A Sermon Is Not . . . .

it is not.jpeg

Sometimes defining what something “is not
provides clarity as to what something “is.”

A Sermon Is Not . . . .

√  a collection of main points which have a relationship to each other, but only in that a word in each point can be found in the passage.

Ephesians 1:17-18 — That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints

There is a need for wisdom in life and living
We have God’s revelation in the Bible
There is a coming day of glory

Springboard Preaching: A passage of Scripture is not a repository of theological words which can be used to “springboard” off.  While the words used in the main points may be found in the passage, it may or may not be at all what the passage is addressing. 1




√  a collection of main points which have a relationship to each other, but only in that each concept / idea can be found in the verse or passage.

Ephesians 1:1 — Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus

The Person: Paul
The Position: An Apostle
The Permission: By The Will of God
The People: To The Saint
The Place: At Ephesus
The Performance: Faithful

Old Mother Hubbard Preaching:  A passage of Scripture is not designed to give us a series of biblical ideas, words, phrases, or concepts which we can progressively camp on and use as main points.

The individual pieces of the passage are used as main points, while the argument of the passage, or the reason for the content of that particular passage within the argument, is missed and/or untaught.




√  a collection of main points which have a relationship to each other, but only in that the original/first passage cited contains the words or thoughts of the points.

Ephesians 2:8-9

The Need For Salvation – Ephesians 2:8
The Avenue Of Faith – Romans 10:17
The Receiving Of Grace – Romans 5:15

Cross-Reference Preaching: A passage of Scripture is not a place where you can find a word (grace), or word and declaration (by grace you are saved through faith), and then move from reference to reference to establish the main points. 2




√  a collection of main points which have little relationship to each other, other than that they all start with the same letter or end in the same “sound.”

Sin’s pervasiveness — Romans 3:23
Salvation’s pricelessness — I Corinthians 2:9
Sanctification’s process — I Peter 1:19


The grace of God in salvation – Ephesians 2:8-9
The grace of God in sanctification – II Peter 2:18
The grace of God in glorification – Romans 5:2

Proof-text Preaching:  A sermon is constructed by putting together three or more biblical truths as main points.  While all which is preached may be biblically true, the points do not flow out of a passage and or may not even reflect the point being made in the cited text used to support this-or-that main point.




√  a collection of main points which have little relationship to each other, other than that they all are connected by a common theological truth.

The love of God when He saved us
The love of God as He keeps us
The love of God in giving us an inheritance

Systematic Theology Preaching: Scripture is not a repository of theological truths which are designed to be preached.  Systematic theology is for the classroom, taught in a seminary, reflected in a doctrinal statement.




√  a collection of main points which reflect the content of the verses and which have a direct relationship with each other because the verses follow sequentially — verse by verse — within the passage of Scripture.

I Corinthians 8

The danger of the academic – 8:1
The limitations and ignorance of men – 8:2
God’s love is personal – 8:3
Idolatry is vain – 8:4
The idolatry of men – 8:5
The Christian’s belief – 8:6

Line-Upon-Line Preaching: A passage of Scripture is not designed 3 in such a way as to have “verse upon verse” become the main points.  The verses are designed to contribute to the main points and to move towards the argument of the passage.

Sometimes the verse(s) lays out the individuals present, others communicate the words spoke, some verses clarify the situation, sometimes a verse will actually contain the crux of the argument, etc.

Some verses are there to get you to the next verse!

The verses are designed to contribute to the truth or principle being taught, but not necessarily to be that truth or principle.  For instance, as an ideal example, there are “narrative asides”  (an explanatory content which is parenthetical, though not irrelevant)4 which are designed to give clarity, even clarity to the point being made, but not to become a point.

“Chunking” out the context of a verse or verses help you determine the role that verse or those versus play in the flow of thought.




√  a collection of main points which call up the content of the verses (verses have a clear and direct relationship to each other in the passage of Scripture), but the main points do not grasp the argument of that passage.

I Corinthians 3:1-3

Being Babes In Christ
Displaying Carnality In Life
Manifesting Strife & Division In Living & In The Church

No-show Argument Preaching:  While those three points are clearly part of the exposition of the passage and are directly related to each other, they are part of an argument, not the argument.  These points which are being made by Paul, are the groundwork, the substructure of an argument.  They need to be connected to the argument of the passage as they are highlighted and preached. 5


Preaching is more than content*, but it is content.  It involves making sure that you rightly reflect and expose what the biblical passage states.  If the original author of that passage was sitting in the audience, listening to your studied understanding of those verses and his original intent, would he say . . . .

“Amen — preach it!”
“Where did you get that from?”



1. Originally, this is what was called “topical preaching.”  That is why “topical preaching” was disparaged over the years.

In recent years “topical preaching” has been reinstated as a legitimate form of preaching because it is now understood that one can preach a topical message while at the same time being expository — exposing the actual truth of the passage in the context of that passage.


2. Obviously, you can “pearl together” three expository messages from these three passages, but potentially a preacher-teacher is open to using one of the other cross-referenced verses out of context.


3. Obviously, there are exceptions when it comes to an actual biblical listing of points as stated by the writer — i.e. I Thessalonians 5:16-22


4. “Narrative Asides” sometimes give a time, a place, a custom, the thinking of the author, the thinking of a character, an identification of a person, the mental recall of the writer or disciple, etc.).

“Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” — Acts 11:16

Undoubtedly, one of the points of a message would not be, “We need to remember God’s Word.”


5. Typically, here is how a message would go with this sermonic approach . . . . .

“Paul is addressing the fact that when we are first saved, we are babes in Christ.  That is where we start out in our Christian life.  However, we are not meant to stay there in our lives any more than in the natural.

These believers have been saved and have some years of spiritual life, but are still carnal.  That carnality is showing itself by strife and division.  They are walking as the men of this world walk.

Let’s look at those three areas:

#1) Being Babes In Christ
#2) Displaying Carnality In Life
#3) Manifesting Strife & Division In Living & In The Church

#1) Being Babes In Christ:  That is our starting point.  We need to recognize that when it comes to those who are new believers – to babes.  They are going to come into the Christian life just like we did — babes.  They have to, as we did, work through some of the most basic areas of life and living.  Give them room — like we needed — to grow.  You do not expect a baby to be able to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “


However, the argument Paul is making is about . . . .

the roll each of God’s servants plays in God’s program
the exalting and disparaging of men, like Paul and Apollos
the cause of the division and strife
the carnality — which is seen in the  “I am of Paul / I am of Apollos”

AND in building to that point, Paul is laying down the substructure.  In getting to that point, Paul lays down and builds the argument step by step . . . .

√  How babes are carnal. ( That is to be expected.  Carnal and babes are connected 3:1)
√  How babes are initially fed with milk and they were by Paul
√  How babes are meant to grow up but they have not — still can’t eat meat.
√  Therefore, you are “yet carnal.”  (Key to argument – twice – “yet carnal”)
√  Proof & Example of your carnality — “For whereas . . . For while . . . . are ye not carnal”

3: 5 — WHO THEN — “by whom” (not in whom)
3:7 — SO THEN — this is where Paul is going!
This is the crux of the argument.  We are all laborers, fellow laborers, and every man shall receive his own reward!


Paul is not examining the subject of carnality, or new birth-babes, or milk and meat.  He is laying down the substructure, the groundwork, the infrastructure of the argument he wants to make!

The “preaching casualty” is the argument which Paul is making!

It is not that all which may be and can be said about babes, carnality, strife, division, personal tastes, and the like is not biblical true based on the whole tenor of Scripture.  Nevertheless, what Paul is teaching is not seen correctly or fully by the audience.

Statement of the Big Idea or Main Argument





A Sermon Is Not . . . . .

. . . . only the theological, but also involves the “rhetorical.”

Preaching is not just having sound biblical content.  It is also effective communication.  That is exactly what differentiates preachers and teachers.  Why do you find it profitable and enjoyable when listening to ___(insert you person)___?

However, a sermon also includes doing all we can in preparation and delivery to be clear, engaging, practical, and applicational.

If you wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to work on the rhetorical, and/or spend the week primarily on the theological, you will lack the needed time to generate ways to best communicate the biblical truths you want to see change lives.


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