The Art and Science of Preaching, Part 7

The Implicational, Inferrential Sermon

To assist anyone seeking help in homiletical studies, throughout this series I have shared several details of the steps I took in preparing sermon outlines. However, York and Decker warn against engaging in what they call a “holiletical travelogue” in the introduction to the sermon. They write, “The holiletical travelogue occurs when the preacher relates the details of how he chose his text or why he was planning on preaching another but changed his mind at the last minute. ‘When I first thought about preaching this morning, I planned to preach from the book of Zechariah, but at the last minute God told me to preach from John 3:16'” (Hershael W. York, and Bert Decker, Preaching with Bold Assurance [Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman publishers, 2003], p. 177).

On one occasion when the preacher declared he wavered between preaching one of two sermons, at the end at of the service a little old lady said, “Pastor I have a feeling you should have preached the other one!” Then, the “inside information” included here is for the preacher in the pulpit rather than the worshiper in the pew.

Concerning the last sermonic pattern of this series, Perry describes the inferential sermon as “. . . one in which the text is the subject, and the discussion consists of the series of inferences drawn directly from the text. The sense of the text must be clearly and plainly fixed before any inferences are drawn from it. The inference must be in accord with the true sense of the text and the broader testimony of Scripture” (p. 18). In an earlier work he referred to this peaching pattern as the implicational sermon. To describe it he wrote there, “The purpose of the implicational sermonic pattern is to impress a word, phrase, or sentence upon the mind of the hearer by drawing a series of implications. These implications may be classified as direct or indirect” (Lloyd Perry, A Manual for Biblical Preaching [Grand rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1965], p. 101).

On determining a theme for the sermon Perry observes, “The second step in the formulation of a sermon is the selection of a theme” (p. 46). He writes further, “Each sermon has but one theme and one subject. It is the function of the theme to divide the subject and to suggest relationships.  As the subject is normally one word, the theme will always be in the form of a phrase” (p. 46).  In short, any subject one might name is much too broad to cover in the span of a sermon.  The aim of the theme is to narrow the subject to just one aspect of it and thus provide a manageable amount of subject matter to include in the message.

On an occasion as a pastor I thought to provide a bit of variety from the pulpit for the congregation. Thus I sought the Lord for help in developing an implicational sermon. I thought of a short sentence that I would do well to impress upon the minds of my audience, “Remenber Lot’s wife.” Obviously, its intent in Scripture is warn against backsliding. However it has other implications. The subject of the sermon was “attitudes. Its theme focused on “the importance of attitudes” in the life of the believer. The proposition was, “We can avoid the evil effects of holding wrong attitudes by applying the truths implied in the exhortation, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

With the key word in the proposition of “attitudes,” my main points in the sermon became:

I.     We should “remember Lot’s wife” as we leave the world behind.
II.    We should “remember Lot’s wife” when we are escaping judgment.
III.   We should “remember Lot’s wife when we are on a mission for God.

You will see in reading the sermon below that I departed a bit from the pattern by using the account of another biblical character for the third main point. However he is so closely identified with Lot’s wife in their attitude and conduct that they may be treated as one.

    With these in place I developed the sub-points, largely using the explational and applicational aspects as suggested by the homileticians.  Since the story of Lot’s wife is obviously mainly illustrational in nature, there was less need for including further material of that kind in the body of the message.  Thus, as you see below, I leaned more heavily on illustrative material in the introduction.

As the scholars view the matter, the selection and placement of illustrations is generally one of the last steps in sermon preparation. The general rule is that at least each main point should be supported by an illustration. Perry writes, “Only one illustration should be used for a single idea” (p. 59). York and Decker say the same thing, “Ideally, you should have at least one illustration per main point” (p. 145). However, to emphasize two other parts of the sermon, they write, “The most important places for illustrations are in the introduction and the conclusion” (p. 153). Then they write, “While it is usually best to utilize the strongest illustrations in the introduction and conclusion, illustrations are also needed in the body of the sermon” (p, 158). They then offer their SHARP principles for using illustrations in sermonizing.

S - tell a story
H - include humor (to be distinguished from telling a joke)
A - use analogies
R - list authority references
P - employ pictures, visuals videos, etc. (pp. 158-163).

Obviously, then, the preacher must be in a perpetual state of collecting and appropriately filing illustrations. He will find numerous books of illustrations in Christian bookstores. These categorize the material for him and are accompanied by helpful indices. The task in using such help is in finding illustrations which fit the point being made in the sermon as well as those that “fit” the preacher’s personal style in the pulpit. Finally, the minister needs some system of indicating the use of each illustration in his files so as to guard against undue repetition in different sermons. Computer technology assists greatly in all of this.

Perhaps the final act in the preparation of a sermon is that of selecting its title. Here Perry advises, “It should not contain more than four thought-carrying words. This title should provide bulletin board appeal. It will also provide a means for filing the message after it has been presented” (p. 60).
As to what material to take to the pulpit, in the view of Perry, “The sermon outline should not demand more than one side of the 8½ X 11-inch sheet of paper. If the preacher should need to take his outline into the pulpit, he will then never have to turn a sheet of paper while he is preaching” (61).

The Danger Of A Backward Look

Introduction: I need your help in getting this sermon started today, especially that of the young people, including the boys and girls; help me by identifying the person in this riddle:

A character in the Bible whose name is never mentioned;
Who died in a way no one ever died before or since;
Whose body saw no corruption, and
Whose shroud is in every household to this day.

1. She is Lot’s wife.
2. Her story appears in Genesis. 19:17-26
a. Angels hurried Lot and his family out of Sodom just before judgment in the form of fire and brimstone fell on its citizens.
b. Commanding the family to, “Run,” the heavenly guardians shouted, “Don’t look back” (17).
c. In spite of this, the sacred record says, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (26).
3. As Jesus warned of a similar destruction that was coming on Jerusalem He said, “On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot’s wife! (Luke 17:31, 32).


We can avoid the evil effects of holding wrong attitudes by applying the truths implied in the exhortation, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

I. We should “remember Lot’s wife” as we leave the world behind.

A. She looked back on worldly associates.
1. Her sons-in-law were still in Sodom.
2. Perhaps she had pictured a happy life for her daughters and their husbands and hated to leave them behind.
3. The unhappy Christian is the one who follows the Lord but looks back longingly at his old friends and old ways.
B. She looked back on worldly possessions,
1. This is implied in Luke 17:29-32.
2. To up-date the story, she may have lived in a split-level house, had a two-car garage, with a boat on one side, fifty dresses in her closets, twenty-five hats, and thirty-six pairs of shoes.
3. She hesitated to leave all of that behind.
4. The cares of this life were weighing her down.
5. Beware of the “If I can’t take it with me, I don’t want to go” attitude of some in the world today.

II. We should “remember Lot’s wife” when we are escaping judgment.

A. She disobeyed the specific instructions of God (Gen. 19:17).
1. Her simple look back might not have been so wrong, but her disobedience was.
2. Perhaps the fact that she was literally running for her life and yet lagged behind her husband communicates more about her attitude than appears on the surface.
3. Alas, some believers even now have lost their enthusiasm in the Christian race.
4. Their fear of coming judgment for those who drop out of the race ceases to impel them forward as it one time did.
B. She became a memorial of warning for all mankind.
1. God made here a memorial in the form of a pillar of salt.
2. Jesus instructed His followers to make her a memorial of warning.
3. That tragic miracle of judgment came upon her simply because she chose to remain too close to the edge of the awful punishment that came on the wicked of Sodom.

III. We should “remember Lot’s wife when we are on a mission for God.

A. A man of God met a similar fate because he failed to remember people like her, 1 Kings 13:1-32.
1. The prophet was tempted to turn aside by a glittering offer from a worldly man, 7-9.
a. He would have position, fame, and wealth, as a priest of the king.
b. Let young people beware.
2. The prophet was tempted to turn aside by a deceitful word from a religious man, 14-19.
a. Many can say, “No,” to this world.
b. However, they become gullible if someone tempts them declaring, “I am a man of God,” or, “An angel sent me.”
B. The man of God may have reasoned that Jehovah had released him from his mission as he did with Abraham in offering Isaac.
1. However, both of the patriarch’s instructions came from God.
2. Not so with this man.


Then, the implications in the simple command make it well worth our time to, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

1. As we leave the world behind
2. When we are escaping from judgment.
3. When we are on a mission for God.

Perhaps some need the blinders such as those on either side of the eyes of the bridle of the mule.

Knowing that we should keep our eyes on Jesus, we must guard against wandering glances to the right or the left, but especially to what we departed that is behind us.


Selected Bibliography For The Series

Bisagno, John R. Principle Preaching: How to Create and Deliver Purpose Driven Sermons for Life Application. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002.

Bush, George L. “Salt” The World Book Encyclopedia, 20 vols. [Chicago, IL; Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1963.

Crabtree, Charles T. Pentecostal Preaching. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2003.

Hamilton, Donald L. Homiletical Handbook. Nahsville: TN: Broadman press, 1992.

Hughes, Ray H. Pentecostal Preaching.  Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1981.

Packer, J. I. Knowing God. 20th-Anniversary Edition. [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Perry Lloyd. A Manual for Biblical Preaching. Grand rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1965.

Biblical Sermon Guide.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970.

Biblical Preaching for Today’s World.  Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1973.

Thompson, James W.  Preaching Like Paul: Homiletical Wisdom for Today. Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 2001.

York, Hershael W., and Bert Decker. Preaching with Bold Assurance. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003.