The Bible --Part 17

The Bible
Part 17

James Gunn

Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16

The Standard and Variety of Oral Ministry


Spirituality is the result of the inworking of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; 3:1 and 16). The Holy Spirit develops the disposition and state within the man that recognizes and appreciates spiritual realities, and imparts the spiritual ability to engage in spiritual activities.

Spirituality is the working of the Holy Spirit through the human will. The Spirit’s power acts in perfect co-ordination with the human powers: “It is God,” the Apostle declares, “which worketh in you both to will (with your own will) and to do (with your own doing) of His good pleasure” (Phillipians 2:13).

A spiritual man according to 1 Corinthians 2:15, judgeth all things, that means he is qualified to sift, to examine. As in sifting we separate good from bad, so the spiritual man recognizes the good, and detects and rejects the bad.


Manliness is concerned with the world all around us, its conditions, dangers, demands, and reactions. True manliness is interested in relevant circumstances in both immediate items and places. Manliness must face disappointments, departures, and deterioration, and all the while manifest itself strong in convictions; and at the same time show itself sympathetic toward the weakness of others. True manliness is seen in Daniel who linked himself with his fallen nation, confessing their sin as his sin (Daniel 9:5), and in Jeremiah who felt so keenly for his own people in their distress that he said, “For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt” (Jeremiah 8:21).

While we would not agree entirely with the statement of Joseph Parker, his statement does carry weight: “The most important thing about a sermon is the man behind it.” The Man, the Lord Jesus, is the most important thing about any biblical message. Manliness impresses itself upon others by humility and friendliness. The first of these makes me less interested in myself; the second makes me more interested in others.


Fellowship with others and a deep interest in the welfare of others are not only necessities in a public man, but they become to him a real blessing.

Friendship broadens a man’s knowledge, influence, service and his perspective in life. Friendliness makes one a channel of blessing to others, a blessing that returns in true satisfaction. Let us ever remember that we are esteemed and respected only as we esteem and respect others within our fellowship.


There is no place for a lazy man in the economy of grace. To be a successful servant of the Lord, one must apply himself diligently to the work for which God has fitted him, and in this he must be ready to expend himself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Time and effort go into the work of the Lord in both the period of preparation and in the actual execution of the service.

If one is to take public part in any service, he should spend time and effort in preparation invoking the Spirit’s guidance and employing his greatest mental powers to give the Lord his best.

The diligence and willingness to work should enter into every aspect of Christian service. Paul’s commendation of Timothy crystalizes this idea: “If Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do” (1 Corinthians 16:10). The verb to work used here by Paul means to toil, to labour. The great need today in the service of the Lord is that of genuine workers.

Mental Culture

For the more part the apostles of our Lord were humble uneducated men. This does not mean that the Lord despised mental culture for let it be remembered that he also chose a Saul of Tarsus, a man well educated and highly cultured.

Today intellectualism has invaded the service of the Lord, and to the extent that brain power is mistaken for the power of the Spirit.

It is splendid when higher education is wholly sanctified to God for His own purposes. It has been well said that there is nothing wrong with the studies of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as long as we do not put them where Pilate put them, over the head of Christ, but rather at His blessed feet.

While we need not overly emphasize education, we should nevertheless seek in every way possible to cultivate our minds. Today, as never before, when one addresses an audience he must be prepared to do so on the High School or College level. The poor grammar and faulty diction of a former day does not appeal now; in fact, it repels.

Someone has pointed out that Paul’s education wholly dedicated to the Lord fitted him to speak to the hearts of pagan philosophers on Mars Hill a definite message from the Lord, and it delivered him from sitting at the feet of those philosophers to learn more of their evil systems.

Let us be careful to cultivate our manners and our minds, but likewise eschew the evils of an education that ignores the Word of God.

When called upon to preach, may we allow our hearts to control our heads. It has been said that as John the Baptist preached to more people with his literal head off, even so there are some preachers who would reach more people with their philosophical heads off.

To cultivate and consecrate should be the effort of every aspirant to public Christian service.


The personal appearance and the voice of any public speaker make an impression for either good or ill upon an audience. A slovenly and untidy appearance not only is distasteful, but produces a suspicion that the speaker is also careless and unreliable in his thinking. One negligent about his clothes in all probability is negligent in his mental efforts.

Furthermore, a slouch is a poor testimony to the grace that elevates from sin and its defilement. A poor or improperly used voice or a very high pitched voice may irritate hearers to the extent the message is rendered void. One should dress with decorum and attempt to overcome any deficiency in voice or manner so that he may give his best to the Lord and be His suitable representative before men.

Mechanical Preparation

Sermons should be allowed to grow rather than to be made. That which grows is the outcome of internal strength; that which is made results from external power. Sermons should grow out of the preacher’s own devotional reading and Bible study.

During Bible reading and studying, in a separate note book, there should be kept a reference to any passage that presents itself as the basis of a good sermon. The passage should be noted along with the impressions received at the time, and the class of sermon that could be developed from the passage and the impressions.

Structure: There are several different structures which may be used.

First, the point structure. There are some men who become slaves to a three point structure; others to a four, and still others to a seven. When a certain type of structure is used constantly, it becomes monotonous. It is therefore well to vary the structure of your sermons from time to time.

No matter how many points there may be in a sermon, these are all parts of one whole; the points therefore should not protrude like quills on a porcupine. We must ever keep the unity of the overall subject in mind.

Second, another structure form is the verb-tense form: the presentation of truth as it appears in the past, the present, and the future. Here is a simple evangelical sermon based upon the experience of the Colossians as recorded in Colossians 1:21-22.

    1. Their past: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.”

    2. Their present: “Yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.”

    3. Their future: “To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.”

Some texts and passages are like nuts. Before they break open you need to crack them, and until you have done so, you cannot tell how many pieces will result; you may have three, four or even seven. In cracking thus a Scripture, see that you do not destroy its content.

Third, another simple structure might be called the question and answer structure. This involves the preacher in raising and answering four or five questions in a chosen passage of Scripture. Take for example the words of Christ to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

What? The new birth.

How? By water and the Spirit.

Why? Except … cannot enter the kingdom of God.

When? Now, in time.

The structure of the sermon is only the skeleton; it is necessary to put meat on the bones.

Fourth, the sequence structure. In one respect there should always be a sequence, a steady flow from the beginning to the end of a sermon. Each step should be set out in logical arrangement. Every idea is chosen in such a way that all link together to form a chain. Notice the logical arrangement of 1 Timothy 1:15.

    1. This is a faithful saying.

    2. Worthy of all acceptation.

    3. That Christ Jesus came into the world.

    4. To save sinners.

    5. Of whom I am chief.

    6. That in me first (the chief) Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering.

    7. For a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.

Construction: A few words ought to be said about the overall construction of the sermon.

Said a sermon critic, “I could not make head or tail of what he was saying.” Said another critic who overheard him, “I could do without the head and the tail if only there had been some body matter to what he was saying.”

These critics give us the three essential parts to the sermon: the head, the introduction; the body, the general discussion; and the tail, the conclusion.

First, The introduction should state the purpose of the sermon and should definitely introduce the subject by either a statement, a quotation from another, a poem, or an illustration. In his introduction the preacher should arrest the interest of his audience.

Second, The body of the sermon is, of course, that which has been prepared according to the structural method adopted.

Third, The conclusion is very important for two salient points belong in this part of the sermon, recapitulation and application. It is always helpful to the memory of the hearers to give a brief resume of all that has been said, and then with force and persuasion apply the truths presented to those for whom they were intended.

The closing remarks could be an appeal; they could be the words of the Scripture upon which the whole sermon rests, or they could be an illustration or a poem.