Okay, you’ve studied the biblical text. You’ve prayed through that process. You’ve taken notes. You understand the flow of the immediate text you’re preaching on and you understand the context it fits into. Now, it’s time to start thinking through the sermon writing process and how you’re going to present the biblical text in the sermon.
Here’s the question we’re going to examine: what are some things preachers must do in order to preach the biblical text well? When it all comes down to it, how we handle the biblical text is all that truly matters. If we have an amazing story to begin, but our preaching of the Bible passage is ‘meh’ then we’ve missed the mark by a mile.
For those of you familiar with the sticky sermon structure, we’re going to be working through the truth and application sections of the sermon.
So let’s dive in…
5 Things Preachers Must Do With the Biblical Text in the Sermon
1. Teach it. (Truth Section)
Dive in. What was the cultural context of the original recipients of the text? What was the context of the writer? What’s the flow of the entire book and how does that passage fit into it? Are there some phrases or cultural things that need clarity for us to understand them?
Teaching the biblical text means that we take our hearers on a journey to another world – the world of biblical authors and their hearers/readers.
My conviction here is why I avoid reading 43,000 individual verses in a sermon. Slow down and spend the time not just reading a bunch of verses, but teach the biblical text. Preferably one Bible passage.
We must help our people understand what the biblical text means. We must help them see what God is saying in and through the biblical text.
2. Apply it. (Application Section)
If we’ve understood the text well, we can bridge the meaning to today.
What ought we do in response to the truth of the text?
How does the text intersect with everyday life?
How could a single person take this and live it out? Married person? A parent? A teenager? A child?
While teaching the text well requires good exegesis of the text, applying the text requires good exegesis of our people.
What are they dealing with and how does this text address those things?
When we’re thinking through how we can apply the text, we must simply take the truth and embed it into life today. How does this apply to this scenario and that scenario?
If we know our people well, if we know human tendencies and human struggles well, we’ll be able to apply the text well.
But let’s not stop there. Because in the midst of applying the biblical text to life, we must give some flavor and color to the picture and that’s where the next thing comes into play.
3. Illustrate it. (Application Section)
Sermon illustrations can be a useful and even powerful tool for helping our people not only understand but also feel.
Did you know that we make decisions based on emotion rather than logic? If that’s true then the question we must ask is how do we connect with the heart?
An illustration, a story, a picture, these are vehicles that can go where prose cannot.
If we only show here is what this means and here is how this connects to everyday life then we’re shortchanging our hearers because we’re only staying on the interstate. And you and I both know that to get the best views, we must get off the interstate and go hiking.
When we illustrate the truth, we help people connect the truth to their emotions. In other words, the path from the head to the heart often happens when we’re taken on a journey where the truth was applied (or not applied) in someone’s life.
If you can share a personal story, that’s best. If not, look for things you’ve observed in life. You can find sermon illustrations in many, many places.
4. Distinguish it. (Application Section)
If applying it looks at what the truth looks like lived out today, then distinguishing it looks at a couple things: (1) how we often miss the mark on living the truth out, and (2) how we can misapply the biblical text to life.
Oftentimes, this is where we must look at the biblical text through the lens of moralistic therapeutic deism and destroy it with a gospel right hook.
The Christian life is not a life lived through will-power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian and leading them to righteousness along the road of sanctification.
We miss the mark. We need Christ to account for our sin and release us from its bondage.
5. Portable-ize it. (Application Section)
Everything in our messages ought to be driving toward one BIG idea. And we must make that big idea portable.
In order to portable-ize the truth of the biblical text, we should boil it down into a memorable statement.
Make it rhyme. “There’s no win in comparison.” – Andy Stanley
Or make it alliterated. “If you want your life to count, be gripped by the God of grace.” – from a sermon I preached on single-mindedness
Or make it echo. “You are of infinite worth to the infinite God.” – from a sermon I preached on the doctrine of humanity
Or make it a metaphor. “The root of murder is anger. Only God can uproot it from our hearts.” – from a sermon I preached on the commandment, do not murder
Or make it contrast. “A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.” – Carey Nieuwhof
Preach one point and make it sticky.
A Resource to Help
In our book, Preaching Sticky Sermons, we dive into how to prepare, write, and deliver memorable sermons. If you found this article helpful, you’ll find our book even more helpful.
What Would You Add?
What are some other things preachers must do with the biblical text? Join the conversation and let us know. You can do so on social media: Join our Facebook Group, tweet us, or post on our Facebook Page.
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