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The Scripture Introduction vs the Sermon Introduction
An often-overlooked distinction that can make a big difference in sermon impact.
The Scripture introduction is the very first part of the sermon.
It comes before the text is read, before you pray, and before you start the main sermon introduction.
The purpose of the Scripture introduction is to set the context of the passage in its historical and grammatical context as well as to address issues in the passage that may sound unfamiliar (intimidating theological terms, strange cultural practices, unknown locations, etc.) or need some emotional preparation before reading the text (hard doctrines and biblical teaching that is culturally challenging and/or socially controversial).
This does not mean we sweep hard issues under the rug in the Scripture introduction. Not at all. The gospel itself, while good news for sinners, is profoundly offensive because it undermines human goodness with the need to be reconciled to God with the shedding of blood.
The point of the Scripture introduction is to prepare listeners for the unfamiliar names, people, places, terms, and hard issues that are raised.
When you read a text of Scripture, don’t assume everyone agrees. In fact, assume all will have questions and some will be ready to object. Acknowledging their questions and concerns up front will help unbelievers (and believers, too) be in a mental/emotional state to receive what you have to teach from the Bible.
It’s like taking a friend on a roller coaster you have ridden but they haven’t. You’ll say there are bid dips, corkscrew turns, and circle flips. This is merely a warning—a preparation for what’s ahead.
That’s how the Scripture introduction can work.
Below is an example of a Scripture introduction from a sermon on John 4.
From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of Revelation, the concept of flowing rivers of water runs throughout, as water represents life.
Water is a major theme is the text for our sermon in John 4.
However, there are themes, places, and references in the text that may be unfamiliar or confusing. So, before we read the passage, let me take a minute to explain some of the more obvious unfamiliar references.
(1) The well where Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman was dug by the Israelite Patriarch Jacob around 2000 BC.
Amazingly, the well is still there, and still produces water.
(2) What is the "sixth hour"?
In ancient Jewish culture, the first hour of the day began at sunrise. In modern terms, we can think 6:00am, with the sixth hour being noon, and the twelfth hour, 6:00pm.
The point of saying it was the sixth hour is to indicate the encounter took place by the well in the heat of the day.
(3) Where is Sychar and what is Samaria?
As you’ll see on the map, Sychar was a town in Samaria, which was a region between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. For perspective, the distance between Jerusalem and Jesus' hometown of Nazareth is about 90 miles.
(4) Why were there tensions between the Samaritans and the Jews?
Without going into detail, the tensions stemmed from deep seated, centuries old political, theological, and cultural differences.
So, when Jesus engages the Samaritan woman at the well, he breaks down massive walls of human prejudice that eventually will teach us about the mission-motivating power of drinking living water.
Read John 4:1-15, 28-29, 39, and 42.
Begin the actual sermon introduction… 🙂
👉 Listen to the entire message here.
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