What to Ask Yourself Before You Preach


Is This What the Author Intended?

Your authority in preaching lies not in what you in your own ability or opinions assert, but rather in the proclamation of the authority of the author.  When you are preaching the intention of the author, your words carry with it the authority of God Himself.  By understanding the author’s intent you then release the Spirit’s power to convict sinners and comfort saints.


If you can, consult the original language.  In Luther’s day, not knowing the original language was a reasonable excuse.  In our day, there is no excuse.  There is an incredible amount of resources to access in order to learn Hebrew and Greek.  In this day and age, one can even learn a language over the internet.  Even if you do not know languages or have any idea where to begin, there are many tools available that can aid a non-linguistic.  To see some, click here. 


Does my Explanation Fit the Larger Context?

Your sermon must be a slave to the flow of the text.  No matter how small of a passage you are preaching, if you are preaching from an epistle, it would be in your best interest to have the entire book in mind.  You should have your own outline of the book, an understanding of major themes, repeated words/phrases, usages of O.T. quotation, exhortations and commands. 


There may be many surface level issues people are dealing with that seem legitimate—and this may be a temptation to use the passage in which you are speaking from as a springboard into some other topic foreign to the mind of the author—but humanity’s greatest problem and greatest answer is in the pages of Scripture.  Stick to the text.


How Will This Truth Be Resisted by the Hearers?

Assume resistance.  Romans 1 says that people naturally suppress the truth from themselves.  In other words, you should expect that everybody will not wish to believe what you have to say. 

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will not put up with sound teaching but instead will surround themselves with the prosperity gospel, The Shack, Velvet Elvis and many other teachings that do not abide with sound doctrine.  (To listen to an excellent review of the Shack, click here for Albert Mohler’s radio program).


The Puritans approached preaching this way.  They would often craft their sermons around the very objection they believed their hearers would raise, and would then seek to clearly buttress their sermon from the argument of Scripture.  


Does This Sermon Convict Sinners?

Your primary task as a preacher is to point out the awfulness of sin and awesomeness of Christ.  You should make hell appear intolerably horrible and heaven irresistibly beautiful.   If people are not convicted over sin through the words of him who speaks at the pulpit, he has no business to stand before them.  Preach as if standing on the borders of another world, pleading with people not to sell their souls to such unsatisfying, unfulffilling pleasures of the world.


Does This Sermon Encourage the Saints?

Every sermon should cause the saints to hope in God, to hate sin, to stand firm in their faith and to long for the Day of Christ’s return.  If all you do is parse Greek verbs and talk about the historical-geographical background of the text, your listeners have yet to hear what the text actually says.  Stick to the text.


May the Lord bless you in your endeavor to be faithful to His Word and to tremble when presenting it.


Preach the Word.


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4 Responses to “What to Ask Yourself Before You Preach”

  1. irishanglican Says:

    Perhaps still one of the biggest questions one must ask is (and find the answer), has the Triune God called me to preach and teach the Gospel of God? And for this I must be sure I know the one and only historic Judeo-Christian Faith! (2 Tim.2:15)

    Fr. Robert

  2. Matthew Cunningham Says:

    Your point about the Puritans crafting their sermons around the very objection they believed their hearers would raise, is a great help to me. I have a tendency to fear what objectors will say to my preaching. I need to learn to stand on the authority of the text and not fear those who can kill the body, but fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Great post brother.

  3. irishanglican Says:

    Indeed the Christian presbyter must always sense the church’s unique, confessional, kerygmatic understanding of its sacred traditions, testified to in Scripture, and also sought in the relation of the sacred and secular history. But the true Gospel is always the Scandal of Jesus Christ, flogged, tortured and nailed on the cross of Roman crucifixion, but from God the only place of God’s propitiation-expiation-conciliation, Rom.3:25!
    And as St. Paul wrote..”For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (lit. perish), but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!” (1 Cor. 1:18)

    As also does St. Paul who draws the distinction between “those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death (they see nothing salvific in Christ and His death), to the other an aroma from life to life.” (2 Cor.15-16)

    And never has there been perhaps the need to sound this Text from our postmodern time: “For we are not like many, peddling (corrupting) the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 2:17)

    Amen, let the true pastor-teachers speak!

    Father Robert

  4. Adam Says:

    Thanks, Carey. Great thoughts.

    Here’s some questions I’d add to ask yourself before you preach:

    – Does this sermon convict me?
    – Have I soaked this sermon in prayer?
    – Is there any unconfessed sin in my life?
    – Have I applied this message to my life and in my life? Am I a doer of this word? Am I sincerely devoted to obey this teaching?
    – If this were the last sermon I ever preached, would I add or subtract anything?

    Any others, Carey, you would add or that you use for heart preparation of the messenger, in addition to questions for the content of the message? I’d love to hear your thoughts… or any others…

    Thanks for this excellent post brother!

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