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How To Teach The Bible: For Beginners

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Introduction

If the ability to study, understand, and respond to God’s truth is one of the greatest joys in life, then the ability and opportunity to communicate that hard-won truth to others is a very close second. Having experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through the understanding and application of God’s word, there is always a contagious desire to share that with others. In Colossians 3:16, the apostle Paul says that this should characterize the tenor of our time with other Christians. He said,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.

The point of this lesson is to help you share God’s truth from Scripture with greater skill and enjoyment. This lesson builds on the previous lesson which concentrated on how to study the Bible. Thus we are moving from understanding a text of Scripture to communicating a text of Scripture.

But understanding the theory and process of communication takes time and is difficult work. Therefore, we have kept this lesson to the basics. It is designed with the beginner in mind. We will not be delving into the deep (and quite murky these days) waters regarding the theory of communication, but will present a simple model that can, with some skill and understanding, be applied to any portion of Scripture. So, while there is much more to learn, this study will bring you to the place where you can creatively and accurately share God’s word with others in a home Bible study class, an evangelistic setting, a Sunday School class, or even in a church setting from the pulpit. May God richly bless you as you study his word and then package your findings for others. Take your audience where you’ve been—that’s real teaching!

I. A Very Brief Overview of the Process of STUDYING and TEACHING a Bible Lesson

    A. Study Section (All the Steps We Discussed in “How To Study the Bible”)

      1) Pick Your Passage

      2) Study the Passage Using Observation and Questions/Answers

      3) Summarize the Passage in a Subject/Complement

      4) Outline Your Passage

    B. Teaching Section

      5) Develop the Subject/Complement

      6) Develop Your Lesson from the Outline

      7) Write the Conclusion and the Introduction

II. An Expanded Overview of the Process of TEACHING A Bible Lesson

    A. First, Crystallize the “Big Idea”

      1. Select A Passage and Study It (See “How to Study the Bible: For Beginners”)

      2. State the Subject/Complement Clearly and Succinctly

        a. According to the World of the Text

        b. According to the World of Your Audience (Your Homiletical Idea)

    B. Second, Develop the Homiletical1 Idea according to the Outline and Purpose for the Lesson

      1. Ask Yourself Three Questions in Light of One Primary Question

        a. One Primary Question: What Is the Purpose of My Lesson? What Do I Want It to Accomplish?

        b. Three Developmental Questions: What Do I Need to Explain, Defend, and/or Apply from the Idea so that the Purpose for the Sermon Will Be Realized?

      2. State Your Outline in Terms of Universal Truths

    C. Bring the Lesson to a Fitting Conclusion and Write the Introduction

      1. A Conclusion Should…

        a. Summarize the “Big Idea” in the Lesson

        b. Motivate People to Respond

          i. Through Imaging Situations Where Truth Applies

          ii. Through Story Which Illustrates Truth

          iii. Through a Specific Call to Respond with Particular Applications

      2. An Introduction Should…

        a. Capture the Attention of the Audience

        b. Raise the Need for the Lesson

        c. Orient People to the “Big Idea” in the Lesson

III. Principles For Working With Expository, Narrative, And Poetic Material

The examples we are using in this lesson are taken from three of the predominant genres2 in the Bible: (1) expository writing, (2) narrative literature, and (3) poetry. We need to comment on these briefly in order to help you work with and teach these various genres.

A. Expository Materials

The epistles are expository letters sent to various churches to further them in their understanding of God, Christ and his work, the Spirit, and living honorably for God. They are decidedly not stories, though they make frequent reference to stories from the Old Testament (e.g., Romans 4; 2 Cor 3). They are didactic, expositional writings whose meaning is direct and, compared to most narrative, on the surface. They lend themselves to outlines much more easily and are concerned with communicating raw ideas. Note: there are times when expositional material appears in the context of narrative, such as John 1:1-18 and the many didactic discourses of Christ in the gospels. They must be related to the entire narrative, but treated as expositional material. Also, it is to be noted that there is a fair amount of poetry in the various expository letters of the New Testament.

Let me illustrate: In the lesson, How to Study the Bible: For Beginners, we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10 in some detail. We made observations on the words, etc. and asked/answered questions on the passage. In the end we summarized the message of the passage by developing a subject/complement. Did you notice how different that was than working through the example from John 9:1-41. In Ephesians 2:1-10 the meaning is on the surface and not indirectly communicated. This does not mean that some parts were not hard to understand, but that the intent and meaning of the passage is generally clearer than most narrative texts where you are never explicitly told what the passage means. This also means that it will be easier in some ways to teach expositional texts, since the truths expressed therein do not really have to undergo much translation for our contemporary audience. The meaning of the phrase “do not lie to one another” is fairly straightforward. Narrative, on the other hand, has to be translated for us because we do not share the same world as the people of Scripture and because the meaning of a story is seldom explicitly given for us. Let’s take a brief look at narrative material.

B. Narrative Material

Narrative material (e.g., stories) is indirect in the way it communicates its message, appealing primarily to the senses, not so much to the intellect directly as expositional writing does. It invites you to enter the world of the characters and experience what they experience. It is built on settings, characters, and plot (usually involving some conflict, test, journey, desire, etc.) and does not usually come right out and tell you what its meaning is (cf. the Good Samaritan). When we teach narrative we must open up our listeners to the world of the stories by taking the time to paint the setting in such a way that the listeners feel transported into another world, i.e., the world of the story. There is the need for the creative and fertile use of the imagination, to smell the sea breeze, hear the sounds of children crying, see the lame man jump for joy, as it were. This will help your people enter into the lives and struggles/victories of the characters.

The structure of narrative material proceeds more by scenes and episodes than strictly by paragraphs, as in the case of the epistles, for example. Thus, in John chapter 9, we studied several paragraphs because that was the length of the entire story about the healing of the blind man. And this story itself fits into a larger story concerning the ministry of Jesus which John is writing for his audience. The healing of the man demonstrates the power of Christ to overcome enormous problems; he is worthy of belief. The reaction of the religious leaders is consistent with the fact that there are those who will always resist the truth in favor of protecting their own position and status in life.

The bottom line is: when teaching a story from the Bible, help the people in the audience identify with the characters in the story, especially the ones who are good examples to follow. Help them to live it, as if they were there when it happened. Thus, recreation is of the essence in teaching narrative material.

C. Poetic Material

There is a great deal of poetic material in the Bible, including the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, huge portions of the prophets, and as already noted, at various places in the New Testament epistles as well. Now we know from reading the psalms that Biblical poetry is filled with images such as: (1) shepherds; (2) fortresses; (3) solid rocks, (4) birds; (5) floods; (6) swords; (7) darkness; (8) light; (9) open graves; (10) stars, (11) honey; (12) gall; etc. With the use of metaphors and images the interpreter realizes that the writer is appealing primarily to the senses. Therefore, in reading and teaching the psalms there will be the need to unpack the significance of the images through a generous use of the senses, feelings, and imagination. In fact, the structure of many poems are built on the movement from one image to another. You will want to outline many poems according to the progression of ideas or images which move throughout the poem.

In our lesson on studying the Bible we listed two questions that should be asked of key terms. They were: (1) Referent? To what does the term actually refer? and (2) Sense? What is the sense? Positive/Negative, feeling, etc. This latter question is extremely important when studying and teaching poetic material. For example, when David refers to himself as a “worm” and not a man, you will want to uncover the connotations (other meanings beyond the literal) involved in the use of the this term (cf. Psalm 22:6). What is the sense of Rock when used to refer to God in Psalm 78:35? In Isaiah 40:31—a familiar passage to many of us—what images and feelings is the picture of “soaring on wings like eagles” designed to invoke in the reader.? Commentaries will help you with some of the cultural background for these images. You should dwell on these images “long and hard” because they have such great explanatory power and motivational “gusto.”

IV. Preparing A Lesson from Expository Material—John 1:1-18

A. Pick the Passage: John 1:1-18

B. Study the Passage Using Observations and Questions/Answers

We completed this in the previous lesson. Go there now and review the material if you need to. Think through the words, structure (grammar and literary), mood, as well as the type of literature you’re working with. We gave you a little help above with teaching three different kinds of literature, e.g., expository, narrative, and poetic.

C. State the Subject/Complement:

We said that the subject/complement for John 1:1-18 was something like: The reason that the eternal Word of God became flesh was so that he might reveal God to all men and that they might believe in him and become God’s children.

D. Develop the Textual (Exegetical3) Outline of the Passage

We prepared the following general outline:

    I. The Deity of the Word (1:1-5)

      A. The Word Was God (1:1-2)

      B. The Word Was Creator (1:3)

      C. The Word Was the Life and Light of Men (1:4-5)

    II. The Preparation for the Earthly Ministry of the Word (1:6-9)

      A. John Was Sent from God (1:6)

      B. John Testified to the Light So That All Men Might Believe (1:7)

      C. John Himself Was not the True Light, Only A Witness (1:8)

      D. The True Light Enlightens Every Man in the World (1:9)

    III. The Response to the Word (1:10-13)

      A. The World Did not Recognize Him (1:10)

      B. His Own Did not Receive Him (1:11)

      C. Those Who Received (Believed) Became Children of God (1:12)

      D. God’s Children Are Born not by Any Human Origin, But by God (1:13)

    IV. The Humanity and Revelation of the Word Brings A New Era of Grace (1:14-18)

      A. The Word Who Came from the Father Became Human (1:14)

      B. John’s Humble Testimony Concerning the Preexistence of Christ (1:15)

      C. We Have Been Blessed from the Fullness of Christ’s Grace (1:16)

      D. The Contrast Between Jesus and the Law of Moses (1:17)

      E. Jesus, the One and Only God, Has Made Him Known (1:18)

E. Develop the Subject/Complement

In order to develop the subject/complement we ask three questions in light of one primary question. The primary question is: What is the purpose for this lesson? What do I want to accomplish with this lesson? Well, the purpose I choose should be consistent with the purpose for the passage as originally given—as far as we can tell. Now it is clear that John wrote the prologue to his gospel (1:1-18) in order to foster genuine and full belief in Jesus. So, his purpose was directly related to the salvation of people as well as their subsequent growth in the Christian life.

Let’s say that our audience is an adult Sunday School class in which the students are fairly well acquainted with the teachings of the Bible. There are fifty people in the class and the needs vary accordingly. But, the one thing you notice in many of the people (and indeed in the culture at large) is a certain shallowness when it comes to thinking seriously about the relationship of their faith to sound Christian doctrine and living life in a morally decadent and challenging culture. In short, it is high time for a worldview inspection.

We said the subject/complement for John 1:1-18 went something like: The reason the eternal Word of God became flesh was so that he might reveal God and his grace to all men and that they might become God’s children by believing in him [i.e., the Word]. Thus the subject of the passage is connected to revelation and the fact that God has made himself known definitively in Christ. But profound understanding of God doesn’t seem to have penetrated very deeply into the hearts and minds of many in the church, let alone those in the world. Therefore, in this sermon we will want to explore the powerful theological statements John makes and juxtapose those with descriptions of our belief system and the axioms we hold dear in our culture. We will want to explore John’s truth in light of the need of our audience to think more seriously about God’s revelation in Christ. The goal is to entice people to live on another plane, though the sermon is directed more at the life of the mind as the first step in a changed life.

F. Develop the Lesson from the Outline

We know the purpose for the lesson now: “To encourage people to evaluate their own worldview by reflecting seriously on their Christian experience in light of the disturbing nature of their (our) sinfulness and the God’s definitive and profound revelation in Christ.”

Now we must develop this idea through the outline asking ourselves the three basic questions: (1) What do I need to explain? (2) What do I need to defend? (3) How can I apply the various texts as I make my way through the outline?

So then, we need to develop our original outline. We will develop it into a teaching outline by tying in each section (there will be three sections to the body of the lesson) so that it contributes to the big idea. We will add textual details as appropriate and illustrations as we go.

As we said, apart from the introduction and conclusion, there will be three main parts to the lesson. Each of these parts—and this is important—will develop our “big idea.” Remember, you are teaching people the Bible; you are not just teaching the Bible. In your original study of John 1:1-18 you were interested in what John meant by what he said. Now you are interested in bringing that meaning to bear on the lives of people (i.e., exposing them to the significance of John’s meaning for them). It is time to bring the first century text into the twentieth century. So let’s take our outline and rework it. We will do a partial outline, you will need to fill the rest in.

    I. Introduction

      A. Start with An Illustration

        1. Personable and Catchy/Not Corny: Raise the need to hear what you have to say.

        2. Contains Elements of the Big Idea in the Lesson:

      B. Then, Transition to Big Idea of Lesson

      You do not need to share the whole idea right up front, but you need to at least orient your audience to the subject. You can develop the complement as you go.

    II. Your Worldview and Jesus Christ (1:1-5)

      A. Textual Details

        1. The Word (Christ) Was God (1:1-2)

          a. Explain the Deity of Christ

          b. Our Search for God is Over (and men and women are searching)

        2. The Word (Christ) Was Creator (1:3)

          a. What Are the Implications of Such a Personal Creator

          b. We live in a world shot through with impersonal, natural evolution. Here’s how it’s affected you…

        3. The Word (Christ) Was the Life and Light of Men (1:4-5)

          a. Explore the idea of life

          b. What are our conceptions of real life?

        4. Application: A worldview seeks to answer at least four basic questions: (1) Who is God? (2) Who is Man? (3) What is the Problem? (4) What is the Solution? What is God’s worldview? What is mine?

      B. Illustration(s): Develop various aspects of the twentieth century worldview: (1) raw paganism; (2) the collapse of modernism and the rugged cowboy image; (3) loneliness and fear; (4) etc.

      C. Transition Sentence: So what you do you really believe about the world, and your life in it? Why do we have the problems we do and where should our hope be? That Probably depends in large measure on the way you perceive and understand people and why they do what they do

    III. The Disturbing Problem of Human Sinfulness and the Unconquerable Grace of God (1:6-13)

      A. We Are A Disobedient Lot (this part of the text is basically narrative so tell it like a story)

        1. Textual Details (remember to explain, defend, and apply the ideas)

          a. Explain: The True Light Which Enlightens Every Man (1:6-9)

          b. The Disturbing Issue of the Widespread Rejection of Christ (1:10-11)

        2. Illustration:

        3. Transition Sentence: The human heart is a dark place, a dilapidated and dangerous old house, but God knows his way around in the dark…

      B. But God’s Grace Is Unconquerable

        1. Textual Details

          a. Those Who Received (Believed) Became Children of God (1:12)

          b. God’s Children Are Born not by Any Human Origin, But by God (1:13)

        2. Illustration:

        3. Transition:

    IV. Rethinking our Understanding of the God Who Is There (1:14-18)

      A. Textual Details (Choose which ones you will develop for your purposes)

        1. The Word Who Came from the Father Became Human (1:14)

        2. John’s Humble Testimony Concerning the Preexistence of Christ (1:15)

        3. We Have Been Blessed from the Fullness of Christ’s Grace (1:16)

        4. The Contrast Between Jesus and the Law of Moses (1:17)

        5. Jesus, the One and Only God, Has Made Him Known (1:18)

      B. Illustration

      C. Transition to Conclusion

    V. Conclusion

      A. Summarize the Big Idea. Say it Again.

      B. Illustrate and Appeal

V. Preparing A Lesson from Narrative Material—John 9:1-41

Preparing a lesson from narrative material has its own set of challenges somewhat different from working with expository materials. We want to develop a subject/complement from the text, but do not want to simply preach it as an abstract idea. Story is not abstract, but concrete. Stories “show” their meaning, they don’t generally explain it. They are full of sensory experience, not just cognitively expressed ideas. They are right brain, not left. We want to draw our audience into the story so that they can relive the experience of the characters, experience the plot tension, and cast their vote for the hero!

Therefore, we need to develop the subject/complement into a teaching idea with the concerns, questions, and problems of our people. Then, we need to develop that idea through the details of the story.

We said that the subject/complement for John 9:1-41 is: Jesus’ healing of the blind man, followed by the various responses, shows that the one who admits his blindness will find the light (Christ), but anyone who claims to see, when he in fact does not, will remain blind.

Our exegetical or textual outline according to the language of John4 was as follows:

    I. The Healing of the Blind Man (9:1-12)

      A. The Occasion

        1. The Man Born Blind Man (9:1)

        2. The Question: “Who sinned?” (9:2)

        3. The Answer: “No one…but that the work of God might be revealed” (9:3-5)

      B. The Miracle (9:6-7)

        1. The Method: Spittle and mud on the eyes (9:6)

        2. The Command and Result: “Go wash… and He saw” (9:7)

      C. The Neighbors’ Response (9:8-12)

        1. The Division (9:8-10)

        2. The Blind Man’s Testimony (9:11-12)

    II. The Pharisees’ Reaction to the Healing (9:13-34)

      A. The Problem: The Healing Was on the Sabbath (9:13-15)

      B. The Pharisees Respond: Anger and Refusal to Believe (9:16-34)

        1. They Are Divided (9:16)

        2. They Question the Man: First Time (9:17)

        3. They Question the Man’s Parents (9:18-23)

        4. They Question the Man: Second Time (9:24-34)

    III. Jesus’ Reaction: The Case of the Blind Man and the Pharisees (9:25-41)

      A. Jesus Finds the Man: Do You Believe…? (9:35-39)

        1. Jesus’ Question (9:35)

        2. The Blind Man’s Response (9:36-38)

        3. Jesus’ Pronouncement: The Blind and Those Who See (9:39)

      B. Jesus’ Verdict Concerning the Pharisees: They Are Guilty! (9:40-41)

        1. The Pharisees’ Question: Are We Blind Too? (9:40)

        2. Jesus’ Response: Your Guilt Remains (9:41)

This outline, however, develops the subject/complement according to the development of the passage scene by scene, i.e., according to the strict development of the text. Since we basically followed this method with John 1:1-18 (although it was different due its expository nature) we decided, for purposes of illustration, to do John 9:1-41 a bit differently. However you decide to handle the material, treat narrative as narrative; transport the people into the world of the story.

What we are going to do is develop the big idea according to the two crucial themes in the story—i.e., wrong and right responses to Jesus (the Light) and the result of each. We will deal with each separately and then conclude with an appeal to “sign up” with the character(s) in the story who represents the right response. Our key comes from 9:39 which is a comment on the meaning of the entire passage. The outline will be a thematic development (not a textual development, strictly speaking) of the big idea as follows:

    I. Introduction to Lesson: How We Respond to Things Makes A World of Difference

    II. A Blind Man is Healed (1:1-7)

      A. Textual Details

        1. Blind since birth—the miracle is not remedial, it is creative (John 1:3)

        2. Explain the theology behind the disciples’ question (see commentaries)

        3. Focus on Jesus’ answer—the light, day, and night

      B. Illustration

      C. Transition: Not everyone responded to this miracle as you might have expected. Let’s look at various responses which all have one thing in common…

    III. Two Kinds of Responses (9:8-41)

      A. Some Wrong Responses:

        1. Indifference (9:9a):

          a. Textual Details: “Some people said, “This is the man”…and apparently did nothing!

          b. Illustration/Warning to you and your audience

          c. Application: Don’t let indifference cloud your judgment: Embrace the Light!

          d. Transition to “Fear”

        2. Fear (9:18-23)

          a. Textual Details: The man’s parents and their fear

          b. Illustration/Warning to you and your audience

          c. Application: Don’t Let fear stop you from embracing Christ fully!

          d. Transition to “Rejection of the Obvious”

        3. Rejection of the Obvious—The Religious Leaders (9:9b, 13-17, 24-34)

          a. Textual Details: Explain Their Arrogant Confidence: “We know…”

          b. Illustration/Warning to you and your audience

          c. Application: Don’t let what you know get in the way of what you have to learn! As believers for some time, and “being set in our ways,” we must be very careful that this does not become true of us. We may not be in total darkness as the religious leaders were, but we may be more comfortable in the shade than in the full light of day.

          d. Transition to “The Result of Responding Wrongly…”

        4. The Result of Responding Wrongly: Permanent Blindness (9:39-41)

          a. Textual Details: Explain Their Arrogant Confidence: “We know…”

          b. Illustration/Warning to you and your audience

          c. Application: Don’t let what you know get in the way of what you have to learn!

          d. Transition to “The Right Response”

      B. The Blind Man and the Right Response (see verses under textual details)

        1. Growing Belief

          a. Textual Details: Note the blind man’s progression to faith (9:12,15 17, 25, 30-33, 38)

          b. Illustration/Encouragement to come to the light

          c. Application

          d. Transition to “The Result of Responding Rightly”

        2. The Result of Responding Rightly: Spiritual Sight (9:39)

          a. Textual Details: Explain what is meant by light today (i.e., knowing God and a morally virtuous life of love; the fruit of the Spirit—John 15 and Galatians 5:22-23).

          b. Illustration

          c. Application

          d. Transition to the Conclusion

    IV. One Question (the Conclusion)

      A. Who Do You Identify with in the Story? Where Are You with Jesus (talk about his conspicuous absence from the narrative and why. Yet he is nonetheless the main character!)? Summarize the various responses to “the Light” in John 9:1-41.

      B. Perhaps you know someone who doesn’t reject Jesus outright, and they’re not fearful of trusting, nor are they indifferent. Well, there was another response in the story that we didn’t really touch on that may be of some help. I call it the response of “Inquiring Minds.” You see it in the lay people (9:8) and a very few of the religious leaders (9:16b). Explain these texts briefly, and then ask them if they are an “inquiring mind.” If so, probe their questions, gently warn them of the dangers of pseudo-belief, and urge them to accept Christ as the Light.

VI. Preparing A Lesson from poetic Material—psalm 23

We chose Psalm 23 because it is short and you probably know it fairly well. We will not go into great detail in this section on poetry, but we will show you how we outlined the poem and then how we developed that exegetical outline into a homiletical outline according to the big idea. We followed the same method as with John 1 and 9, but we were sensitive to looking for images, emotions, and ideas, and outlined our material according to that. Suffice it to say that poems can generally be broken up into manageable units not according to scenes or episodes as we have in stories, but according to the ideas and images present.

After making numerous observations, and asking and answering many questions on the passage, we developed the subject/complement and outlined the passage as follows:

Subject/Complement: YHWH is a faithful shepherd and a gracious host to the psalmist, and for that reason, the psalmist gives thanks and expresses his confidence that he will always dwell in YHWH's Temple, in close relationship with Him.

    I. YHWH is the reliable, trustworthy shepherd who provides for, leads, and protects the psalmist (1-4).

      A. YHWH provides for the psalmist (1)

      B. YHWH leads and guides the psalmist (2, 3)

      C. YHWH protects the psalmist from all danger (4)

    II. YHWH prepares a delightful banquet for the psalmist in the presence of his enemies and anoints his head with oil (5).

      A. YHWH prepares a tremendous meal for the psalmist before his enemies (5a, b)

      B. YHWH anoints the psalmist's head with oil (5c)

      C. The psalmist's cup overflows (5d)

    III. The psalmist is confident that goodness and mercy will pursue him in life and he will dwell in the Temple throughout his days (6).

      A. Goodness and mercy will pursue the psalmist (6a)

      B. The psalmist will dwell in the YHWH's Temple throughout his life (6b)

Every passage attempts to answer some underlying question(s). For example John 9 might be: What are the implications of responding to Christ with belief or unbelief? In John 1:1-18 we may say that the underlying question answered by the prologue is: “Why did Jesus become man? Well, there is an underlying question answered by Psalm 23. We might state it as: “Why should I trust God throughout life when everything in life seems so uncertain? Answer: Because he is a good and faithful shepherd and a gracious host. Now let’s develop that homiletical idea in the lesson as follows:

    I. Introduction

    II. Trust God as the Good and Faithful Shepherd (1-4)

      A. To Provide for You (1-3a)

        1. Textual Details

          a. YHWH is personal (“my” in v. 1)

          b. His provision is perfect (2)

          c. His provision renews and satisfies (3a)

          d. Summary

        2. Illustration

        3. Transition to “To Guide You”

      B. To Guide You (3b-4)

        1. Textual Details

          a. He guides you in righteous paths (3b)

          b. He guides you for His name's sake (3c)

        2. Illustration

        3. Transition to “To Protect You”

      C. To Protect You (4)

        1. Textual Details

        2. Illustration

      D. Transition to “Rejoice in God’s Grace”

    III. Rejoice in God’s Grace (5-6)

      A. Textual Details

        1. Because He Spares no Blessing (5)

          a. A table in the presence of enemies (5a)

          b. Anointing the head with oil (5b)

          c. My cup overflows (5c)

        2. Because it Results in Constant Fellowship with Him (6)

          a. Goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life (6a)

          b. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (6b)

      B. Illustration

      C. Transition to Conclusion

    IV. Conclusion

      A. So why should we trust God in today’s world? Repeat big idea.

      B. Illustrate with examples of people who have trusted God

      C. Invite them to Deepen their trust in God.

Remember that as you begin to work this outline into its final written form you will need to ask the developmental questions: (1) What do I need to explain; (2) defend, or (3) apply. Remember to draw them into the warmth and assurance afforded through the images of a shepherd and gracious host. Talk about shepherds and their role in Palestinian life, but be sure to relate it to the feelings, emotions, and needs of your people. Refer to commentaries and Bible dictionaries for more information on these ideas. Commentaries will also help you interpret parallelisms in poetry, such as verse 6. Constantly draw them back to the main idea of why they ought to trust God. Never let them lose sight of the ONE “big idea.” Whenever you see a blank stare on their faces, it’s time to review your big idea, whether it’s in your outline at that point or not!


1 The term “homiletical idea” means “preaching idea” and reflects the attempt to move from the bare bones of the text in its original context to a sermon or lesson that people in the twentieth (21st) century can relate to. It is often referred to as “bridging the gap.”

2 The term “genre” in writing refers to the type of literature in question. For example, is the genre expositional (e.g., the epistles), narrative (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Acts, etc.), poetic (Psalms, Prophets), apocalyptic (e.g., Revelation), etc. Knowing what the genre is helps us understand what kinds of questions to ask and what to look for in order to properly interpret a text. This is important to understanding the Bible. If an alien were to show up here from another planet and take seriously the comments on Saturday Night Live, that alien would be seriously misinformed about politics, religion, etc. Why? Because it misunderstood the genre. Saturday Night Live is of the genre of comedy, not serious reporting, like we find, for example, on CNN every night at 6 P.M.

3 An “exegetical outline” is an outline that is prepared strictly according to the textual details of the passage as understood in its original context with its original readers in mind. Thus it reveals the truth as discussed in a certain historical setting. The proficient student should be able to move from the exegetical outline to a theological outline (the outline stated in terms of universal truths) to a homiletical outline (the outline stated for a contemporary audience).

4 Our exegetical or textual outline is just a recasting of the details of the story in skeletal fashion. It shows the broad movements in the story, but makes no attempt to relate the details and meaning of the story to today’s world. This is why we must now develop a teaching/preaching outline. This is sometimes referred to as a homiletical (i.e., preaching) outline. We have said before that the reason for this is because you are teaching people the Bible. You are not just teaching the contents of the Bible. There is a big difference.

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Teaching the Bible