Despite the different perspectives and opinions, Christians must think through what makes a good sermon. Ask seminary professors, church members, and pastors what makes a great sermon, and you’ll receive more answers than views of the end times. Here are five questions to help.
Is Christ Crucified Proclaimed to and for You?
It doesn’t matter if the sermon contains fifty uses of the word Gospel if the substance of the Gospel isn’t heralded and extended to weary saints. Imagine a patient going to a doctor who accurately diagnosed their condition and eloquently described the treatment without ever giving the medicine. No matter the faithfulness to the medical texts or the skilled speech in communicating with the patient, it is the cure that is necessary.
Christ crucified proclaimed to and for you means that the Gospel’s historical reality and spiritual implications are preached and offered. The preacher must recount the good news of Christ’s atoning work and extend it to all hearers who receive it by faith in live time. In so doing, they do not merely receive theological data or practical marching orders. They receive tangible hope and peace to continue on the Christian journey.
Ask yourself if you’ve heard and received supernatural forgiveness through Christ alone via the sermon.
Exegesis or Eisegesis?
Is Scripture’s meaning expounded upon or reframed to fit the pastor’s thoughts? Exegesis involves the hard work of studying historical and grammatical context to illuminate the author’s original intent. Eisegesis uses a passage or weaves multiple passages together to make the speaker’s point.
The sermon is robbed of its potential power when the preacher bends the text to their points. It risks getting the meaning of a passage wrong, and it incorrectly models how to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Ask yourself if the sermon makes the passage’s points or if the speaker’s points cherry-pick verses.
Does the Preacher Use a Law/Gospel Dynamic?
The law is good but condemns. The Gospel is good news and our justifying freedom, but you cannot have one without the other. The sermon must shine the law’s light on our utter inability to live up to God’s standard, yet it must also let the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” shine with a tangible, illuminating hope.
Preaching the law without the Gospel leads to despair as its conviction kills us. Preaching the Gospel without the law can leave us with a false self-dependence. Putting them together lets Scripture have its full power to put our reliance on works to death and resurrect us in the power of Christ’s dying and rising for us.
Ask yourself if the sermon kills works righteousness and presents an alien righteousness in Christ.
Is the Sermon God-centered or Man-centered?
There are many ways that the sermon can fall into being man-centered. Perhaps the two most common are cultural commentary and practical application. If there is an overemphasis in these areas, it is usually due to seeking relevance. Focusing on relevance may make the sermon easy on the ears and applicable to one’s life, but it often does so by neglecting the soul.
A man-centered sermon emphasizes the here and now, while a God-centered sermon emphasizes the kingdom of God. Our ears naturally itch for the here and now. Our souls thirst for eternal truth. Christ ultimately quenches that thirst (John 4:13-14).
Ask yourself whether the sermon’s focus exalts man or God as the center.
Are Hermeneutics or Homiletics Imbalanced?
Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting Scripture. Homiletics is the art of preaching. Clarity and communication may suffer if the pastor leans too heavily toward hermeneutics. If homiletics is overemphasized, then biblical or theological content may be lacking.
There shouldn’t be a tradeoff between content and communication. Sinner-saints like you and me shouldn’t have to choose between a well-delivered sermon or a theologically rich one.
Ask yourself if the sermon is theologically precise yet unpolished or vice versa.
The sermon is a focal point of Christian worship. There is a spectrum of styles, lengths, and types. Nonetheless, followers of Christ should be mindful of what makes a good sermon. These five questions can help Christians discern whether a sermon is Gospel-focused, Christ-centered, biblically faithful, and good for the soul.