Homiletics: The Art and Science of Preaching

by Pastor Art Kohl
Updated February 7, 2005

But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching,
which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; Titus 1:3

I. What Is Homiletics?

A. It is the art and science of preaching, communication.

B. Communication is not talking, it is getting other people to listen and hear what you are saying.

Matthew 11:15, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:9, “And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 8:8, “... And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Revelation 2:7, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; ... .”
Revelation 2:11, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;... .”
Revelation 2:17, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; ... .”
Revelation 2:29, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 3:6, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 3:13, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 3:22, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

C. Five or ten minutes of listenable preaching is better than forty five minutes of boring preaching.

1. The Bible is alive, do not make it dead. Do not bore people.
2. Know when to stop, sit down, and shut up.
3. Stay on the subject matter. Do not go off on rabbit trails.

II. What Is Preaching?

A. It is communicating divine truth to your people.

B. It is the most important calling on earth.
It is more important than being the president of the USA, more important than being on the Supreme Court or being a governor.

C. It is proclaiming the truth, God’s Holy Word.

III. The Goal of the Preacher Concerning the People

A. It is to see the people transformed into the image of Christ.

The Lord’s glory should be included in every message. II Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

B. It is so the people can obtain wisdom to be presented perfect (complete) at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

Colossians 1:28, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:”
Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

What is wisdom?
a. To know.
b. To understand. (Illumination—when the light goes on.)
c. To apply. (Know how to use it in life.)
d. To practice. (Putting it into our lives.)
Knowledge is not wisdom. You can know drugs are bad for you and still use them.
Wisdom is knowing and acting.
Wisdom is acting on knowledge. (Applying it when needed in life.)

C. To lead your people

Mark 6:34, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”

1. Jesus said the people need a shepherd.
2. Sheep are dull-witted animals that need guidance.
Preaching is one way to guide them.

D. To save sinners from hell

I Corinthians 9:16, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

E. Wrong motives for preaching

1. Not for an occupation.
2. Not just because you are a good speaker.
3. Not to make money.
4. Not to receive the praise of man.
5. Not because it is an honorable position.
6. Not to be like someone else.
7. Not to cut someone up.

IV. How To Preach

A. Not with man’s wisdom, but by God’s power

I Corinthians 2:4-5, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

1. Speak in the common man’s language not with enticing words.

2. Must have the Holy Ghost’s power upon you and be filled with the Spirit.

B. Must give the Holy Ghost’s message

I Corinthians 2:13, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Spirit filled preaching...

1. Sometimes brings success. Example—3000 saved at Pentecost.

2. Sometimes it brings death. Example—Stephen & John the Baptist.

3. Sometimes exile or prison. Example—John & Paul.

4. Leave the results up to God.

V. To Get A Message—Ask These Questions

A. Has the message come from God by my communion with the Holy Ghost?

Communion is fellowship, communication, or social intercourse. Ask the Holy Spirit for a message.
II Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

B. Have I prayed fervently and asked specifically for the sermon?

James 4:2, “... ye have not, because ye ask not.”

C. Have I used common sense?

What do the people need at this time?

D. What have I learned that the people need to know?

Share your personal Bible studying knowledge with your people. New and old ... review basics ... plus give new thoughts.
Matthew 13:52, “Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”

E. What can I preach to encourage the people to do right, affirming constantly the same truths?

Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”

F. What can I give in the form of milk and meat?

Do not choke the babies on meat. Do not starve the mature on milk all the time. (See Hebrews 5:11-14.)
I Corinthians 3:2, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”

VI. Types Of Sermons

A. Based on a word

Take one word. Study it out. Preach and teach everything you have learned about it. For example preach a message about love, charity—(I Corinthians 13), deliverance, patience, compassion, sanctification, etc.

B. Based on topics

Pick a topic such as:
1. How to have a happy marriage - family.
2. What do we owe the government? Respect, taxes, involvement, prayer.
3. How to have revival.
4. Successful soulwinning.
5. Getting things through prayer.
6. How to love God.

C. Based on doctrine

1. Soteriology - salvation
2. Theology proper - God
3. Pnuematology - Holy Spirit
4. Christology - Jesus Christ
5. Eschatology - end time events
6. Bibiology - the Bible
7. Angelology - Angels, Satan, demons
8. Anthropology - man
9. The Virgin Birth
10. The Blood Atonement
11. Bodily Resurrection

D. Based on characters

1. Eli, the father who did not restrain his kids.
2. Reuben, the unstable father.
3. Lot, the backslidden father.
4. Peter, James, etc...
5. Every man, every woman, major and minor in the Bible can be preached on.

E. Based on the books of the Bible

Preach through any one of the 66 books in the Bible. Verse by verse, chapter by chapter, or thought by thought.

F. Based on occasions

1. Wedding, funerals
2. New years
3. Valentines day (marriage)
4. Presidents day (government - Romans 13)
5. Easter - Resurrection Day
6. Memorial day (remember)
7. Children’s, Father’s, Mother’s, or Grandparent’s Day
8. Independence day (dependence)
9. Labor day (work ethic)
10. Columbus day (God’s leadership)
11. Thanksgiving day (Horrible sin of ingratitude)
12. Christmas day (Virgin birth)

VII. Types Of Preaching (See II Timothy 4:2.)

A. Reproof—to refute, expose false teaching and practice

Job 26:11, “The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.”
Proverbs 1:23, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”
Proverbs 1:25, “But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:”
Proverbs 1:30, “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.”
Proverbs 5:12, “And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;”
Proverbs 10:17, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”
Proverbs 12:1, “Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.”
Proverbs 13:18, “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.”
Proverbs 15:5, “A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.”
Proverbs 15:10, “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.”
Proverbs 15:31 - 32, “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. 32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.”
Proverbs 17:10, “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.”
Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

B. Rebuke—to scold in love

Proverbs 9:8, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”
Proverbs 13:1, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”
Proverbs 13:8, “The ransom of a man’s life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.”
Proverbs 24:25, “But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.”
Proverbs 27:5, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.”
Ecclesiastes 7:5, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”
Luke 17:3, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”
I Timothy 5:20, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
II Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Titus 1:13, “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;”
Titus 2:15, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

C. Exhort

1. Interpreted “advocate”— “to run to ones side and pick him up” in I John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2. Help, encourage, assurance and comfort sermons

I Thessalonians 4:1, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”
I Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
I Timothy 6:2, “And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.”
II Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
Titus 2:6, “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.”
Titus 2:9, “Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;”
Titus 2:15, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
Hebrews 3:13, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
I Peter 5:1, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:”

D. Devotional

1. Deals with our intimate relationship to God.
2. Worship, communion with the Holy Ghost, seeking the Lord, hearing His voice, etc.

E. Exegetical

Explanation or interpretation of the Bible.

F. Expository

Expose everything a portion of Scripture says.

VIII. The Sermon

Each sermon is in three parts:

• The Introduction
• Body of the message
• The Conclusion / Invitation

Another way to say it...
“...Tell them what you are going to say...”
“...Then say it...”
“...Then tell them what you have said.”

A. The Introduction

The introduction should...
... be an accurate signpost pointing to the sermon.
... create a hunger for the rest of the message.
... be a creation of intrigue.
... lead the people to feel that the sermon has the answer to an individual need.
... get people desirous for the preacher to continue.
... be the most articulate part of the sermon.

The Introduction could...
... be a question that needs an answer.
... be a statement that needs a completion.
... create curiosity as to where the speaker is going.
The title of the sermon should not be more spectacular than the sermon. Jesus got right to the point:
“Ye are the Light of the world...”
“Ye are the Salt of the earth...”
“A Sower went forth to sow...”

Some preachers can build to a climax and have people hang on long enough to get the one point—MOST CANNOT! So let the cat out of the bag at the beginning so they know what you are talking about right from the start. We are preachers not story tellers. Do not try to be a great preacher, be a clear preacher. Our words should not be a mystery but crystal clear.

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” (I Corinthians 14:8-9). Some preachers read a text, do not give a title, chase rabbits, say some good things, ramble on, close and then leave hearers puzzled. The people wonder, “What was that all about?”

We should go to the other extreme. We should speak in such clear and simple tones that it is not only perfectly understood what we said, but it is impossible to misunderstand what we said. “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:” (II Corinthians 3:12).

The following four points should help achieve this in the introduction:

1. Read the scriptures clearly. Make sure the scriptures fit your message exactly.

2. Say a short public prayer asking God to help the hearers to understand your specific subject. You might want to bring up the subject in your prayer.

3. Repeat the title of your message loudly and clearly at least two to four times during your introduction.

4. Have a well thought out brief introduction of the subject. Do not waste time in the pulpit. Again, clarity is the goal:

I Corinthians 14:10-12, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.”

Build up the church, do not confuse the church!

B. The Body of the Sermon

The first aspect of the body of your sermon is to come up with a skeleton outline regarding the text and subject the Holy Spirit has led you to preach on.

• Examples of skeleton outlines could include:

1. Pointed message

Some truths we must preach require many points depending on the subject. Certainly these subjects would need more than one point:
• How to have a happy family
• How to handle your finances
• How to go soulwinning
• How to interpret scripture
• Steps of man’s degeneracy (Romans 1)
• Possibilities of faith— etc.

2. One Great Truth

Preach a whole sermon stressing just one great truth:
• Duty
• Compassion
• Others
• Commitment
3. Alliteration
Repetitions of the same first letter or sound in a group of words. Examples:
• Titus 2:14—Salvation, Sanctification, Service
• Philemon’s love—Refreshing, Receiving, Reciprocating
• Spirit filled Attitudes—Ephesians 5:18-21—Singing, Satisfaction, Submission

4. Acrostic

Word formed from the first letters of other words.
• Forsaking All I Trust Him
• God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense
• God’s Resources At Christian Experiences

5. Verses that outline themselves

Look up in your Bible and notice how easily these verses outline themselves:
• James 3:17 • Titus 2: 4-5
• II Chronicles 7:14 • I Corinthians 13:4-8

• The second aspect now of your sermon is to add some meat to the skeleton outline. You can fill in the body of the sermon by using:

1. Definition of terms

Use dictionary or concordance and then explain terms to the people. Do not presume they know what words mean. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8).

2. Illustrations

a. Personal illustrations
b. Borrowed illustrations from books
c. People in the Bible that might illustrate the point.
d. Facts pertaining to the topic from history, science, archaeology, encyclopedia, etc.
e. Stories that make a point.

3. Poems—Hymns

An appropriate poem or hymn that exactly fits the point.

4. Practical aspects

Do not let people figure it out, explain it to them. For instance, explain what a “prayer closet” is.

C. The Conclusion

Remember: Tell them what you are going to say (the introduction), then say it (the body) and then tell them what you said (the conclusion).

Take this opportunity to one more time explain the message. It would be wise to at least read your points out loud again.

Also, if you feel that something was not clear in the message, try to clear it up briefly. Do not bore people by preaching your whole sermon again, just highlight your main points. This will refresh their memory of something you may have said thirty minutes ago.

D. The Invitation

The invitation is not the time to put our Bibles away, straighten up the Hymn books, clean up the pews, and get our coats and hats. It is the time to respond to God. The preacher should make that clear. It is the time to apply the truth to our lives.

The goal is not to get people to the altar, but to have people take the message into their lives and be doers of God’s word and not hearers only.

Jesus said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer...” (Matthew 21:13). We should try to get God’s people to pray about the application of the message. An altar call is an appropriate way to do this. Invite them to come and pray. The congregation could sing an appropriate hymn.

An appeal for the lost to be saved should also be given. They may come forward or may not. If they come forward, pair them off with a soulwinner. If they do not come forward them just pray for them and with them for salvation. You could perhaps repeat a sinners prayer of repentance slowly for them to say from their heart to God. Remember, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

It usually is not appropriate to have an altar call at a funeral service, nursing home service or Sunday school. However, people can pray to receive Christ as their Savior in their seats. Make salvation easy—for it is easy. Why would God make it hard for someone to get saved?

IX. Pulpit Etiquette

Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Luke 4:22, “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth...”

Least important nevertheless should be:

A. Your Appearance

1. Be simple (not something that is excessive).
2. Be clean (hair clean and cut).
3. Stand up straight.

B. The Pulpit

1. Do not lean on it.
2. Do not move it around.
3. Do not play with it.
4. If possible, have a custom made pulpit for your size.
5. Treat it as a sanctified place. (Do not worship it, but have the children and adults respect it.)

C. The Microphone

1. Talk into it.
2. Have the PA loud enough so people in the back row can hear you speaking in normal voice levels.
3. Use more treble than bass.
a. Bass muddles your voice.
b. Treble allows your voice to be clear.
4. Better to be too loud than too soft. (At least you will be heard.)

D. Your Eyes

1. Make eye contact with all the people
2. Do not look at the same person. Look around.
3. Look over the top and scan the back if you are nervous.
4. Look away from distractions.
E. Your Hands
1. Do not play with the pulpit.
2. Do not keep adjusting the microphone.
3. Do not play with your glasses or your tie.
4. Do make appropriate gestures to help illustrate the message. Example: we serve a “Big God”—spread your arms out.
5. Shuffle your notes inconspicuously.

F. Your Voice

Be loud as to be understood by all. Preach with emotion—do not be a boring preacher!

Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
I Corinthians 14:8, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Isaiah 58:1, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
John 7:37, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
John 12:44, “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.”
Luke 8:8, “And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

G. Be in good spirit when entering the pulpit

Do not be in a bad mood. You are not fit to be a preacher if you cannot rule your emotions! (Proverbs 25:28, 16:32).


God wants to use you. If you are going to be a preacher, aim high! Aim at doing this as well as anything you do in your life.

We do not need any more preachers or pastors in the ministry who are not called and are not trying to be holy. “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard...” (Jeremiah 12:10).

Review these notes often and constantly look for better ways to communicate the truths of God. Study, study study. There will be a message from God buried in your study somewhere.

“Preach the word;
be instant in season,
out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort
with all longsuffering
and doctrine.”
II Timothy 4:2

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Permission granted to freely copy.
Scripture verses are from the King James Holy Bible.

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