Rhetoric and Homiletics: A Simple Homiletical Formula

Let me begin with some general starting points . . . .

  • There are two basic categories of Scripture:  Narrative and Grammatical.
  • The Old Testament is primarily narrative.
  • The New Testament is primarily grammatical.
  • Narrative: The argument of the passage is found within the story.
  • Grammatical:  The argument of the passage is found within the grammatical structure.
  • The Old Testament does contain grammatical portions: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms.
  • The New Testament does contain narrative: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and perhaps Revelation.

There is a beneficial “formula” that aids both the study and the preaching of narrative portions of Scripture: “This is a story of . . . . . ”

For instance, if one were preaching I Samuel 18-19, involving Saul, David, and Jonathan . . . .

“This is a story of family & friendship.” — This is a story of Jonathan, the son of Saul, and Jonathan, the friend of David.


“This is a story of legacy and loyalty.” — This is a story of Jonathan, heir to the throne of Israel, and Jonathan, an heir to the throne who understands David is to be the next king over Israel.

. . . . 


. . . . 

If one were preaching II Samuel 9, involving David, Ziba, and Mephibosheth . . . .

“This is a complicated story of a King, a dishonest servant, and a descendant of a loyal friend.” — This is the story of David, his love for Jonathan, and a descendent of Saul who tries to manage the king’s request.

When you frame out the story this way, it provides a focus to both the audience, as well as to the sermon development and preaching.  This framing of a narrative could be two or three, or even four elements.  Once you get past four, you may be losing the passage’s focus.

  • This is a complex story of . . . .
  • This is a simple story of . . . .
  • This is a lengthy story of . . . . which begins in chapter . . . . and ends in the death of Saul.
  • This is a confusing story of . . . .
  • This is a hard story of God’s justice and God’s grace . . . .

“This is a story of . . . .” is one of many useful mental tools in sermon construction.

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