How to prepare a sermon – part 3



Step 3: Connect the text

Good Bible preaching considers not only the particular passage chosen for that sermon but also demonstrates how the passage connects to the rest of the Bible. There are two main reasons for this:

First, connecting the text to the rest of the Bible’s teaching ensures the preacher is teaching the sermon text correctly. Even if a particular text is studied thoroughly but without reference to everything else the Bible has to say, there is a good chance that the preacher could present a narrow or skewed view of the topic at hand. For example, a sermon on tithing based on Deuteronomy 14:22-28 might give an interesting view of ancient Israelite practices, but what does this have to do with the present-day church? Do we simply enforce a law on our congregation based on this text or do we nuance our teaching based on other passages in Scripture? The answer to this question relies on the preacher connecting the set passage with the wider teaching of the Bible.

The second main reason for this connection is to demonstrate the whole counsel of God to the congregation through our preaching. This takes a number of forms, many of which overlap, but the following are a number of connections preachers can make between the main text of a sermon and the wider span of Scripture:

Biblical Theology

This broad category aims to set a particular text within the grand storyline of the Bible – creation (God’s sovereign and loving creation of all things), fall (the disastrous rebellion of humankind and the plunging of the created order in to disarray), redemption (God’s plan to redeem and recreate through the person and work of Christ), consummation (the future perfection of a new heavens and new earth).

For example, a sermon in the book of Judges might demonstrate the decay of human society as unchecked sin and rebellion abounds. This may be an accurate exposition of the latter chapters of the book, but to inform the congregation of the evils of moral decay and then close in prayer is doing them no favours at all! Instead a preacher can openly show how bad life is without reference to a loving creator God (creation and fall, above) but the great news of the Christian message is that he has done something definitive and costly to renew human beings through the work of his Son Jesus (redemption), and because of his work on the cross, we can look forward to a day without sin and rebellion and suffering (consummation).

You can see how we have moved from a narrow explanation of the text to connecting it with the wider biblical story. And the difference is night and day.

Systematic Theology

Another similar approach is to connect a text to other parts of the Bible that speak of the same doctrine that appears in the sermon’s text. A sermon on God’s love from Psalm 103:8 reveals that God is ‘abounding in steadfast love.’ This is a beautiful thing indeed, but abstracted from further insights from the doctrine of the love of God, we could quickly become unstuck and come out with all sorts of nonsense.

A careful preacher would want to show the congregation what the love of God looks like. He might take them to Romans 5:8 to show the climax of God’s love for his people in giving his only Son, or 1 John 4:19 that tells us that our love for God is impossible without him first loving us.

Endless possibilities

There are so many connections that a preacher could make between a given text and the rest of Scripture! Whether biblical or systematic, types and shadows, there is such rich variety that springs from the Bible that expository preaching should never be boring – quite the contrary. The preacher has endless possibilities for creativity in the sermon, helping the congregation to see the bigger picture and how we can see Christ from all the Scripture (Luke 24:27, 44). This is not only informative but highly enriching.

The sheer number of possible connections that a preacher can make between the sermon text and the wider sweep of Scripture can be bewildering. The point with all this is not to find as many connections as possible and insert them into the sermon – not only will the message be two hours long but the congregation will get swamped. Instead it is a Spirit-led wisdom call as to what you include and what you leave on the cutting room floor.