Charles Kohler, in his book how to preach without notes, has written on the importance of using the Scripture as an resource for sermon illustrations. On page 45, he he writes, “one authority recommends only one book of illustrations, namely, the Bible.” Using the Bible as a primary source for illustrations is going to be very helpful to both the preacher and the congregation. Today we are living in an era of biblical illiteracy. In the past preachers could assume that the people knew the stories of the Bible, but not today.
Using the stories of the Bible as your sermon illustrations allows your people to understand their circumstances within the context of the biblical record. They learn of an almighty God who is able to allow a disobedient man to be swallowed by a fish. They learn of a powerful God who can open up a Red Sea and allow all people to walk on dry land. They learned of all of the great exploits from the past. They then learn that God can and will use these powers for their ultimate good. However, if your people do not understand or know these great stories then they will not be able to appropriate them at the proper time.
Therefore, using sermon illustrations has a double focus. First, it teaches the grand stories of the Bible. Second, it places the Bible on a higher level in the minds of the people and the preacher. Third, as noted above, the preacher is now learning more of the Bible and that opens up avenues for preaching it in the future.
Certainly we should go to history, both modern and ancient for illustrations. In addition, we can go to nature, our own experiences, and even parts of the mundane experiences of our lives to find rich illustration material. But the preachers should never lose track of the importance of using the Bible as well.
I was studying the sermon “The Eagles Stirreth Her Nest.” by C.L. Franklin, in this particular sermon, Franklin illustrates a couple of his points solely by using the Bible. A perfect example of this is when C.L. Franklin illustrates the idea that God is swift like an eagle. He illustrates this idea by referring to Daniel who was thrown in a lions den and God swiftly intervened to save Daniel. Franklin further illustrates the idea of God’s swiftness by referring to another Biblical story which was when the time that Peter was thrown in jail and the church prayed for him. God swiftly answered that prayer.
There are a few things that one should keep in mind when illustrating our sermons with Bible stories. The first thing you should do is recognize that because of the Biblical illiteracy of our times, we might have to describe the background of the Biblical story before we can use it. Many preachers spend time setting up their stories from contemporary lift, history, or nature, so why not spend a moment or two setting up the Biblical illustration?
Another point, the preacher who would use the Bible as a source for sermon illustrations should remember that the preacher should often go back to some of the common stories. Sometimes preachers feel the need to either preach on our use illustrations from the obscure passages of Scripture. However, as Franklin demonstrates, we can make use of some of the common stories to solidify our points. These stories have been told over and retold. When we make use of these stories, we allow people to experience what they already know on a deeper level.
Many rightly emphasize the need to preach from the Bible and make it primary in their presentations. However, many of these people quickly rush to other resources when searching for illustrations. However, if we would make the Bible primary, let us also make use of it all the way through our sermons. This will help our people to realize that the Book is relevant to their daily lives. It also might encourage them to pick it up and read it. So in your next sermon, instead of pulling out sermon illustration books, and culling other folks sermons fro the perfect illustration, why not open up the Bible itself and seek to find help in not just what you are going to preach, but in your illumination of your chosen sermon.
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