What does it mean for a sermon to be “Bible-based”?

What does it mean for a sermon to be “Bible-based”?

Most Christian churches would claim to deliver sermons that are based on the Bible. Yet even a cursory listen of sermons from different places based on the same Bible are markedly different! Clearly what people mean by ‘Bible-based’ varies from place to place.

Here are some ways you can work out if a sermon is actually Biblical in the best sense of that word:

  1. You can see where the preacher got his ideas from

In a sermon, all the people in the room are learning from the Bible. It’s just that the preacher has done work on the passage first. Those listening should have a Bible open and be able to see where the preacher is getting his points from. Ideally, hearers should be pointed to relevant parts of the text – “look at v12 with me”, for example. As we listen to good preaching, it should be helping us personally as we read the Bible ourselves. We should be able to say things like, “Oh, I see how that logically flows from that! That makes sense!”

  1. The Bible has the authority in the sermon, not the preacher

I once had a grumpy Christian call the church and ask me how I preached. He said, “You’re not one of those preachers who string a series of anecdotes together and back it up with a few random Bible verses, are you?” I pray I am not! I have heard sermons before that bear little resemblance to the Bible passage for the day. That means that the preacher is not really preaching about the Bible but preaching about what he wants and just using the Bible to back up what he wanted to say anyway. That’s not helping anyone. Christians coming to church should want to hear from God, not the preacher.

  1. The main point of the passage is the main point of the sermon

It is easy to cherry-pick some fascinating point from most passages and dwell on that. But the Bible is a form of literature. It is important to think through what the original writer intended to say in this passage, and then make that the main point of the sermon being preached. The main applications from the sermon should flow from the main point the original writer wanted to make. That way, all of us are hearing from the text, just having it applied to our present context. How might you tell if this is the case? Look to see if the structure of the sermon matches the structure of the passage. A sermon that does this tries to match the contours of the passage, bringing out the same main points the text teaches.

  1. The sermon shows how that particular passage helps us understand Jesus

The gospel is the climax of God’s plan for the world. All of history was heading to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we are now heading to the time all the world sees Jesus as King. Therefore, a Christian sermon must mention Jesus. Even if it is based in Lamentations or Joel. All the Scriptures speak of Jesus (Luke 24:27, John 5:39). A Christian sermon would not be appreciated in a mosque or a synagogue for it preaches Christ crucified.


In our entertainment-focussed world, we do need to make sure that we are judging a sermon by the meat not the humour. Christians come to church to get fed; what we all need is God’s word opened to us faithfully.