So far we have discussed four of seven steps in preparing a sermon:
Step One: Choose the Passage
Step Two: Study the Passage
Step Three: Choose the Proposition or the main idea
Step Four: Construct the Sermon Outline or the Divisions
Step Five: Develop the sermon outline with the four rhetorical processes: Explanation, Argumentation of explanation, Illustration, Application (and argumentation of application).
I will begin with the first rhetorical process of explanation. This process could be identified with exegesis. Therefore, we need to give some definitions to distinguish hermeneutics, exegesis, and homiletics. I like the way Roy Zuck defines these terms.
Hermeneutics: The science (principles) by which the biblical text is interpreted
Exegesis: The application (art) of the principles of hermeneutics
Homiletics: The science and art of preaching the meaning of the biblical text
In a lecture on preaching, Dr. Mark Minnick said there are two mentalities of exegesis.
The first mentality asks, “What can I say about this passage?” With this mentality, the preacher is the creator and his tools are tools of addition: Books of illustrations, devotional commentaries, and quotation books.
The other and preferable mentality asks, “What does this passage say?” or “What has God said in this passage?” You have 1129 chapters in God’s Word to figure that out. With this mentality, the preacher is the interpreter and his tools are tools of extraction: Lexicons, concordances, word studies and exegetical commentaries.
Dr. Minnick, in his lecture, spoke of the methodology of exegesis.
The First Step is to find the eternal thematic truth of the passage (every passage is about one truth). Theologians call this authorial intent: The author’s one intent for his original audience.
For example, the one eternal thematic truth of 1 Cor 13 is _____________
The Book of Romans is ____________________________
John 1:1 is __________________
These thematic truths of the above examples will always be love, the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, and the Word.
The Second Step is to find the fixed number of developmental statements in that passage
1. Every passage has a limited number of things it says about its theme
2. How many things does John 1:1 say about the Word? Three and only three.
1) The Word’s Existence in eternity “In the beginning was the Word”
2) The Word’s Relationship with the Father “And the Word was with God”
3) The Word’s Identification with Deity “And the Word was God”
There are Four Ways to Explain a passage. Using these four ways can add variety to this first rhetorical process.
1. By Positive Definition
What did Paul mean in 1 Timothy 2:12 when he instructed, “I permit not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man, but to learn in silence?” “In silence” comes from the same Greek word that is translated “held their peace” in Acts 11:18. In Acts 11, Peter is defending his actions to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem concerning the Gentiles that Peter had won to Christ at Cornelius’ house. When Peter was through explaining what God had done, the convinced Jewish leaders “held their peace and glorified God.” They did not stop talking but they did stop verbally protesting Peter’s actions and leadership.
This positive definition helps us understand what Paul is telling the church to do when it meets for public worship (which is the context of 1 Timothy 2). Paul is not saying that women can’t talk or speak in church but he is insisting that woman cease verbally protesting male leadership in the roles of pastor (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and deacons (3:8-13).
2. By Contrast
You can help explain the meaning of Matthew 5:3 where Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” by contrasting the two different Greek words translated “poor.” The Greek word translated “poor” in Luke 21:2 means the person is so poor he has to work to eat or he has some resources. The other Greek word for poor in Luke 16:20 means the person is so poor he has to beg to eat and he has no resources. The second Greek word is used by Jesus in Matthew 5:3. To enter the kingdom of heaven requires a total poverty of spirit or complete humility. We cannot work nor merit the kingdom. It is totally by God’s grace.
3. By Comparison
In James 4:11, James admonishes believers to “speak not evil one of another.” The same Greek word is translated in the KJV “backbitings” in 2 Corinthians 12:20. This is an interesting comparison.
When I was only about 11 or 12, my grandfather bought me a Shetland pony which is one of the meanest animals God ever created. I was leading the pony from the pasture to the barn to saddle and ride. As I was leading him, he bit me in the center of my back and just held on. I was helpless and in great pain. I was at his mercy until he finally got tired and released me. Oftentimes when someone speaks evil or slanders you behind your back, you experience emotional pain and you also are at their mercy.
4. By Relationships
By relationships we mean the context in which the word is used. Roy Zuck mentions several important contexts.
The first important context is the immediate context. “Often the sentence in which a word is used clarifies the meaning. The use of the word pen by itself might mean fountain pen or pig pen, but most likely the sentence in which it is used would clarify which is meant.”
Zuck refers to Cotterell’s and Turner’s list of the seven different meanings of the Greek word kosmos or “world” according to the immediate context.
1. The whole created universe, including the earth, the heavens, heavenly bodies, etc.
2. “Earth” as opposed to heaven or the heavens.
3. “Mankind,” that is, the “world” of people.
4. The condition of mortal life; “life in the world”.
5. The beings (human and supernatural) in rebellion against God, together with the systems under their control, viewed as opposed to God.
6. The system of earthly and social structures (including its joys, possessions, and cares).
7. “Adornment” or “adorning”.
Match the following six verses with the these seven different uses. Immediate context will determine which usage is correct: John 3:16; 1 John 2:15-16; 1 Peter 3:3; John 17:5; 1 Cor 7:31; 1 Tim 6:7 (Zuck, 108, 109).
Another important context is the context of the paragraph or chapter. In Matthew 24-25, Jesus is describing the end time events of the seven-year Tribulation Period. In the midst of this detailed description, Jesus said, “he that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved.” When this verse is lifted from its context, it is said to teach that a person must work to keep himself saved or he can lose his salvation. The context is not talking about spiritual salvation but physical deliverance. The persecuted believer in the Tribulation who is not martyred by the Anti-christ will physically be delivered from the Tribulation and enter alive into the Millennium.
Each of the four rhetorical processes answers a question, hopefully, your audience is asking while you are preaching. After you read the verses in your main point, Explanation will answer your listener’s first question, “What do these verses mean?” There are at least four ways you can answer their question with variety.
The next rhetorical process and method you develop in your divisions is Argumentation of explanation. I will develop Argumentation of Explanation in part 4 when I discuss Argumentation of Application. Argumentation of explanation is where you insert theology into your sermon. If you want to jump ahead to part 4 you can to learn about Argumentation of explanation. Next, I will talk about the rhetorical process called Illustration.