One of my favorite things to do is to study God’s Word. Most weeks I have the privilege of studying God’s Word specifically for the preparation of a sermon to be preached at West Broadway Baptist Church of Lenoir City, TN. I’m usually preaching an exposition through a particular book of the Bible. For example, during the six and a half years that I’ve been at this church I’ve preached through the books of Exodus, Ruth, Hosea, John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1, 2, and 3 John. Yesterday I began preaching a series of sermons through the Gospel of Matthew.
Before I begin to preach through a book, I begin to read it. Over and over and over again. I also listen to the book repeatedly using Max Mclean’s The Listener’s Bible (ESV). I also read all the entries in my Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries, introductory material in my commentaries and book introductions in my study Bibles. Here I am learning about the issues of authorship, audience, critical issues, and the overall message of the book. In all of the above I am seeking to gain familiarity with both the content and argument of the book. I don’t want to be surprised by recurring themes in the book, nor do I want to miss the major point of the book. When I preach a book of the Bible I want the main point of my series to be the main point of the book’s human and divine authors, therefore every sermon must show how that main point is being advanced by the author under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Once the series is begun, I focus more on the individual text, sometimes called a pericope or “expository unit.” For me this unit is usually a paragraph in one of Paul’s letters, though this varies. Different literary genres have pericopes of varying lengths. The key is to find a thought unit, not necessarily a paragraph. I look for a unit which makes one of the smaller arguments which is part of the larger argument of the book (this mainly applies to the NT books). Though I am focusing on the individual text, I must continue to be mindful of the context (which is more than just the immediate context of the chapter, it also includes the broader context of the entire book, as well as the context of the canon as a whole). Therefore, I continue to read and listen to the entire book throughout the length of the series. In the next post, I will focus on exactly what I do during the week with that week’s text of Scripture before consulting the commentaries. Stay tuned . . .