, explanations, illustrations, and applications, and conclusion.
- Final matters:
- Refine/complete sermon.
- Review sermon.
- Preach the sermon to yourself.
- Pray for sermon delivery and effect.
The following is my personal passage worksheet when preparing a sermon on passage.
Structure: How is this passage organized to communicate its emphasis and make a point (i.e., how do all the parts work together as a whole and fit together to communicate a unified thought or argument)?
Context: How do the context(s) inform or illuminate your understanding of this passage?[*]
(a) Immediate literary context—sections immediately before and after.
(b) Macro-literary context—placement in and contribution to the whole book.
(c) Historical context—known historical circumstances surrounding the contents of the passage.
(d) Intended context—the situation of the original audience into which this was written and would have been received.
(e) Biblical context—allusions or references to other Biblical material.
(f) Redemptive-historical context—location in the storyline of scripture.
Claim: What is the author’s controlling thought in this passage and point of which he intends to persuade his audience?
Aim: How does the author intend this passage to function in the lives of his audience? What is the desired effect this claim is meant to have on them? What is the intended response?
Gospel: How does the claim of this passage direct us to Christ and relate to the gospel event? What part(s) of the gospel are in view here?
Conclusion: What is the claim of this passage as it comes to bear on us through Christ and in light of our place redemptive history?
Response: What does it look like for us to respond to this claim and embody the aim of this passage? What would it look like for today’s audience to grow in and live out (implement; apply) the truths of this passage?
Evangelistic: How might you present the truths of this passage to a non-believer with them aim of showing them their need for salvation and persuading them to trust in Christ?
Mission: How does this passage fit into God’s plan of working redemption and renewal through the local church? In other words, how does this passage equip the church for its mission?
Outline: How might you convey the claim of this passage in a way that reflects its structure and emphasis and captures its tone?
The following is my personal check-list I developed for consultation when preparing sermons:
- True to the passage’s…
- Authorial intent?
- Passage structure or form?
- Context and book?
- Aim (affections, belief, trust, obedience, thoughts, actions, etc.)?
- Biblical theology:
- Redemptive-historical context considered?
- Relationship to Christ?
- Passage interpreted in light of the Gospel?
- Inspiring vision of God set forth?
- Sermon quality:
- Main point—clear and frequently stated?
- Well organized—clear and helpful structure?
- Simple—avoids unnecessary complexity?
Selective—on what will you choose to focus?
- Brief—the “less is more” principle; distinguish what is important vs. what is merely interesting?
Perspective—don’t miss the “forest for the trees” or the “trees for the forest.”
- Concise—high quality to quantity ratio?
- Use of pithy, memorable phrases?
- Helpful illustrations, introduction, and conclusion?
- Practical? Down to earth? Thoughtful, engaging, quality applications
- Audience consideration:
- Sermon oriented specifically to this audience?
- Clear, understandable language?
- Clear explanations of theological issues?
- Answers given to questions the average person may have of the text?
- Audience’s translation(s) considered?
- Conscientious of nonbelievers? Gospel presented?
This post was originally published at Rolfing Unshelved.
On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.
I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!
This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.
As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,
The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.