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Preaching – Biographical, Historical Incident

October 16, 2006

I have been summarizing the types of sermons in Alfred P. Gibbs’ The Preacher and His Preaching for some of the posts on this month’s topic of preaching. In my last installment, I gave his description of expositional and textual sermons. This week I will summarize the biographical sermon and the historical incident sermon. You’ll have to wait until the last week to see how I believe this all fits together.

Alfred P. Gibbs

The Biographical Sermon

This sermon is built around the study of a person’s life. We may learn many lessons from others’ lives. If a person was blessed by God, we may look for reasons in his character or deeds. If he was punished, we may be warned against following his example.

There are three advantages of biographical sermons:

  1. Biographies make both interesting and valuable reading.
  2. Much sermon material is available from this source.
  3. Biographical preaching makes for that variety which is so necessary to effective preaching.

When preparing a biographical sermon, you should read all that the Bible has to say about him again and again. You will then decide what are the outstanding events in his life and his chief characteristics. Do not overlook weaknesses or good points. You could ask these questions: What sort of person was he? What made him this sort of person? What resulted in his life because he was that sort of person? Learn and then make application from his weaknesses and virtues. Alexander Whyte, F. B. Meyer, and F. W. Krummacher have prepared excellent examples of this type of sermon.

The Historical Incident Sermon

This sermon is developed by taking an incident from the Bible and applying spiritual lessons from it as the story unfolds. It is similar to expository preaching because it also takes a passage of Scripture and opens it. The difference is that the passage in this instance tells of an event and the story revealed is the theme. Application is then applied throughout the sermon.

There are three advantages to historical incident sermons:

  1. All the world loves a story.
  2. A wide range of sermon material is here provided.
  3. The incidents of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, have been specially recorded for this purpose.

Overspiritualization is the chief danger of historical incident sermons. We must beware of pushing the application beyond what is taught in the Bible. This is especially true with parables. Parables serve to illustrate a particular point of doctrine. As a ball rolling across the floor, they touch doctrine at only one point.

When preparing this type of sermon, besure to check all parallel accounts of the event. There are obvious parallel accounts in the gospels, and in the Old Testament books of history, but do not neglect parallels in the epistles and the book of Acts and also in the Old Testament prophets and books of history. I might also add, be sure to place yourself in the historical context of the event. Do not place the event in 21st century America!

It is still my opinion that there is not a type of sermon that is more biblical than another (as long as it is biblical in the first place!). Kent has argued for the superiority of expository preaching. I would generally agree, so long as the passage lends itself toward that type of preaching (it seems that many/most passages would). This may be a symantical point, therefore he may agree completely with me also, but I’m not sure. Of the five sermon types that I will present, all are good and all should be used. In order to preach the Word comprehensively (giving the whole counsel of God), all must be utilized.

Categories: Preaching, Voegtlin
  1. October 16, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    I think all of them are needed, just that the exposition should be the diet. Everything else could be considered to be some combination of dietary supplement and medicine.

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