The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 26 Winter 2018
Winter 2018 Edition
Part I: Preparing For Preaching
“Drafting The Exposition of the Sermon”
The exposition of the text is the central part, sometimes called “the body”, of the sermon. This is where the summary statement of your sermon (the sermon-in-a-sentence) is expanded to achieve its purpose.
Once you have the outline, you have the skeleton of your sermon. Then the skeleton needs flesh and skin. This is the exposition. The flesh of the exposition is provided by your explanation of the text and your application of those explanations to the lives of your hearers. First let me address…
A. The Explanation Of Your Text
Your explanation will only be as good as your study of the text, which we have covered in previous editions of this journal.
Your explanation clarifies what the text means by…
a) Dealing with any problems in the text – e.g. textual variances, apparent contradictions etc.
b) Addressing the translation or meaning of words, phrases, sentences, ideas, expressions
c) Bringing out the implications of the text
The question many preachers ask, particularly young preachers, is, “What are some practical ways I can develop my explanation of the text?” So, let me briefly review twelve aspects of developing and amplifying your explanation of the text.
This means expressing the same thought in different words or changing the word order, or by altering the sentence form. Each variation expresses the original thought but may vary the emphasis. For example, “You must be born again” could be expressed as ”rebirth is a necessity” or “to have your nature changed is a divine requirement”. It’s important in using restatement to not constantly say, “In other words” or “To put it another way”. Make sure you vary the way you restate your ideas. Restatement is not repetition; it is expansion and amplification. In fact, restatement is essential to good teaching. It gives the congregation time to absorb what you are saying and to hear it expressed in different ways.
Definition places the idea to be communicated into a general class first, then into a class that differentiates it by contrast, comparison, or function. For example, a general class might be “a ball”. A definition that separates this “ball” from other balls may be “a basketball” or “soccer ball”. Definition is important for conveying meaning.
Scripture itself uses definitions. In Hebrews 11:1, the writer defines what he means by “faith”. Then he goes on throughout the rest of the chapter to illustrate what faith looks like in the lives of faithful men and women.
By describing a concept, situation, person, or thing, you usually do so in terms of the five senses – what does it look like (sight), sound like (hearing), taste like (taste), feel like (touch), and smell like (smell)?
These descriptions help your hearers understand in a more vivid and memorable way what you are trying to explain.
Illustration is a major and very important subcategory of explanation. The purpose of illustrations is to enhance understanding in terms that are readily visualized and experienced. Illustrations clarify an idea by reference to something to which it is similar – similarity to other objects, experiences, attitudes, persons, places etc. By clarifying an abstract idea with a concrete illustration, your exposition is strengthened.
Illustrations serve a variety of functions:
a) Illustrations make the explanation more real and personal. They show how the point of truth works out in real life.
b) Illustrations make the sermon interesting and engaging.
c) Illustrations give some relief to the audience, especially if you are explaining a difficult or abstract idea or truth.
d) Illustrations are meant to illustrate the point! They are not for entertainment nor for humour.
e) Illustrations must be intuitively obvious as to what they are clarifying or explaining. If your illustrations require explanation, then they are no good - they fall flat like a bad joke; they confuse rather than enlighten.
Probably the best source of illustrations is in the Bible itself – such as I just mentioned about “faith” in Hebrews 11, where the author gives illustration after illustration of faith worked out in people’s lives. By using biblical illustrations, the people are taught a much wider scope of the Bible in the sermon; the people get to see in your handling of various parts of Scripture how Scripture all ties together.
Sources of illustrations other than the Bible include: daily experiences (slices of life), newspaper articles, historical events, famous quotes, examples, figures of speech, books, magazines, sources of news (papers, radios, TV), and everyday experiences.
Make sure you do not use illustrations of people in your church (at best it will embarrass someone or at worst it will destroy people’s confidence in you). And don’t use illustrations of your children (even if you have their permission) – they are entitled to your confidentiality.
An idea is clarified through example by specifying an experience, actual use or occurrence. An example is an actual instance of the idea. Let me explain the difference between an example and an illustration. An example of new birth would be Paul’s conversion but an illustration would be a moth that is transformed into a butterfly.
An idea is clarified by the characters or actions of a story. For example, “faith” could be brought alive through the story of David committing himself to fight Goliath, without any armour, simply trusting God (1 Sam. 17). Narration and example are related but in narration the emphasis is on the story (e.g. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac).
An idea is given greater credence by agreement with an accepted authority – perhaps other Scriptures or known authorities or statistics. It is possible to expand any statement by support.
Discussion allows multiple examinations of the communicated idea from various viewpoints. The idea is examined objectively from various viewpoints – either positive affirmation or negative.
The idea to be communicated becomes the basis for argumentation – either affirmative or negative. Present arguments why your viewpoint should be accepted.
10. Appeal / invitation / exhortation
The idea becomes the ground of the invitation for acceptance or rejection. Appeal to the hearers on some basis (e.g. their welfare, security, spirituality, relationships etc.).
11. Cross References
Cross references to other related Scriptures help to amplify and support the point you are making.
Express the idea succinctly. Summarize it in your own words.
The tendency is to use the same method of expansion in each message. But this makes your messages monotonous. Try to have variation. Use the method of expansion that best suits your main points. Some methods of expansion are more suited to your personality and may be more effective for you than others.
For each section of your sermon, decide what methods to use. You may conceive of other different methods of expansion in addition to those I have just mentioned. Ask yourself: “Are there other methods that would be more effective?”
By varying your methods of expansion your sermon preparation will be greatly simplified and the message will become more interesting, convincing, and inspiring.
This is how you put “flesh” on the “skeleton” of your sermon, flesh which may either attract or repel your listeners based on the methods and style you use. Amplification adds meat to the bones so that your explanation is interesting and understandable and not merely definitions or word studies.
Study each method carefully. Use any or all of them to the best advantage. Allow them to express your personality, experiences, and speaking style.
Study other sermons and ask yourself: “What is the central thought? How did the preacher organize that thought? How did he expand his sermon points? What method did he use?”
B. The Application Of Your Sermon
We often spend so much time on doctrine (the fruits of our study) that we fail to give our people something to take home to apply to their lives. All explanation must be applied to people’s lives with a view to producing a response of obedience. We need to give a clear, simple statement of doctrine, then help the people to apply it so that they understand what God wants them to do.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that in the epistle to the Romans, chapters 1-8 deal with doctrine; chapters 9-11 deal with matters of Israel in God’s purposes; and chapters 12-15 address application and duty.
Biblical preaching applies the truth it explains. Application of what the text means and implies is an integral part of the entire sermon from beginning to end. Application is, in fact, one of the major tools in exposition. It makes what is abstract (the truth) become concrete by bringing it into the realm of reality. Application of the truth invites the people to put the truth into action by responding appropriately.
Biblical preaching requires that we present truth in such a way that the truth relates directly to character, conduct, beliefs, relationships, attitudes, values, and priorities. We do not preach merely to inform (though that is true) but to transform. Therefore, apply all explanations in order to produce obedience. That is the ultimate goal of preaching - to bring about change and obedience.
Applied truth should always be personal (“you”), practical (relates to life), and pertinent (relevant to the audience). When applying the truth, move from the general to the particular. Ask yourself, “How does this truth apply to these people in this place at this time in history?”
Therefore, preach to persuade - “Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). Preach for the transformation of people into more of the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Preach so that people obey. My mentor and teacher, Dr. Stephen Olford said, “Unwillingness to obey truth nullifies the impact of preaching” (Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 77). He also said, “Truth must be obeyed or it dies.” The apostle Paul commends the Christians at Rome: “You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Rom. 6:17).
Wayne McDill asserts that our emphasis should not be on behaviour when we apply the truth so much as on a call to faith (see “The Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching”, 108-114). He advises that we should not orient our messages to “You must do this” etc. but to address the real need, which is to trust God. In his opinion, you most effectively address people’s real needs when your sermon is a call for faith rather than a call to change behaviour. I think we should heed his advice. There is sometimes too much infliction of guilt in application, even to the point where the people could well respond: “I just can’t satisfy you. You’re always asking us to do more.” Our task is not to constantly lay burdens on the people but point them to God.
While I agree with McDill’s exhortation, this does not mean that we should be content with no change in behaviour, because how we behave is the true indication of what we believe. So, we must expect a change in the way people act, think, relate, and behave. Nonetheless, I understand and appreciate his concern that we not be constantly laying some additional ethical burden on the people but that we point them to God – “His character, His capabilities, His intentions, and His record” (McDill, 109). I also like McDill’s emphasis on “you can...” instead of “you ought to, should, must” (255f.).
Part II: Preparing For Preaching
“Drafting The Close of the Sermon”
An otherwise good sermon can be ruined with a bad ending. Make sure that your summation or close concludes the message. The purpose of the conclusion is to bring the sermon to a conclusion. Your audience should know that nothing more needs to be said; that you have fully and finally exposited the text; that God through you has spoken; and that now it is their responsibility as to how they are going to respond.
There are three vital elements to the closing of the sermon:
By condensation I mean “crystallize” the truth; summarize it; recapitulate it. This focuses the audience’s attention back on the primary purpose and thrust of the sermon. It reminds them where you have come from in your sermon by relating it back to the introduction. It puts the entire sermon into a nutshell so that the audience can remember where you started and what you have covered. And they can see that you have done what you set out to do as stated in your opening sermon-in-a-sentence. It gives you the opportunity to clarify one more time what the issue is.
Here you want to “personalize” the truth by addressing them as “you”. Even though you have applied the truth throughout the entirety of your sermon, the conclusion gives you the opportunity to put special, personal emphasis on what you through the Scriptures have taught them to do or to be. Here, you are beseeching them, encouraging them, exhorting them.
By invitation I mean, charge your hearers to respond to the truth they have heard – to “actualize” the truth. Call for a verdict on what you have presented. Call for them to do something - change their thinking, behaviour, attitudes, relationships, affections; obey the truth; confess their sins etc. The summation is your final appeal, your final challenge. It is the final motivating thrust of your sermon.
Here you are asking the people to make a decision. For example, in Acts 2, Peter preached and the people said, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter replied, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). What was their response to Peter’s invitation? “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (2:41-42).
Give opportunity for people to respond right away. It may be public or it may be private. But state that you want them to respond now and give opportunity for that.
Part III: Preparing For Preaching
“Drafting The Introduction”
The introduction of a sermon plays a very important role. Typically, preachers prepare their introduction last, even though it is the first part of the sermon. A good introduction should be concise, clear, interesting, and relevant. You only have a few minutes to convince the people that what you are going to say is interesting, valuable, and applicable to their lives.
The introduction serves several important purposes:
A. To Catch The Listeners’ Attention
Try to catch the audience’s attention through something they can relate to – like a life experience. If you introduce your topic by relating it to a life experience, you will establish relevancy for the audience.
Try to be creative in your opening sentences but not so that it is phoney. Avoid humour unless it is part of the “slice-of-life” experience. Make it specific and relevant.
B. To Convince Them That They Need To Hear This Sermon
Here, you answer the question, “What does this have to do with me?” What it has to do with them is that that they have a need that this sermon addresses - e.g. their hopes and fears; their sins and struggles and failures; their problems of life.
Establish the burden of the sermon, the purpose behind the biblical message…
- Why was this message given in the first place and why preach it now?
- Why is this message critical?
- Why should anyone listen to what you say?
C. To Connect To The Word
How do you connect to the Word? You connect to the Word by relating the audience’s need to the biblical text.
Why connect to the Word? You need to connect to the Word because it gives the biblical solution and direction for the audience’s “need”. Your introduction should move naturally from the life of the listener to the solution or direction found in the Word. This shows how the sermon you are about to preach relates to their experience. Here you can provide the audience with the burden of your message – what you want them to do, be, or change as a result of this sermon. Here you establish solid contact with the foundation of the message, namely, the Word.
D. To Establish The Subject Of The Sermon
The audience needs to know what you are going to speak about. Do not let them guess.
E. To State Your Sermon-In-A-Sentence
This is where you state the overall thrust of the message in one sentence. It is a very important part of the introduction. It sets the direction for the rest of the sermon. So spell out clearly the overall, central theme of your sermon.
F. To Provide Any Appropriate Contextual Background
Whatever general contextual background information the audience needs in order to understand the message should be provided here in the introduction – historical, cultural, economic, social, political, authorship, date, audience etc.
G. To Transition To The Exposition
This is sometimes called “the bridge.” The bridge forms a transition from the introduction to the exposition. It steers the audience into the purpose and structure of the message. It shows how you get from there (the life experience + the biblical text + personal contact) to here (first point of the exposition).
There are various ways of making this bridge / transition. You can “bill board” the upcoming main points – i.e. list the main points your are going to cover in the sermon. You can state what aspect of your topic you are going to deal with - e.g. three benefits of…; or two reasons for…; or three points that show… etc.
Part IV: Devotional Exposition
“The Minister’s Accountability, Pt. 2: Misconceptions Concerning the Christian Ministry” (1 Cor. 3:18; 4:5)
By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford
Introduction. In the verses immediately preceding, the Apostle has dealt solemnly with the matter of the minister’s responsibility to God. As a planter or as a waterer in God’s husbandry, the Christian laborer must ever recognize that he is answerable to God. The same is true in God’s building. The Christian workman is responsible to God for the manner in which he builds the structure of the church. But now Paul proceeds to deal with a complimentary truth that is The Minister’s Accountability to God. Although these verses have a message for all believers, it is nevertheless clear that the main thrust of teaching is directed to Christian leaders within the local church. Paul’s main burden is to confront those who preach, teach, and serve, with their accountability to God in respect of two matters of comprehensive significance. The first concerns:
I. The Matter Of Boasting
“Therefore let no one glory in men…” (1 Corinthians 3:21). There is no greater danger in the assemblies of God’s people than this matter of boasting. Indeed, it is the sin for which Lucifer was cast out of heaven. It is the sin that cursed Eden. It is the sin that divides the church of Jesus Christ. So Paul stoutly condemns:
1) Boasting in Human Learning “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). Reverting to a theme which has been handled thoroughly in chapters 1 and 2, Paul emphasizes again the folly of human wisdom. Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who were trying to unite philosophy with theology. The Apostle warns them that such an experiment was tantamount to defiling the temple because it was corrupting divine truth with human wisdom.
Now let it be stated that the Bible does not ridicule the honest search of man for knowledge. When a scientist discovers that two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen make water, such human wisdom is not folly. But when that same scientist tries to exclude God from his own thoughts, or attempts to devise a way around the cross, or discounts the revelation of the Bible, then that wisdom is utter foolishness. To such Paul says, “If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18).
This is a spiritual principle which is enunciated in various ways in the New Testament. We are told that to be great is to become as a little child (Matthew 18:4); to become exalted we must be abased (Matthew 23:12); and to be wise we must become fools (1 Corinthians 3:18). There is no other way.
When all is said and done, we cannot improve on the words of Blaise Pascal when he declared, “The supreme achievement of reason is to bring us to see that there is a limit to reason.” Then there are the words of that famous proverb: “He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Avoid him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a wise man. Teach Him.” It follows, therefore, that the only way to become wise is to realize that we are fools. The only way to acknowledge our readiness to learn is to confess our ignorance before God. So Paul declares, “…the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…” (1 Corinthians 3:19). To support his contention, the Apostle quotes from Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11 to demonstrate God’s rejection of human learning.
We must remember as William Barclay points out, “that the trouble about intellectual pride is that it is always argumentative and exclusive. It is argumentative in that it cannot keep silent and admire. It must talk and criticize. It cannot bear to have its opinions contradicted; it must prove that it and it alone is right. It can never admit that it was wrong; it must always be justifying itself. It is never humble enough to learn; it must always be laying down the law. Intellectual pride is exclusive in that its whole tendency is to look down on others rather than to sit down beside them. Its whole outlook is that all those who do not agree with it are wrong. Intellectual pride cannot possibly think that it may be mistaken. It tends to cut men off from each other, rather than unite them.” Is it any wonder that Paul condemns such boasting in human learning? But with the danger of boasting in human learning, there is also the peril of:
2) Boasting in Human Leadership “Therefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21). As we have observed again and again, this was the supreme problem in the Corinthian church. Four groups existed in the assembly who were vying one with another, and therefore glorying in their respective leaders. To expose the utter folly of such boasting, Paul shows how ridiculous it was for any section of the church to claim Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, as their very own. “All things are yours,” exclaims the Apostle, by which he means that these leaders belonged to the whole church. No one party had a right to boast in any particular pastor, teacher, or evangelist.
To strengthen his argument, the Apostle concludes this paragraph with a glorious statement concerning the possessions in Christ. I particularly want you to notice the order in which he lists these possessions (vv. 22-23). He begins with himself. In doing so, he puts himself at the bottom of the climax. From himself he goes on to Apollos and Cephas. Such teachers belong to the whole church in every age. Next Paul considers the world. This belonged to the church as well. In another place, Paul says the Christians are to use this world, but not abuse it (1 Corinthians 7:31). The Psalmist reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof…” (Psalm 24:1). Paul teaches us that “…God…gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). The Savior declared, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Then Paul continues and says life belongs to the church. The word used means life in its essence and abundance in Christ. What is more, death belongs to the church. Because Christ has died and risen again, death holds no terrors for the people of God. Death is but the servant who introduces us to the greater life beyond. Things present belong to the church – yes, and things to come. And best of all, we all belong to Christ, and Christ is God’s Messiah. In the light of all this, how can people in any local church be small-minded enough as to be sectional in their interests? The very vastness of God’s redeeming purpose for us should carry us above human boasting to glorying in God alone through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So we see that both ministers and members are accountable to God in respect of boasting; but there is another issue for which they have to answer, both in time and in eternity. It is:
II. The Matter Of Judging
“For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Now if boasting is a divisive practice in the local church, so is judging. More splits have occurred in the work of God through wrong judgment than will ever be accounted for this side of eternity. So Paul makes it crystal clear that on this matter of judging everyone in the church of Jesus Christ is accountable to God. To introduce his subject, Paul illustrates the nature of a minister’s accountability in the context of the church. In the first place, he is a servant. “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Among the Greek words for “minister” or “servant,” here is another interesting one! Literally it means “an under-rower.” In the ships of Paul’s day, wind power was augmented by manpower. There were great oars on either side of the ship, manned by under-rowers, who were under the supervision of a master rower. Such is the position of a Christian leader. He is a man under authority, and therefore accountable to his Lord and Master. So Paul says: “Let a man so consider us, as of the servants of Christ…”
In the second place, the Christian leader is a steward of the mysteries of God. A steward, in olden times, was actually a housekeeper. He was responsible for the household stores and their distribution according to necessity. For this very reason it was “…required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Such faithfulness implies not only responsibility to God, but also accountability to God. As a steward of the mysteries of God, the Christian minister is accountable to God for leading and feeding the flock of God. As G. Campbell Morgan puts it: “What a terrible thing if Milton’s description ever becomes true of those of us who are in the ministry of the gospel – ‘that hungry sheep look up and are not fed.’”
In light of this solemn accountability, Paul teaches that we are all subject to human judgment as well as divine judgment. To apply this principle Paul stresses that:
1) Human Judgment Must Be Regarded Moderately “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a court of man. In fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3). While human judgment counts for very little, it cannot be utterly disregarded. The remarkable thing is that in spite of human error, the judgment of our fellow men is instinctively right. At the same time, he who is faithful to the Lord will not be perturbed by the unfavorable opinion of others. Nor will he be eager for or elated by their applause.
In this human judgment Paul includes not only the criticism of his fellow men, but the judgment of himself. Literally he says, “I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this…” (1 Corinthians 4:3, 4). In simple language Paul is telling us that while he is not free from self-reproach, he is assured that his verdict upon himself is after all only human, and therefore inadequate to condemn or to justify. Therefore in the ultimate sense, no responsible Christian is answerable to his conscience, or to his fellowman, but to God. Although human judgment is to be considered moderately,
2) Divine Judgment Must Be Regarded Seriously “…He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Every servant of God stands to be judged now and will stand to be judged in a coming day when the Lord “…will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Already Paul has dealt with the subject of the judgment seat of Christ in Chapter 3, but he returns to this solemn doctrine and amplifies its relevance to our lives with an even greater intrusiveness; for Paul tells us here that in the day of revelation, the things we have sought to keep secret in our own hearts and hidden from our fellow men, God will bring to light. To appreciate the full significance of such a truth is to be delivered forever from pre-judging the lives of others within the local church. Therefore Paul says, “Judge nothing before the time” (1 Corinthians 4:5). In that day everything will be seen in the light of God’s unerring judgment, based on an absolute knowledge of the facts, and a complete insight into “the counsels of the heart.” Only God knows all the circumstances of human life, and only God knows all the motivations of the human heart.
Conclusion: What an amazing paragraph this is! No one can read it and study it without being searched to the very depths. On the one hand, there is our tendency to boasting. But we cannot understand Paul’s condemnation of the foolishness of human learning and the futility of human leadership apart from God, without being humbled to the very dust.
On the other hand, there is our propensity to judging; but who can anticipate the coming judgment seat of Christ and not be silenced in our criticism of others? So however we look at it, leaders and laymen alike, we are accountable to heaven, and if we would have our praise of God in that coming day, we must be humble, rather than boastful, and faithful, rather than critical in every area of the life of the church.
Part V: Sermon Outlines
Title: Five characteristics of a true disciples
Point #1: The first characteristic of a true disciple is…fruit-bearing (2-3)
Point #2: The second characteristic of a true disciple is… abiding (4-9)
Point #3: The third characteristic of a true disciple is… obeying (10-11)
See the next edition of this journal (Spring 2018) for characteristics four and five.
Related Topics: Pastors