How to Make a Point
In his excellent book Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Bryan Chapell gives some of the most helpful homiletical advice I have read. He teaches preachers how to make points in their sermons by following three simple steps:
- State the truth
- Place the truth
- Prove the truth
Stating the truth gives the sermon clarity. All too often, listeners have a hard time following a preacher’s flow of thought because his “points” are not clearly stated. Though we do not want to be too wooden in following our outline, it is still helpful to announce each point of the sermon. So, in a recent sermon from Psalm 136, I said, “Point number one: We should give thanks to the Lord for His character.”
Placing the truth in the text gives the sermon authority. Preachers have no right to expect a hearing, much less obedience, from their congregation unless they ground their teaching and proclamation squarely in the text of Scripture.
If I make a point which has no biblical ground, I am presuming to teach on my own authority. But if I place the point in the text, actually reading the passage from which my point is clearly and demonstrably drawn, then I am speaking not my own opinion, but the sure Word of God. So, continuing with the example from Psalm 136, I said, “Point number one: We should give thanks to the Lord for His character. Notice verses 1-3.” Then I read the verses.
Proving the truth gives the sermon credibility. Sometimes my point is self-evident from the text. But sometimes further explanation is needed. The meaning of a word, the literary features of the text, the narrative flow of the passage, the usage of a word or phrase in a parallel passage, and the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture may function like so many lenses in bringing the meaning of the passage at hand into clearer focus. In my sermon on Psalm 136, I proved my first point by: (1) calling attention to three features about God’s character which elicit our thanksgiving (His goodness, His supremacy, and His steadfast love) and (2) tracing the Psalmist’s echo of two other Old Testament passages (Deuteronomy 10:17 and Exodus 34:6-7) in these verses.
You can see this pattern for stating, placing, and proving one’s point in Luke’s description of Paul’s teaching in Acts 17:2-3. "And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'”
Paul’s statement of his point is seen in the quotation, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Paul placed this point in the text of God’s Word, as he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” I take that to mean that he was regularly reading and interacting with the biblical texts he was explaining. And he proved his point, as well, for Luke says that Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.”
When our sermons follow this simple model, our teaching will be marked with clarity, authority, and credibility. Brothers, let us ground the points of our sermons in the text of God’s holy Word!
Making It Personal
- Review your one of your recent sermons.
- Were your points clearly stated?
- Did you ground your points in the text of Scripture and take the time to read the passage after stating your point?
- Did you give good reasons for your interpretation of the passage?