Summary: Preaching analogies is very biblical

Lesson Goal

I hope to encourage the preaching of sermons using an analogy.

Lesson Intro

Jesus is our prime model of good preaching. He used analogy continually. Many of his parables are analogies. Yet, his analogies are not limited to his parables. Jesus is the door, the bread, the light, the Good Shepherd, the resurrection, the life, the way, the vine, and the root. Many good sermons can be created using Bible analogies, by explaining how something that was relevant to an ancient culture is still relevant today. There is also nothing wrong with taking this example and using similar, suitable modern analogies to preach the same timeless truths.

Lesson Plan

This chapter explains what an analogy is, how an analogy is structured, how to discern between good and bad analogies, and gives an example sermon.

Lesson Body


An analog (or analogue) clock is one where the positions of hands on a circular dial are compared to real time. If two things (X and Y) are similar, we can say that X is an analog of Y. Or we could say that X and Y are analogous. Another way to say it is that X is to A like Y is to B. In the case of the analog clock, minutes of linear time are to an hour like the position of the minute hand is to a 360° circle. This is often written as


or (in our example)



Analogy then, is a comparison of different contexts, such as X and Y which contain something similar. This is one way to overcome the difficulty of presenting two sections of scripture from two different contexts ? showing where they are similar and where they are different. Analogies make us think. For example, Paul compared a preacher's income to cattle feed when he said, don't muzzle the ox (1 Timothy 5:18). In the analogy, an ox (X) is being used to work grain (A), and a preacher (Y) is being used to work hard on the Gospel from which he receives remuneration (B). These are two totally different contexts, two different reward systems, but one very important unifying reward principle - just compensation.

In analogies using a comparison of two situations, the two contexts are called the source and the target. In the example of not muzzling the ox, the ox:grain (X:A) scenario is the source, and the gospel preacher:preacher's pay (Y:B) scenario is the target. The source is usually a familiar experience and the target is a less familiar experience. It can be argued that the source sets a precedent. The precedent is transferred from one context to another. The analogy can therefore be an argument for applying the precedent of everyday common sense to an unfamiliar situation. This analogy could be written as the ox is to the grain like a preacher is to the income from preaching the gospel. It uses our analogy structure X:A::Y:B as follows:


Most of Jesus' analogies were common experience 2,000 years ago. Hence when we explain his teachings and bring the lesson forward to our day, it is also good to include a modern example or equivalent analogy, so that we get the point of a logical transfer from our familiar experiences to the same lesson that Jesus was teaching. In this case, when Jesus is saying that the source X of his analogy has a similar principle to Y the target, we can explain this by using a secondary, modern source X2 which has the same target Y. For instance, we could say that a Seeing Eye dog needs to be rewarded with treats in order to work best. Just as the first analogy is not meant to demean a preacher, but to show how much better we sometimes treat an animal than a human being doing the most important job on earth, so too we could create a secondary analogy, similar to the first (X2:A2::Y:B).



Carrying the analogy too far is a common problem. What a waste of everyone's time is a comparison that dances all over the place with fanciful inventions that are pulled out of thin air and for which God receives the blame. I have heard many lay people exclaim that such a bizarre piece of rubbish was a wonderful sermon, when it was actually junk food, that didn't teach anything of earthly or heavenly good. For instance, we could say, like Paul that we should not muzzle the ox. However, we could not necessarily go on to list a whole heap of other characteristics of oxen which match those of preachers. For instance, oxen are often adult castrated males. Most preachers are not; even if your wife wishes it were so. Oxen have a limited vocabulary, such as up, whoa, gee (go right), and haw (go left). Most preachers have above average vocabularies, except perhaps when repairing the family car. Oxen are usually larger breeds of cattle. Many preachers are not large people.

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