Summary: How to preach a topic that comes from the Bible.
To preach a topic that comes from the Bible.
Preaching a text is the easiest and most effective habit for preaching. However, various topics are also covered in the Bible that require the use of several passages of Scripture. How to handle this is an art and a technique that requires diligence and thoroughness.
We will hammer out the preparation of a sermon on a biblical topic. We will look at the example in Acts 2, discuss prayer, caution with concordances, using software, to look up meanings of Greek and Hebrew words, applications and examples, and how to put this altogether into a sermon outline.
In a strictly textual or exegetical sermon, we derive the points from an analysis of one text. In a biblical topic, we may still derive the points from the Bible, but from several texts. The topic may be an aspect of prayer and we use several texts to preach about prayer from several angles. Each of those facets of prayer becomes a point in our sermon.
Acts 2 as a Sermon
Acts 2:14-41 is Peter's famous sermon on the first Pentecost in the Christian era. It gives preachers an example of how to give a sermon using several passages of Scripture, without ripping them out of their context or twisting them as can be done if we are not careful. Notice several things:
1. Peter uses 3 scriptures
2. Peter has 3 points
He says (1) that the experience fulfilled and ancient prophecy, (2) that Jesus death was part of God's plan, and (3) Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Perhaps you would notice a different breakdown of points and that is okay. The important thing for us here is that Peter does have points in his sermon.
3. Peter leaves them with some homework
He tells them to repent and be baptized. It is important to make any sermon have application to the hearers' lives.
Prayer is the beginning of preparation. What does God want preached? If the topic is prayer, for instance, we may simply type in a search for the word pray* (with the splat or star after the word pray) into our Bible software and thus produce a search for all the words with pray at the beginning, specifically in Bible Works doing a King James search we come up with pray, prayed, prayer, prayers, prayest, prayeth and praying. Then as we look down the list of 511 verses, we may realize that is too much research for the time we have allotted, but we look at a few verses anyway.
2. Concordance Limitations
If you only have a concordance, that is okay, but beware that the definitions are very limited and not as good as those in a Lexicon. Also, a concordance does not give the specific meaning within a particular context, only the general meanings. Too many preachers, who have not studied Greek and Hebrew, pick out a definition that suits their purposes, but may or may not even be close to the real meaning of the word in a particular context. Nor is a concordance as good as some Bible software which grammatically parses the Greek and Hebrew words within their context.
3. Software Advantages
Now back to our search. In the very first verse we place our cursor over the word pray and get the Hebrew meaning in a window at the bottom left, finding that the word pray in Genesis 12:13 means simply to beseech, and that Abram was beseeching or making a request of his half-sister wife Sarai. We realize that the word pray has a broader meaning than just talking to God. However, at this point, because of limited time, we narrow the search down to just the word prayer*. That gives us 138 hits, and we decide to go with it.
4. Various Meanings
We find that ask is the most frequent meaning of the word pray in the Bible. Depending on the context, it can also mean to implore, plead, beg, entreat, request, wish, urge, praise, honor, worship, thank, blessing, gratitude, appreciation, recognition, intercede, intervene, or negotiate.
So we decide it might be good to investigate prayer postures, seeing as though some Christians believe you need to have a particular body posture in order to pray. We catalog all the verses which speak of what people did with their bodies when they prayed. We discover that often in the Bible, the accepted practice of praying was to stand (1 Samuel 1:26; Nehemiah 9:3-5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11-13). On other occasions people knelt (2 Chronicles 6:13; 1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:59; 20:36). Sometimes the word translated to pray is synonymous with bending the knee, or genuflecting as our Catholic friends call it. Some Christians are dismayed at those who raise their hands in prayer or worship. However, that too is quite biblical (1 Timothy 2:8). Early Christian art in the catacombs depicted believers standing with outstretched arms. It is a very ancient custom dating back into the Old Testament era (Psalm 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; Lamentations 3:41).