The Bible
  OT Overview
  NT Overview
  OT Books
  NT Books
  OT History
  NT History
  OT Studies
  Pentateuch Studies
  History Books Studies
  Studies in the Prophets
  NT Studies
  Studies in the Gospels
  Acts and Letters Studies
  Revelation Studies
  Inductive Study
  Types of Literature
  Early Church
  British Museum
  Historical Docs
  Life Questions
  How to Preach
  SBS Staff
Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
Translate into
Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter

 Preaching I: Two Approaches to Preaching

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Intro: What is Preaching? II: Study Passage

There are two different approaches to the preparation and deliverance of a message. One is to speak about a particular theme or topic, while the other is to expound one text from the Bible. Both are valuable, and both have particular advantages and disadvantages.

1. Thematic preaching

The first approach is to teach or preach on one particular theme connected with the Christian life. Normally, the theme is chosen and a selection of Bible references are then used to support the message.

This approach is helpful if you receive a one-off invitation to speak to a church or group on a particular subject. It is particularly appropriate for teaching on subjects which are widely spread around the Bible. One example is teaching on the Character of God, as different aspects of his character are illustrated in different places in the Bible. However, the danger is that the teaching will become rather superficial. It may be better to concentrate on one or two key passages, and go into these more deeply.

One disadvantage with this approach is that there are only a limited number of topics to chose from. It would be almost impossible to preach on themes to the same church for ten years, without much repetition. You may be reluctant to chose some of the more embarrassing topics, such as money or sex.

There are also some dangers to be aware of. One is to ensure that your theme is correct, and that you take care that you are interpreting and applying all the Scripture passages you refer to accurately, and not taking the texts out of their true context. Another weakness is that it can lead to a rather superficial use of Scripture, scratching the surface rather than digging more deeply into the text. This gives a wrong model of how to use the Bible, that it is merely a collection of scattered verses to pull out when required.

2. Expository preaching

The second approach is to preach from one main text and to draw out a message from it. The approach is more inductive, as the message is drawn out from the chosen passage. This can either be a one-off message from one particular text, or part of a series in which the preacher works through a book of the Bible.

There are many advantages of this approach. Firstly it is almost impossible to run out of material and subjects to preach on. Over a period of several years, this approach makes it possible to give broad teaching from all the Bible, laying a good foundation of the major Christian doctrines.

If the preacher works systematically through different books of the Bible, then the church is given thorough instruction. It also avoids some of the danger of being selective, so all doctrines, and topics are covered at some point, including the more embarrassing ones.

You can bring much more out of one passage of Scripture than you can from many. This gives much more depth to your teaching. It is also much less work to study one passage in the depth required, than to study many.

Through using this more inductive approach the preacher is modelling to the congregation how to read and apply the Bible for themselves. In this way it encourages a greater reverence for the Scriptures. It also causes you to be more transparent, by allowing your listeners to see where you got your ideas. Very importantly, it takes the emphasis away from the speaker and more onto the Bible.

The main disadvantage is that this approach has the reputation of being dry, boring and irrelevant to people’s lives. However, that problem is with the preacher, rather than the approach to preaching. There is no reason why expository preaching has to be boring. If it is interesting, delivered well, and has relevant life-changing application, then it will certainly not be boring.

An expository message will normally be drawn from one main passage from the Bible, but the preacher may wish to make brief reference to a few other passages as required, particularly for illustrations during the message.

Dangers to be aware of

1. The Biblical hook

This is when the preacher begins by reading a passage from the Bible, but then does not refer to it again for the rest of the message. This gives the false impression that the teaching that follows comes from the Bible, when in fact it may not. It is far preferable to use the use the text, dig into it, and allow your message to come from it.

2. Biblical claims

Another danger is when the preacher claims the Bible says something, without giving any references. This also gives a false impression that the teaching is Biblical, when no such passage may actually exist. It is very important that you allow the listeners to check whether what you say is true or not, like the Jews in Beroea (Acts 17:11).

3. Selective quotations

It is very common for people to quote many different passages of the Bible to support their theme, while ignoring many other passages which may say something different. There are many concepts in the Christian faith where there is a paradox, in which two seemingly opposing truths are both true. One familiar and controversial example is God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

4. Referring to the Greek or Hebrew

If you have the ability to understand the original languages of Greek and Hebrew, it can give greater understanding to your message if you refer to them. However we need to be careful that we are not effectively claiming secret knowledge by claiming, “The Greek means ...”, as the majority of people listening will not have the ability to check whether that is true. Referring to the Greek can sound impressive, but a little knowledge of Greek can be dangerous.

Intro: How to Preach II: Study Passage

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

New Testament History

Articles which give additional information about the history and culture of the first century, giving helpful background knowledge for the Gospels and Paul's travels.

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey.

More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Early Church Fathers

These are a series of pages giving biographical information about some of the more significant early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian, as well as some important groups and events in the first centuries of the church.

Artifacts in the British Museum relevant to Biblical studies

These are a series of pages describing artifacts in each gallery of the British Museum, which have a connection with the Bible.

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Historical documents

These are a series of pages containing historical documents which give helpful information for Biblical studies. These include Hittite suzerainty treaties with a similar structure to the Book of Deuteronomy, different lists of the New Testament books and quotations from Josephus and other ancient writers.

Life Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.