“To me, this text means . . .”
Expository preachers cringe at any words spoken like the above. When God inspired His Word, He did so within a certain context and towards a certain audience. The expositor’s job is to study the text so that he can, to the best of his ability and gifting, communicate what God said in His Word.
In my previous blog, I described the first in a series of three sentences that aid in expressing and communicating the author’s original intent. That sentence, the Historical Theme Sentence, described the meaning of a preaching paragraph in past tense and historical language.
The second sentence, the Contextual Theme Sentence, moves from then to now by using present tense universal language.
The process is not complicated, but does take work. The goal is to alter the text’s Historical Theme Sentence so that it applies to all of God’s people for all time.
Below are the historical theme sentences I shared in the previous post, along with my contextual theme sentence for each text.
John 1:1-5 (HTS): John wrote that Jesus, being God, is the eternal creator and the light of men.
John 1:1-5 (CTS): Creation and salvation declare the deity of Christ.
John 3:16-21 (HTS): 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.
John 3:16-21 (CTS): Because God loves the world, He sent Jesus to rescue us from judgment.
Romans 1:1-6 (HTS): Paul attributed his mission and apostleship to the resurrection of Jesus, which declared Christ to be the Son of God.
Romans 1:1-6 (CTS): Since Jesus was raised from the dead, then we are to take the message of salvation to the world.
James 1:1-4 (HTS): James encouraged the Jewish believers to view their trials as joyous because they would increase their spiritual endurance.
James 1:1-4 (CTS): Our trials, if we view them correctly, will build our spiritual endurance.
2 Kings 5 (HTS): Naaman, because of his healing by faith, became a follower of the true God.
2 Kings 5 (CTS): Faith brings salvation.
Notice two things about these Contextual Theme Sentences.
First, the language is universal to all believers and framed within the present. My goal is to word the sentence applicationally. I am a firm believer that sermon points are to be fully expressed applicational ideas, not descriptive sentence fragments.
Second, the Contextual Theme Sentence is not my preaching point. It serves only as a bridge that moves the preparation process from the past to the present. But, like any bridge, it must be solid. If I miss the point of the passage when formulating this sentence, then my sermon will not reflect the text’s main idea.
I encourage you to spend much time working on this sentence. Write, rewrite, edit, and then edit some more.
After completing the contextual theme sentence, you will be ready to move on to the topic of my next post: the Sermonic Theme Sentence.