Ten Steps to an Expository Sermon

*Posted byAndrew Hebert

Expository preaching has been a hallmark of Criswell College. Here are a few tips on how to move from text to sermon:

Step 1: Find the boundaries of the text.

Where does this paragraph begin and end? Where in the text do I start and stop my sermon?

Step 2: Determine the structure of the text.

How does the author structure the text? If it is a narrative passage, how does the plot (setting, conflict, climax, resolution) develop? If it is a didactic passage, trace the argument of the author by noting how he uses verbs, participles, etc. What are the main commands, what are the sub-sections, etc.? Pay attention to connecting words such as therefore, but/yet, so then, finally, etc.

Step 3: Make observations about the text, ask interpretive questions, and seek the answers.

Observe things like repetition, OT quotations, special use of words, etc. Ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. Look to the context to find why the author is saying what hes saying and what he means by it. (Example: Acts 2:34. Observation Peter quotes Psalm 110:1. Interpretive Question Why does Peter quote Psalm 110? Interpretive Answer in verse 32-33 Peter is arguing that Jesus has been installed as Gods rightful king through resurrection. He quotes Psalm 110 to demonstrate that Jesus has fulfilled the Messianic expectation given in Psalm 110 to David.)

Step 4: Determine how the text fits into its broader literary and historical-cultural context.

Start at the paragraph level and discover how the paragraph fits into the context of the chapter, book, genre, testament, and canon in which it is found. Why is this text placed in this particular place? How does it relate to what comes before and after?

Go beyond this to determine the pertinent historical-cultural background to the text. For instance, if Caesar is commonly referred to as lord in the 1st century, what would be the implications of calling Jesus lord in that context? See Acts 17:6-7 for a clue.

Step 5: Perform any necessary word studies.

Are there any words that you dont understand? Are there obscure words that need to be defined, such as justification, propitiation, etc.? Remember that words only have meaning in their context, so look for clues in the text which will aid in understanding the meaning of a word. Also, keep in mind that sometimes different authors will use the same words but it different ways.

Step 6: Consult commentaries on the text.

You should check your work by reading at least three commentaries on the text: a critical commentary (scholarly), a mid-level commentary (pastoral), and a devotional commentary (application). Try the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series for a critical commentary, the New American Commentary series for a mid-level commentary, and the John MacArthur Commentary Series for a devotional commentary.

Step 7: Articulate the Big Idea of the text in one sentence.

What is the main point of this text? What is it saying and how does it say it? Putting this in one sentence will bring cohesiveness to your sermon and tie the points together in a unified theme.

Step 8: Develop your sermon outline.

Base the structure of your sermon from the structure of the text. All of your main points and sub-points should be derived from the text. For instance, in Matthew 28:19-20, the author uses one main verb (make disciples) and three participles (going, baptizing, teaching) which describe how to accomplish the main verb. Thus, your sermon should have one main point (make disciples) with three sub-points (going, baptizing, teaching).

Step 9: Develop the body, introduction, and conclusion of your sermon.

The body of your sermon should include explanation, illustration, and application of each sermon point. Explanation answers the question What does this text say and mean? Illustration answers the question How is this point true? Application answers the question So What?

Once the body of your sermon has been written, think of a creative, attention-getting way to introduce it, and determine how you will conclude the sermon with an eye towards your audience being transformed by the message. How will you invite the audience to respond to the text?

Step 10: Exegete your audience and contextualize your sermon.

Research your intended audience and contextualize your message to that audience. How can you communicate the sermon in such a way that your listeners will connect to the message? This should affect your choice of words, illustrations, attire, etc. Knowing your audience is crucial to communication. Notice that the Apostle Paul took different approaches with Jews in the Synagogue and Gentiles in the marketplace. The message doesnt change, but the method of delivery does.

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