The old joke goes: How many points should a sermon have?
The punch line: At least one.
I’ve mentioned that preaching is the combination of exegesis, hermeneutics, and homiletics. So far, this blog discussed exegesis. In hermeneutics, we use our exegetical discoveries to determine the text’s meaning.
Keep in mind that we strive to discover authorial intent. The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to write for specific audiences and purposes. The text means to us what it meant to them. We cannot be faithful to the text and apply it properly in our context until we understand it in its original setting.
I recommend crafting three sentences to help determine what a text meant and, therefore, what it means.
The first sentence I use to express a text’s meaning is the Historical Theme Sentence (HTS). This sentence states the text’s main idea in past tense language.
By the time you are ready to write this sentence you have read the text thoroughly, analyzed its structure, performed word studies, gathered background information, and read commentaries.
The key for this step is to combine your information about the text into a coherent thought. Before writing the sentence, read back through the text. Because of your exegetical work, you will have a deeper understanding of the verses. The results of your study, if done properly, should link in your mind and allow you to summarize the text.
Here are a few examples of Historical Theme Sentences from my preaching this year (2014).
John 1:1-5: John wrote that Jesus, being God, is the eternal creator and the light of men.
John 3:16-21: John wrote that because the Father loved the world, He sent the Son into the world to rescue anyone who believes in Jesus from judgment.
Romans 1:1-6: Paul attributed his mission and apostleship to the resurrection of Jesus, which declared Christ to be the Son of God.
James 1:1-4: James encouraged the Jewish believers to view their trials as joyous because they would increase their spiritual endurance.
2 Kings 5: Naaman, because of his healing by faith, became a follower of the true God.
Admittedly, these statements read a bit blandly. But, I’m not concerned about their literary quality. My goal is to state the text’s meaning in the original audience’s context.
What did God want them to hear and know?
What did they take away from the text?
This sentence is the key to good expository preaching. If properly written, then the remainder of the preparation process falls into place.
I’m a firm believer in one point sermons, where the explanation, illustration, and application of the paragraph reflect the text’s main idea. The writing of the Historical Theme Sentence is the first step towards producing that point.