How to Develop Bible Lessons

A Basic Look at Homiletics

  • Introduction
    • Homiletics: “the art of preaching or writing sermons” (Apple Dictionary).
      • There are three main types of sermons: topical, textual, and expository. Each one has its own set of benefits. Different situations call for different sermon types.
      • Though sermons are often as unique as preachers come, most sermons can clearly fall into one of these three categories.
    • Teaching God’s word is a wonderful blessing. Most teachers learn very quickly that the best way to learn a lesson is to prepare to teach it to others. Typically, one teaches and preaches from the “overflow.” Meaning, before he can teach a subject, he must first learn it the very best he can. For a twenty-minute sermon, one might put in twenty hours of hard, intentional study. Naturally, the teacher will not be able to deliver everything he learns in those twenty hours; therefore, he must filter and sift through his knowledge to preach from the “overflow.”
    • Christian maturity demands teaching. The author of Hebrews longed to discuss deep subjects about Christ with his audience, such as the high priesthood of Christ “to the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 5:6). However, his audience had not grown in their Christian life enough to fully understand such deep subjects. “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Heb. 5:11-12). Though not all Christians will be placed in a public position of teaching, all Christians should desire to grow enough in their faith in order to teach, for all Christians must “sanctify Christ as Lord in [their] hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [them] to give an account for the hope that is in [them], yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).
    • Though the above point is true, God’s word also warns those who would be teachers. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1). Teaching God’s word is a monumental blessing and task. If the tongue is set loose without discretion, and it spreads falsehood, eternal souls can be destroyed. See also Matthew 15:142 Timothy 4:1-4; and 2 Peter 3:15-18.
  • Bible Study
    • True homiletics sprouts from the seed of habitual Bible study. One cannot develop a godly desire to teach the word if he does not already have a proper relationship with it. If you want to develop your Bible teaching skills, first work on your Bible study skills and habits.
    • When your Bible study habits have been formed, form a new habit of looking for teachable lessons while studying. The Bible has stories in it, though it is not to be treated as a storybook. It is the book able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21). While reading God’s word, make notes of what you learn and what you would like to convey to others. After consuming the text for your own benefit, begin to break it down into points and sub-points. Use cross-references to find related Scriptures and topics. Learn as much as possible about the context (surrounding Scriptures, author, original audience, time and place of writing, etc.). Make notes of the context and how the context might affect the interpretation of the Scripture.
  • Topical Sermons
    • To develop a topical sermon, also known as a sermon about the Bible, consider a topic that needs to be addressed. For example, compassion, sin, love, obedience, miracles, parenting, Satan, worship, Bible study, Paul’s missionary journeys, the Lord’s Supper, etc.
    • To choose a topic, consider your interests, skill, and audience.
      • What are you interested in learning more about? Likely, if you have an interest in the topic, others around you do, too.
      • Use discretion based on your current abilities. “Milkier” subjects (for instance, faith) are easier to teach than “meatier” subjects (for instance, symbols in Revelation).
      • Has something recently happened in and around the congregation that people have questions about? Has a false teaching been spreading around the media or community? Has the media or community highlighted a good deed?
    • An example of a topical sermon would be, “Are You Ready for the Judgment Day?”
  • Textual Sermons
    • To develop a textual sermon, also known as a sermon from the Bible, choose a verse or small passage to use as a basis for the lesson.
    • The title and main points of the sermon will reflect the main passage at hand. However, sub-points and related thoughts may use other passages for support.
    • For example, use 1 Corinthians 15:58 to encourage Christians to always press on for Christ. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:8).
      • Be steadfast.
      • Be immovable.
      • Always abound in the work of the Lord.
      • God will notice it.
  • Expository Sermons
    • Expository sermons take the most time, but they benefit both the speaker and audience the most. To develop an expository sermon, also known as a Bible sermon, choose a large portion of Scripture (a paragraph or entire chapter). You will attempt to expose all aspects of the passage in your lesson, hence the category expository.
    • One way to use expository preaching is to preach through an entire book of the Bible, lesson by lesson, paragraph by paragraph.
    • Arguably, expository preaching is the truest form of preaching, since the text is what chooses the thesis, not the preacher. God chooses the points and order, not the preacher.
    • The title, main points, and sub-points will derive from your chosen passage of Scripture. For most expository sermons, other passages of Scripture are rarely referenced, since the main passage at hand holds so much information.
    • For example, use Ephesians 5:22-33 to preach, “God’s Relationship Plans.”
      • The Lord’s plan for wives (vv. 22-24)
      • The Lord’s plan for husbands (vv. 25-30)
      • The Lord’s plan for the marriage (v. 31)
      • The main point: Marriage and how it relates to the Lord and His church (v. 32)
      • Conclusion (v. 33)
  • Outlining
    • It is highly advisable that you use some type of outline while delivering your lesson. Doing so will prevent you from rambling or forgetting points. There are two popular ways to outline: skeletal and manuscript.
    • Before starting on your outline, read over your passage several times (as many times as practically possible). Then, pray for guidance and wisdom.
    • Skeletal Outlining
      • To develop your skeletal outline, begin by noting the main points of the passage. These are usually very clear and easy to gleam from the passage. Then, note any observations you will make under each main point. These will be your sub-points. Brief phrases or small, full sentences will serve as your main points and sub-points; however, you will not draft paragraphs on your skeletal outline. The points and sub-points will be visual prompts of what you want to say. The “meat” of the skeleton will flow from what you purpose to say.
      • Generally, preachers who preach from a skeletal outline seem more natural, as they speak more from the mind and heart than from a piece of paper. With that comes the danger of passion overriding truth. One way to prevent whimsical teaching is to rehearse your sermon out loud or in your mind in private before delivering it in front of the audience. Though you will not say the exact same words when you deliver it for your friends, but if you practice it beforehand, you will have a much clearer grasp on what you will and will not say.
    • ◦ Manuscript Outlining
      • To develop your manuscript outline, begin with a skeletal outline. Once you have a skeletal outline, fill in every point and sub-point with everything you want to say. When your manuscript is finished, you will have on paper every word you would like to say in your sermon.
      • This method works great for those who have trouble thinking clearly under pressure or who suffer from stage fright. If you choose to work with manuscript outlines, be sure to rehearse your lesson out loud privately several times before you deliver it to your audience. That will help deliver your lesson naturally in the proper tones, and it will allow you to do so without having to read it from the page. Instead, you will just need a few visual prompts, and you will be able to carry on with eye contact with the crowd.
  • Conclusion and Sermon Template
    • Each speaker will have his own style, voice tone, posture, and study habits. However, there is one thing he will have in common with every other preacher in history. He will have the enormous task of conveying the thoughts and words of our infinite God to modern man.
    • For those beginning in homiletics, they might enjoy the following sermon template before developing their own template(s).

Title: “Put the Title of Your Sermon Here” (You may not have a title until after you have completed outlining it.)
Text: What is your main passage of Scripture?
Purpose: What purpose do you have to teach this particular passage? Keep this purpose in mind while developing every point of your lesson.
Delivery: When and where will this message be delivered?

  • Introduction
    • After you have developed the lesson, ask yourself if there is an appropriate illustration you could use to grab the listeners’ attention. An illustration is not always the best way to start your lesson.
    • Introduce the text. What is the immediate context? What about the remote context? Who wrote or said the words of the text? Who was the original recipient of the text, and how would they have changed after reading and applying it? Are there any complicated words that need to be defined before you move on?
  • I. Point One. Arrange your main points in logical order. Limit your main points, but fully develop your lesson. Most lessons call for three to five main points.
    • a. Sub-point. Support the main point with expanded and reinforced thoughts.
    • b. Sub-point. Use extra Scripture references when needed.
  • II. Point Two.
    • a. Sub-point.
    • b. Sub-point.
      • i. Further Sub-point. Sometimes clarity or further illustrations are needed for sub-points.
      • ii. Further sub-point.
  • III. Point Three.
    • a. Sub-point. Begin really applying the lesson. How does God want His readers to be changed?
    • b. Sub-point. Emphasize the eternal truths of the text.
  • IV. Conclusion.
    • a. Final application of the lesson is made here.
    • b. Sometimes, a review is necessary.
    • c. Always remind the audience that the point of the lesson was to give them the opportunity to live changed lives by learning and applying God’s word.


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