I recently posted a step-by-step guide on how to write an expository sermon. I thought it might be helpful to share a concrete example of what an expository sermon actually looks like for those who want to use the steps in the post.
In his book, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Bryan Chapell provides an expository sermon example toward the end of the book (starting on page 391). I mostly followed his example and put together a similar sermon, although this one is on a different passage, and the “Apologetic Moment” part below is from Zack Eswine’s book on preaching. Hope this helps.
Expository Sermon Example
[Announce the Text] Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 3:13-17.
[Help those unfamiliar with the Bible find it] If you’re unfamiliar with this passage, take your time. 1 Peter is found in the New Testament. It appears right after James, and right before 2 Peter. If you’re using the black Bible in front of you on your chair, the passage can be found on page 1,016. 1 Peter 3:13-17.
[Scripture Introduction] Today we are continuing our series in the magnificent book of 1 Peter. What an incredible study of this book we have encountered so far. As mentioned before, 1 Peter deals directly with the subject of suffering. Peter writes to an audience that was often being persecuted for their faith. In other words, they were being mistreated simply for being a Christian – which means someone who is a follower of Jesus Christ. During these sorts of tough times, it could have been easy for Peter’s audience to feel discouraged about preserving through suffering and to be continually ready to give a defense about the hope that lies within them. But as Peter tells his audience, those who follow Christ should always be prepared to share the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers, even when suffering. His words were a source of encouragement for his original audience. I trust they will encourage us today. Let’s take a look at the passage together. 1 Peter 3:13-17.
[Read the text] Starting in verse 13, Peter says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
[Pray for Illumination] Let’s pray. Father, we come before you today in the name of Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, that you have followers and worshippers around the world. And Lord we know that some of your people are being persecuted this very hour for the faith. We ask that you comfort them and bring them peace. Lord, sharing the faith can sometimes be a daunting task. Will you send your Holy Spirit now and create and cultivate in your people a desire to be apologists and evangelists in our world today? O, Holy Spirit, we invite you now to bring illumination and conviction and encouragement for all of us in this room right now. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
[Introduction] Like some of you, I grew up in a family that did not know Christ. I didn’t know what I was missing in life until I met Him, which happened in my early teenage years. A friend in 4th grade invited me to church and I went for a while, but I eventually stopped going, only to resume going again in junior high when I discovered a basketball league I could participate in. I eventually got plugged into the youth group and started reading the Bible. Slowly but surely, the Lord began to convict my heart and show me my need for a Savior. I immediately had such joy, peace, and excitement about my faith. I wanted to tell everyone about Jesus! So I did. I started with my family and I thought it would go well. Well, it didn’t. I received some backlash. I was tempted to not give a defense about the Christian faith because I suffered because of it, but the Lord sustained me. Even now when I go back home for Holidays and other events, I have to always prepare my heart to share the good news of Jesus as these things don’t happen naturally. And this is the case not just with family, but with all unbelievers that I know. We may suffer for sharing the faith, but we must continually do so.
[Bond to textual situation] And that’s what Peter is getting at in this passage. Despite suffering and hardship, his audience was encouraged to be prepared to make a defense for those who ask about the hope they have in Christ. After all, it can be difficult to share about the truths of the Christian faith when suffering.
[FCF] Similarly, we too are tempted to neglect sharing the faith when life gets hard. We tend to think that evangelism and apologetics is reserved for those guys in the church who are outgoing and energetic. We love to come up with reasons why we don’t engage with unbelievers. We love comfort and few things make us more uncomfortable than stepping out in faith to share God’s truth.
[Big Idea] Since we are blessed even in suffering, we should work as apologists and present Christ to others.
[Three Observations] Three things we see in this passage: 1. Suffering 2. Sharing 3. Submission
[Main Point 1] Since we are blessed even in suffering, we shouldn’t view suffering as God’s displeasure.
[Explanation] Look with me in verse 13. Peter starts by asking a rhetorical question. Peter is building on his previous work and continuing the theme of trusting God while suffering. As Karen Jobes points out in her excellent commentary, one can assume this rhetorical question is a reference to Isaiah 50:9 in the (LXX), which states: “Look, the Lord helps me, who will harm me? The answer, of course, is anybody can harm you. The audience to whom Peter wrote should expect to suffer. But what Peter is saying here is that no earthly person can harm them in the ultimate sense, since nobody but God can hurt your soul.
He uses the word “harm.” In the original language, the expression here could be translated as “treat badly.” When this word is used in the New Testament, it is referring to being treated really poorly or even persecuted. I know this may seem strange in our Western American context, but back in that day, people were mistreated all-the-time simply for being a Christian. It happens today, too, overseas, and we should remember and think about those brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for the faith right now even as I speak.
Moving along, we get to verse 14. In this entire passage, this specific text is perhaps the most controversial. The area in which there is greatest discussion is around the expression (“you should suffer”). Let’s get geeky (literally) here for a second. The verb form is a conditional optative, a rare verb form in the NT. What does this mean and why does this matter?
Essentially, when this verb form is being used, it refers to something that may or may not happen. From a cursory reading of 1 Peter one may get the sense that Peter’s audience suffered persecution at every turn, but this is not the case. Without in anyway minimizing what Peter’s audience suffered, it is best to conclude from this use of the verb that the suffering that they experienced was not incessant, although a real threat nonetheless. Sometime they suffered; others times they did not. Some seasons were good; other seasons were hard. In all seasons of life, in light of the cultural pressures they faced, they had to be prepared to suffer for the name of Jesus, and when they did, they should consider themselves blessed and better because of it.
Blessed because of it? Are you out of your mind? you might be thinking. Yes, that’s what Peter says in verse 15. As one commentator points out, in our culture, the words “suffer” and “bless” do not go together, but here Peter says they do. Only twice does Peter use the word “blessed” and both times (1 Peter 3:14; 4:14), the context is for doing good. While we should not seek suffering in life, we should nevertheless seek to do good if and when it arrives. If you are suffering for your faithfulness to Christ, it is not Christ’s displeasure. You are blessed because of it. And if you are suffering for being a Christian, share the hope that’s in you. That’s what one missionary tried to do.
[Illustration] Recently in the news, you may have heard of the death of John Allen Chau. Man, what a wonderful and amazing young man he was. If you didn’t hear about it, let me inform you on the story. John was a missionary. He was from the Washington area. He was 26 years old, and he had a deep passion, which was this: to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people who did not know him. He was particularly drawn to the North Sentinel Island, which is a coast out in the country of India. The tribe that he attempted to share the gospel with is the most isolated tribe in the world. Talk about a daunting task. And yet, John decided in his heart that the Lord was leading him to share the gospel with these people. Before going to the island, he spent years studying the language, and growing in his understanding of how to reach these people. Just this past month in November, he was taken to the island by someone who agreed to take him there on a boat. As he approached them, he yelled, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you.” to Sentinelese tribesmen armed with bows and arrows. He fled to a fishing boat when they shot at him during his initial visit, with one arrow piercing his Bible. He did not survive a follow-up trip on November 17. “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people,” he wrote the day before in a letter to his parents “Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”
OK, so I share that story with you not to make you feel guilty. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think we should all move overseas right now, and people who do missions work are not superior to any other Christian. There were many people online who questioned John Allen Chau’s missionary methods, although I’m not going to do that here. While this was an extreme example, the reason why I share that story with you is because I want to expose you to a Christian who seemed willing to share Jesus Christ in a tough situation.
[Bond back to textual situation] This is a good example of Peter’s words: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”
[Application] Who are the people that you rub elbows with? Who are the people with whom you go to work or school? Who are the people that you see week-in and week-out? If you’re a Christ follower, do those people know that you are one? For some of us, you may be struggling with the fear of man. Maybe at work you’re afraid to open up about your Christian faith because of what they may think of you. Or maybe it’s at school or family. You don’t want to share Christ with them because you don’t know what the consequences will be. But Peter says to have no fear. Even if you suffer for righteousness sake – for being a Christian – you are blessed by God. Unbelievers are lost and without eternal hope. Consider how you can share the Lord with them. And if that results to suffering, Peter says you are blessed because of it.
[Main Point 2] Since we are blessed even in suffering, we shouldn’t back down from sharing the gospel.
[Explanation] Look with me again in verse 15, starting with the word “always.” Peter writes, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This verse is extremely important. You could argue that out of all the verses in the Bible that encourages us to share our faith, this one is the most prominent. So much so that one author refers to this as the “apologetic mandate” as we are mandated by Peter do be apologists.
So far I’ve said the word “apologetics” or “apologists” a few times in this sermon without defining it. That was somewhat intentional as I’ve wanted to keep you on your toes, but here now let us let the suspense end. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word “apology.” When you hear the word apology you probably think of saying sorry or asking for forgiveness after you do something wrong. But that’s not what the word means. Apologetics means to give a word back for the purpose of persuading. Practically speaking, this means that inviting people to church, sharing your testimony, and telling others at work that you are a Christian is not apologetics. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Inviting people to church, sharing your testimony, and telling others at work that you are a Christian are amazing things to do! Please do so. You can and should do those things as it is a step in the right direction. But it must not stop there. We must commend our Savior to others.
I like the way that Holly Ordway puts it. In her excellent book, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Ordway says apologetics means “. . . to explain why what we believe is true.” In short, apologetics is about defending the faith. You are called by God to defend the Christian faith. Are you tracking with me?
You might be thinking, oh no, me?! No way! You don’t understand. I’m not like you. I’m not a pastor or a preacher. I don’t have a seminary degree. To be honest, I don’t read that many books and, you see, I don’t feel like I have that much Bible knowledge. I feel scared talking to strangers and naturally I’m pretty shy, so how in the world am I supposed to defend the faith?
Those are fine objections. I’m sure I’ve had some of them myself in the past and, to varying degrees, probably still have some of those same concerns today. Do you feel nervous doing apologetics? Look. I do too. You’re not alone. But just because we feel fearful of something doesn’t mean we have to give into those fears.
William Edgar, in his book, Reasons of the Heart, reminds us that “Peter does not say, “Know all the answers; he says, “Be prepared.”’
Adding to this, Dick Keyes contributes to our conversation when, in his book Chameleon Christianity, says, “Christians need not be the best debaters nor have all the answers – in fact, if we appear to know everything we will surely be viewed with suspicion.”
You don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to have saving faith in Jesus, and a willingness to step out in faith. Apologetics is not for the experts and credentialed only, but for every and any single Christian on this planet.
Moving along, Peter uses the expression “always be ready.” One of the reasons why we do not share our faith as much as we’d like is simply because we are not prepared to do so. In this verse, we have a clear statement which shows that Christians should seize all opportunities to share their faith, but it is safe to say that we will not seize the opportunity if you are not prepared. You must be prepared.
And Peter says to do so with “gentleness and respect.” Its use is to help the reader see that apologetics should not be done in a hostile or arrogant manner. Peter’s hearers should not be oppressive, over-bearing, or off-putting when sharing the truths of the Christian faith, but they are to do so with meekness and respect. Right? So for you, you shouldn’t be disrespectful when you share your faith. You shouldn’t “shove the Bible down people’s throats” or try to coerce people into listening to you. Instead, out of godly living, and regular interaction with those whom don’t share your belief system, you should seek opportunities to tell them about this amazing hope and joy that you have in Jesus Christ.
[Illustration] I was not a boy’s scout growing up. But I wish I had the opportunity to be one. If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, they are one of America’s top youth development organizations. As they say, they teach kids about attitude, character, cooperation, honesty, resourcefulness, and so much more. They are often known for their good cookies and rightfully so. My favorite are the Samoa’s, but that’s for another conversation. They go fishing, camping, learn how to build things and acquire new skills. They are often out on adventurous and fun trips, which is probably why they adopted the motto “Be Prepared.” Baden-Powell, Scouting Founder, wrote that to “Be Prepared” means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” In particular, they speak of being prepared both in mind and body. By being prepared in mind, you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it. By being prepared in body, you are making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment and do it. Whether it’s mind or body, the scouts are taught to always be prepared.
[Bond back to textual situation] And that’s exactly what Peter tells his audience. We are to be prepared to be apologists.
[Application] Over to you. How can you grow in being prepared to share Christ? How can you present Christ to others in your context? Let me give you a suggestion, and it’s one you may not have heard of it. Let me encourage you to use your imagination. I mentioned Holly Ordway’s name earlier. I read her book Apologetics and the Christian Imagination. I also had the privilege of hearing her give a series of lectures on the subject. She speaks of imaginative apologetics, which “seeks to harness the God-given faculty of imagination to work in cooperation with reason, to open a way for the work of the Holy Spirit and guide the will toward a commitment to Christ.” This is what I’m encouraging you to do. How?
Consider using movies, fiction books, nature, music, or something that engages the imagination well. Oh, and especially stories. Writes Ordway, “Stories and illustrations are truly helpful in helping skeptics understand the religious meaning and words we use.” So, my challenge to you is this: think of two or three people in your life who do not share your faith system, and share Christ with them using imaginative apologetics. As you use religious words that you would typically just say and not define, stop and define them. Use your imagination. Use metaphors. Tell stories. Engage the heart. As she says, “But in any case, and in every case, a connection is necessary: some sort of imaginative engagement with the idea, or at least the possibility, that there might be something worth seeing.”
Ah, yes. We Christians knows that this something worth seeing is Jesus. But being black and white, blunt, and overly straight-forward doesn’t work with everyone. In fact, it hardly works at all. We must engage the heart and mind. We must use our imagination. I encourage you to think of two to three people with whom you regularly see who do not share your faith system and consider ways to share Christ in imaginative ways.
[Main Point 3] Since we are blessed even in suffering, we should submit to God’s will.
[Explanation] One writers says, “Peter is chiefly concerned with helping his readers work through a proper response to suffering while acting righteously.” Sometimes suffering is our own fault. If you drink coffee before bed and you cannot sleep and have a rough day at work the next day, that was because of your silly decision to drink coffee so late. If you regularly eat unhealthy foods all-day everyday, you shouldn’t expect your body to work as well as it can, and as a result, you will suffer. That’s on you. If you date an unbeliever and it ends in heartache, you can’t say that you weren’t warned from Scripture. Sometimes, we suffer because we make a poor decision. It’s our fault.
But that sort of suffering is not what Peter is talking about here. He’s talking about suffering for righteousness sake. That’s a big religious word. Suffice it to say that it means suffering for the name of Jesus for doing the right thing. So when you get picked on at work for being a Christian, when you continue to share your faith amidst hostile environments – in all of these, you are blessed because you are suffering for righteousness sake. One should take heart when suffering “while doing good” since, in some sense, it is the will of God.
[Apologetic Moment] If you’re new to Christianity, this whole idea of suffering being God’s will may seem strange to you. If God is good, why would he allow suffering? This is a perfectly fine question and I understand why you would have it. I’m not going to talk much about that here, but if you want to grab me after the sermon or email me at your earliest convenience, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you about this. But let me just say this: The Bible nowhere ever attributes evil to God. We live in a fallen world and suffering is not outside of God’s powerful hand. That’s all I’m going to say about that here. Please do get in touch if you have any further questions.
Now, back to what I was saying. Whether God is the author of evil is not the intent of this passage. It is clear from Scripture that God is in control of all things, including suffering. We are not always clear as to why God wills suffering for his children, but we do know that he can be trusted amidst the suffering.
And now we get to verse 16: “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” One of the purposes of a loving defense of the Christian faith is so that those who are “reviling your manner of life in Christ shall be put to shame.” When we think of shame we often think of being wrong or doing wrong. Guilt is closely related to shame. In our modern context, both words are almost always used in negative connotations. To be ashamed, or shamed, or to have shame is always, always a bad and horrible thing. It’s something we want to avoid at all costs. So why does Peter use the word shame here? The answer is that the way the word “shame” was used back then and the way that “shame” is used today are not the same. In Old Testament and in Jewish writings, shame is often associated with one’s social status. Specifically, shame means “to be overthrown and left at the mercy of one’s enemies.” So when Peter speaks about putting others to shame, it’s not in reference to traumatizing or humiliating others. He’s talking about one’s social standing in society, not a negative emotion.
[Illustration] Are you a college football fan? If you are, maybe you’ve heard of a young man named Tyler Trent. If you’re not a football fan, you’ll enjoy this story. Tyler is a Purdue Boilmakers football fan, which is a college football team in the state of Indiana. But he doesn’t play on the team, because he has a severe form of cancer. He’s only 19 years old and already had three battles with cancer in his bones. His condition is called osteosarcoma, a rare bone disease. He is fighting it now as I speak. In fact, he is in hospice. And just a little over two and a half months ago, he was given three months to live. Tyler has been getting lots of attention in the news for his optimistic spirit amid cancer. In fact, he has accumulated over 50K twitters followers, was named the Honorary Team President of the Indiana Pacers, and was made a team captain for his favorite team, the Purdue Boilermakers. I found out recently that Tyler is a follower of Jesus Christ. When given the opportunity, he often makes it a point to speak out for his Christian faith, even though life is hard. One pastor put it well when he said: “My brother is making cancer a platform for the gospel. Hope you are watching and learning how a Christian suffers and endures.” Amen. He is submitting to God’s will, even when life doesn’t make sense and feels impossible. May we all endure when suffering, and may we all be able to continually speak up about Jesus Christ, even when life is hard.
[Bond back to textual situation] Our passage tells us that God allows suffering. While Peter does not go into detail about why God allows suffering, he does say that we are blessed when we submit to his will when we do.
[Application] Peter wrote this letter to those in modern-day Turkey, but the implications that he discusses here are relevant for our present day lives. While it may not be the exact situations that Peter describes, many of us here are submitting to the will of God, and for you that means continuing to do good as you suffer. Maybe you’re a follower of Christ and at your workplace you are asked to cheat to help the company get ahead. If you comply, you’ll be given a bigger bonus at the end of the year. But if you refuse, you will lose out on money. Or perhaps some of you are single and you are rightly saving yourself for marriage. Your unbelieving friends think you’re out of your mind for doing so and they make fun of you for your “old-fashioned” Christian beliefs. Or perhaps some of you are suffering at the hands of family members. You believe in Jesus but your family does not. You’re constantly harassed about your faith when you’re around them and they tell you you’ve been “brainwashed.” If you’re honest, you dislike going home for the holidays because you don’t want to deal with it anymore. All of these are examples of suffering, and the Bible calls you to continue to do good and submit to God’s will even in the midst of it. Even more – and remember – Peters calls us to be prepared to give a defense for the hope that lies in us during seasons of suffering. You might be tempted to relent and give up. Don’t. Press in and be ready to share Christ under the hands of whom you are suffering. And use the imagination when doing so.
[Conclusion] The book of 1 Peter addresses the subject of suffering. He also speaks about the suffering of Jesus. We serve a Savior who went before us. And he never asks us to do anything that he himself hasn’t already done. Jesus is the one who lived the perfect life, died the death we deserved to die, and rose from the dead. Jesus is wonderful, glorious, amazing! Seek him. Spend time with him. And trust him when life does not go as you planned. The more you fall in love with him, the more naturally you will want to tell others about him. We are all natural evangelists for the things we love. Out of the overflow of the heart, Jesus says, the mouth speaks. Fill your life and your heart with his love and you will feel compelled to share him. He will empower you and equip you with the boldness needed to always be ready to share about the hope within you, even when life is hard. His grace belongs to you. Receive it today. Let’s pray.
[Ending prayer] Jesus, we thank you for your people all across the world who have stayed faithful until the end, and who have felt compelled to share Christ even in the deepest pain. O Lord, grant us the enablement to suffer well, to share the gospel, and to submit to your will in all things. We need you and love you Jesus. Amen.