Problem-Solution . . . .

structure 1  Variety In Structure

In the discipline of Public Address, there are different ways to STRUCTURE a speech.

  • Cause-Effect
  • Problem – Solution
  • Problem – Cause – Solution
  • Compare-Contrast
  • Descriptive
  • Chronological
  • Spatial
  • Advantages – Disadvantages
  • Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

You will find most of these structures used by various “speakers” of the Bible.  For instance, a number of Old & New Testament speakers structure their message or part of their message based on a chronological structure.  One such example in the New Testament is Stephen when he makes his argument in Acts 7.  He lays out the work of God from the days of the Abraham, through the Patriarchs – through Moses – through the Exodus – through David & Solomon to the present-time (“you” “you do always” – Acts 7:51).

Typically these various structures are used when preaching on a biblical topic, rather than working through the argument of a passage.*  Such is the case in our example which follows.

A Problem-Solution Structure Using Five Steps

Stephen Davey STRUCTURES his message using a problem-solution format — (Stephen Davey: “Going to Heaven . . . Old Testament Style” – audio link and PDF link).

If we were to analytically quantify the structure, we would see that he has five steps to his problem-solution approach.

1) Sets Up The Problem With A Question


Has the definition of salvation always been the same, since the beginning of time? Is it “justification by faith” for believers in the New Testament time, and “justification by works, or circumcision, or Levitical dietary laws, or adherence to the system of Judaism” in the Old Testament time? How was an Old Testament person saved? How were they granted forgiveness? How did an Old Testament believer go to paradise?


2) Gives Examples Which Deepen The Problem


Abraham never asked Jesus into his heart.

And, what about Jacob? . . . . how does a man like Jacob get into heaven?

What about Moses?

Consider David, as well.


3) States An Answer Which Doesn’t Work


How did an Old Testament man or woman, who lived and died prior to the cross of Jesus Christ, find cleansing and forgiveness? You might say, “Through animal sacrifices, right?”

(However, Hebrews 4 says that cannot be true) “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  . . . Since that is true, it would mean that it was impossible for any Old Testament believer to go to heaven, as none of their sins were completely or permanently removed. Their sins were certainly covered by the repetitive sacrifices, but not removed.

Unless God changed the rules, there is no way that a sinful person, even if they happened to be Abraham, Jacob, Moses, or David, could ever hope to live forever with a holy God, when they have never had their sins removed.


4) Restates The Problem


How did an Old Testament believer ever go to paradise? What is the answer to that question?


5) Lays Out The Answer / Solution


The answer is found, believe it or not, in Romans, chapter 3.



*Topical messages can be as expositional in nature as what is generally called “expositional preaching.”  The difference is that one is “expositing” various passages related to a specific topic which are found throughout the Scriptures, rather than staying with a single passage or chapter.

Expositional preaching is not the opposite of “topical preaching.”  The opposite of “expositional” is “spring-boarding.”

Interestingly, many of Andy Stanley’s messages are problem-solution because he often aims to create a point of tension in his introduction.

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