What Is the Author Talking About?
The next step is to understand the main thrust of the passage you are going to preach. What is the author’s intent in writing this section of Scripture? At this stage, you are not trying to bring Paul or Moses or Luke into the twenty-first century just yet. You are trying to get into their world. You are trying to understand what the biblical authors meant by what they wrote and how they wrote it.
Before ever formulating your sermon proposition, you’re looking for the proposition of the author.
Charles Simeon was asked for hints in composing a sermon. His reply was, “Yes: reduce your text to a simple proposition, and lay that down as the warp; and then make use of the text itself as the woof; illustrating the main idea by the various terms in which it is contained. Screw the words into the minds of your hearers. A screw is the strongest of all mechanical powers… when it has been turned a few times scarcely any power can pull it out.’”
What tools do you use for this step? At this point, you’re going to want to enter deep research mode. Read everything you can get your hands on.
Study Bibles will help give you a lay of the land, around here we are partial to the MacArthur Study Bible. Read their high-level introductions to your section, and continue to ask yourself what the main thrust of the passage is. Don’t be afraid to disagree with them. You can also now pull your commentaries from your shelves, starting with your exegetical commentaries. Expositional commentaries will be helpful later. Exegetical commentaries are helpful in the early stages of formulating your thoughts and thinking through the meaning of the text. Journal articles and lexicons will be friends to help guide you through the text as well.
As you approach these sources, it’s good to continue to ask simple questions: What is the author saying in this text? How is he saying it? And why is he saying it that way?
When you can fill in these simple blanks, you know you can move on to the next step:
This passage is about ________________. This passage shows you how _____________.