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From Text To Sermon

A Guide To Sermon Preparation

Part 2 of 6

Presentation 02


As a young Christian I was asked to preach for the first time at a local church. And in the arrogance of youth I thought that I would preach on spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6. The sermon was a bit of a disaster. In the congregation was an elder from my home church and that evening to took the opportunity to speak with me - what would you have said? He very tactfully reminded me that before David took on Goliath he honed his skill by taking out lions and bears! I had preached on something I had little experimental knowledge or understanding of and it showed!

Presentation 02


Study 1: Introduction: Approach To Scripture

Approach To Culture

Approach To The Hearer

Study 2: Selecting The Passage

Understanding The Passage

Study 3: Determining The Thrust Of The Passage

Formulating The Preaching Idea

Study 4: Determining The Sermon’s Purpose

How To Accomplish That Purpose

Study 5: Outlining And Fleshing Out The Sermon

Study 6: Application, Conclusion And Introduction

Presentation 01

Selecting A Passage

1. What passage do I choose?

Where regular preaching opportunities occur, the expositor may choose to work his way systematically through a Bible book, or part of a Bible book. Hours can

be wasted thinking, ‘What passage will I preach on?’

Where preaching is irregular or where you are

part of a preaching team it is helpful to

work out a preaching plan which each

member will follow.

In some situations you may be given

a text or subject to preach upon.

Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

1. What passage to choose?

b. “All scripture is useful for teaching” 2Tim. 3.16, but not all scripture is profitable for a particular congregation at a particular time. The composition of the congregation will play a major role in the selection of one’s text. Are they mature believers, new converts, unbelievers etc.? It is helpful to know their needs, and pressures. Not that our preaching should be driven by the ‘felt needs’ of individuals at the expense of the richness of the Gospel and the doctrines of grace. Our preaching must be God-magnifying and people-oriented. Jesus approach to the woman at the well in Jn.4. provides a useful pattern when determining how to use felt needs.

Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

1. What passage to choose.

c. If you are preaching a series of sermons on a particular book then it is helpful to remember that people need breadth and variety in their spiritual diet. A different approach is called for if preaching through a gospel or a major prophet.

I love mince and potatoes but if my wife served me that daily year after year I might just wish to find something else on my plate.

I attended a minister’s conference some years ago where a colleague told me he had been peaching through the Song of Songs for the previous three years. But he could not understand why his people were becoming so restless.

Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

2. When to choose the passage.

The sooner the better. If preaching through a series of sermons, plan them out well in advance. Even if preaching a one-off sermon, give your mind plenty of time to absorb the text. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous Victorian preacher, used to say that he liked his “mind to soak in the text just as his body might soak in a bath” and he entered his bath at the beginning of the week.

I have spoken to colleagues who

begin their preparation the evening

before they are due to preach!

Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

3. Length of passage.

Choose natural blocks of text and not forced divisions. Ask how the passage relates to the author’s thought.

It will, to some extent be determined by the literary

genre; narrative, poetry, etc.

Influenced by the time available for


Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

4. What about Topical Exposition?

In topical exposition the preacher starts with a topic that is; seasonal [e.g. Christmas, Easter etc.], or theological [justification, sanctification, adoption, reconciliation etc.], or one which covers personal concerns [guilt, grief, loneliness, jealousy]

and then he looks for a passage or

passages that deal with that topic.

The distinctive of ‘topical

exposition’, in contrast with a

‘topical sermon’, is that Scripture

must shape all that is said in

defining and developing the topic.

Presentation 02

Selecting A Passage

5. I Don’t Know What To Chose

A minister was about to throw in the towel and turn his back on the ministry for he had run out of preaching ideas. He wrote of his intention to Alexander Whyte a famous C19th Edinburgh minister. Whyte replied:

“You scarcely know how or what to preach. Look into your own sinful heart and back into your own sinful life and around on the world full of sin and misery and open your N.T. and make application of Christ to yourself and to your people: and like Goodwin you will preach freshly and more powerfully every day”.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

It is important to be familiar both with the

passage and broader context of the biblical book

from which it has been taken. E.g. 1 Cor. 13 can

only be adequately understood against the

background of chaps 12 and 14.

In a similar way the transfiguration in Mk. 9 can only be understood in the light of Peter’s confession and rejection of cross-bearing in Mk. 8. Understanding where a particular passage fits into the broad sweep of salvation history is also of significant value. E.g. what is happening in 1Samuel can only properly be understood against the backdrop of Judges.

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Dawn of Human History

Understanding The Passage

Inter-testamental Period

Apocryphal writing

Maccabean wars

Entry and possession

of promised land


Difficult to determine with any accuracy

Divided Kingdom

Israel & Judah





Call of Abraham

Beginning of Patriarchal period

Exile: Assyrian &


Exodus: End of

Egyptian Captivity

Establishment of

Nation of Israel

Joseph’s family

Enter Egypt

Return from exile &


Biblical Timeline

Presentation 02


Bible Books in Approximate Historical Framework.



1& 2 Chronicles


Song of Songs






2 Samuel

1& 2 Kings









Job ?













1 Samuel








Biblical Timeline

Presentation 02


Sol’s Temple

Rebuilt Temple

Informal altars







Foreign rule







Dawn of Human History

The Government of God’s people


School of prophets established by Samuel

School of prophets re-established by Elijah



Establishment of Synagogues & Pharisees


AD 70 Destruction of temple and Jerusalem

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

If possible, read the text in a number of different translations. These may provide fresh insights into the writers’ thought. By so doing we are then beginning to steep ourselves in the writer’s world view.

Be aware of the difference between translation and transliteration. See next slide

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

Understanding The Passage

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

Most importantly, all of this preparation should be done prayerfully and in dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit, who is the Supreme Bridge Builder. It is He who makes God’s Word powerfully relevant helping us to see how to apply the passage to our hearers.

Prayer does not come after preparation, so that having produced a sermon we pray, “Apply my words” but during our preparation, “Give me your word for this people”.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

When reading the passage determine not to engage in ‘eisegesis’, which is the opposite of ‘exegesis’ which is what we should in fact be doing! Eisegesis is to read into the text meaning that is not actually there .

Sadly, preachers can be so determined to say something of great worth and theological importance that they contrive to bring out of the text what is not in fact there. Instead of magnifying the truth their approach undermines it, for their hearers begin to ask, “How does he get that from this passage”.

Presentation 02


The Passage

It is recommended that you read with a pencil in your hand so that you are constantly making observations or,

identifying problems in the text that

require some further clarification.

You may want to study the text in greater detail using other tools you may have available to you: Lexicons, Concordance,

Commentaries, Bible dictionaries etc.

Bear in mind some commentaries are

more exegetical while others are more

applicatory. A balance is useful.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

When we approach the text of scripture we are doing much more than looking for a key word or idea that we can fasten onto. We need to ask, “How is the passage constructed? What is the writer wanting me to grasp by his choice of words and sentence arrangement? E.g. John is fond of using double entendre - grasping this fills out our understanding of the text. Take the well-known verse Jn.3.16 the words John uses can be translated as “born again” and “born from above”. Both meanings enrich our understanding of John’s thought. Or, think of the “I am” sayings; in Greek sentence construction words of importance placed at the beginning of a sentence can have the effect of underlining it. As a result John’s construction can be read as, “I and only I”, or “I and uniquely I”.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

Because expository sermons consist of truths drawn from scripture and related to contemporary life. To preach effectively we need to be able to stand in three different worlds:

First, the one in which God’s revelation was originally given. What did God’s Word say to its first readers and what did it mean to those who originally heard it? – the ‘then and there ’.

Out of the exegesis emerges the context

and circumstances in which the Word of

God was first spoken. We need to try and

imagine ourselves into that context.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

We also need to be aware of contemporary culture - the value systems, philosophy and thought and ideas that have in the past, and continue in the present, to shape our own society. Only by so doing will we begin to grasp how God’s word can be applied to a contemporary context - the ‘here and now’.

Presentation 02

Understanding The Passage

c. Finally, we are to take on board the ‘postal code’ of our hearers. The great questions of our time assume different shapes in different settings - a congregation made up of city businessmen is quite different from that of

rural farm workers.

Knowing our congregation and their world is fundamentally important in the shape our

sermon will take.

Presentation 02


“I pity the preacher who enters the pulpit with no Bible in his hands, or with a Bible which is more rags and tatters than the Word of God. He cannot expound Scripture, because he has no Scripture to expound. He cannot speak, for he has nothing worth saying. But to enter the pulpit with the confidence that God has spoken, that he has caused what he has spoken to be written, and that we have this inspired text in our hands - ah! then our head begins to swim, our heart to beat, our blood to flow, and our eyes to sparkle, with the sheer glory of having God's Word in our hands and on our lips”. JOHN STOTT

Presentation 02