This is the second podcast in a two-part series on preparing a sermon from scratch. Resuming the process at studying the paragraph, Dr. J explains how to harvest the hard work of exegesis (the verse-by-verse study) to build an expository sermon. Novices and experienced preachers alike will appreciate this clear explanation of the sermon-building process.
See more episodes of Lighting the Lamp on our Podcast Page!
It's been a while since our last installment of The Pastor's Study, but I'm grateful for some other pastors who have chosen to contribute to this series. This new installment comes from Levi Durfey, Pastor-Teacher of the First Baptist Church of Baker, Montana.
How I Use Accordance in My Sermon Preparation
While I use Accordance’s user notes feature for short notes and quotes, I use iWork Pages for the writing of my sermon notes. This is partly because I like writing in one tool instead of using two and transferring from one to another, and partly because Accordance notes do not support Mac Services (Which I depend on for a very good clipboard utility named PTH Pasteboard and Joe Weak’s Accordance services for copying and pasting verses from Accordance into documents).
So one of the first things I do is create a new Pages document. (If needed, I create a separate document for each chapter of the Bible.) This document is 5.75 inches wide so that it fits nicely beside Accordance. I then paste in the sermon text in English and Greek (using the Accordance services that Joe Weaks made). I use the parsing function in Accordance and print out the parsing for the passage for easy reference.
I also copy the English and Greek texts to another document, which I call my “Observation Worksheet.” There I double-space the text and print it. At the beginning of my study, and continuing throughout the study, I use this sheet to jot down little bits of information, draw connecting lines, mark key words, etc. I find that my mental juices flow more easily at times with good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Cross-Word-Dictionary and the C.I.A.
I work through the text systematically, verse by verse. First, I read the whole passage aloud or silently and jot any new insights onto my Observation Worksheet (I do this after each verse).
Then I precede through the verse systematically, using the phrase, “Cross-Word-Dictionary and the C.I.A.” as my guide. As insights come to me, I write them down in my notes. Here’s my Accordance and Pages layout:
1. CROSS-references: One of my favorite Accordance features is how you can hover your mouse over a list of cross-references. When you do, it turns to a magnifying glass. Then you can click and select some or all the references. When you release the click, all those references open in a separate window. From there you can easily read through all the references without hovering over each one and reading it in the Instant Details box.
In terms of my study, doing cross-references first helps me see the wider Biblical picture first, before I get into the details of the verse. For my sermons, I usually pick only a few: ones that the congregation knows or should know or ones that would make a good Biblical illustration.
2. WORD studies: This step actually includes several parts. I work through the Greek, using the parsing sheet that I printed earlier. I look for any grammatical insights and connections.
Then I may look up some of the words in a lexicon. For in-depth study, I have a separate “Greek Lexicons” workspace with all my main lexicons opened in separate tabs. All I have to do is select the word, click on the “Favorites” icon and select the “Greek Lexicons” and it opens my lexicons to the appropriate word.
I often do a word search on the word to see how it is used elsewhere (right click on the word and select “Search For”). I have a tab named “Greek Search” set on recycle so it is used for every Greek search I make. Accordance allows me to open a parallel English text alongside the search results in Greek, so it isn’t a hassle to quickly scan my search results.
This is also the step where I compare translations (for which I have a separate tab in Accordance) to see what other translators did with the word definitions and grammar in the verse.
3. Bible DICTIONARY: Is there an obvious topic or a cultural question? I try to make my first stop a Bible dictionary rather than a commentary. I have the IVP Dictionaries in Accordance as well as the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. I’ve put these into a group called “Dictionaries,” so all I have to do is click the search icon on the Resource Toolbar to search all my dictionaries. It's nice that I don't have to wade through the whole article of each search hit in each dictionary, as the Search All window will just show the relevant parts of the articles where a hit was found.
Next I move on to the C.I.A.
4. Commentaries: I have separate tabs for the commentaries in Accordance. I don’t want to see them too early in my study, so I don’t keep them visible. I try not to just copy and paste. I read, and then try to put whatever interested me (or answered a question) into my own words.
5. Illustrate: It’s miserable to get done with your sermon study and then have to find illustrations. If the week was too busy, you end up skipping them. So I try to illustrate as I go. I am not trying to find a neat story to entertain people, I want to illustrate the points and principles that I am finding in the text.
6. Apply: What are the implications for us? Again, I don’t want to be left on Saturday trying to figure out applications, so I make it a point to try and find them as I go through the text.
After I work through a verse, I go back to my Observation Worksheet and read the text again to keep sight of the forest and start the process over with the next verse.
Another step, after I’ve worked through the passage completely and if I have the time, is to use FoxTrot Personal Search to search my past sermons and other articles and sermons that I’ve collected.
I will Search [All Tools] in Accordance. I love how I can search for a range, like Romans 9:19-24, and Accordance will pick up single references like 9:20 and 9:21, or even phrases like “verse twenty-two.”
As a final step, I refine the notes and shape them into sermon form. I copy information that I don’t need to the end of the document. I usually put Pages into full-screen mode for this, as I like being able to focus on just the sermon.
One inspirational quote that I keep before me is this (I’ve lost the reference):
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a gifted expositor who saw preaching not as “preaching a sermon for each service, but simply [as] continuing where he was in the ongoing exposition of a book of the Bible.”
That’s what I want to do. Accordance, because of its speed, its tool set, and its ability to help me focus on the Bible, is an integral part of my own ongoing exposition of the Bible.
This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Robb Brunansky, the senior pastor of Desert Hills Evangelical Free Church in Phoenix, AZ, and a PhD candidate in New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Robb is also one of the trainers who teaches our Accordance training seminars.
The primary reason I decided to purchase Accordance in 2005 was for the original language tools. I had been trained in seminary to use the Greek and Hebrew text, and I wanted to maximize those skills, even grow them, in pastoral ministry. I’m happy to report that Accordance has been more than up to the challenge of keeping me regularly engaged with the Greek and Hebrew text and sharpening my original language skills. Many Accordance users are familiar with the basic Greek and Hebrew texts and search commands, so for this article, I want to discuss some other aspects of Greek and Hebrew research that pastors might not regularly consider, including the use of non-biblical original language texts and textual criticism.
Non-biblical Original Language Texts
Like most of you, some of the first Accordance texts I purchased were the GNT-T and the LXX1/LXX2 modules. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that I could greatly enhance my exegesis by looking beyond these two foundational texts. So what texts would most enhance my biblical studies and sermon preparation? As I considered this question, I began to look through BDAG to see what works were being referenced frequently.
One that immediately stood out to me was the Apostolic Fathers module. It is full of early interpretations of the biblical text (not to mention some very entertaining works, such as the Shepherd of Hermas!). For example, if I were preaching through the Sermon on the Mount and I came to Matthew 6:16-18, I might want to know more about the practice of fasting. Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other resources certainly would help, but reading early interpretations in works like the Didache is also invaluable. For example, Jesus instructed His followers not to be like the hypocrites in their fasting. The Didache takes up this very thought in Did. 8:1, “But do not let your fasts coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, so you must fast on Wednesday and Friday.” A simple word search for “to fast” (νηστεύω) reveals that the Apostolic Fathers module mentions fasting 23 times.
In addition to the Apostolic Fathers module, I often find myself referring to Josephus’ works and the Pseudepigrapha. While these kinds of modules might not immediately jump out at the busy pastor, they are the kinds of Greek texts that can not only enhance his understanding of the New Testament but sharpen his Greek skills as well. As a New Testament scholar, I primarily use extra-biblical Greek texts, but original language Semitic texts such as the Targums are a gold mine of information for Old Testament exegesis.
In the NAS95S text, Titus 2:11 reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” but in the NKJV, the same verse reads, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” The difference between these two translations potentially has significant implications for understanding the Apostle Paul’s theology of the atonement. What should we make of these translations? Do they illustrate a different theological bent in the translation committees, or is something else at play?
One of the quickest ways to find out is to view the base text of each translation side by side with Accordance’s Compare Texts feature enabled and set to Single Text. The NAS95S is based on the NA27 Greek text (GNT-T), while the NKJV is based on the Textus Receptus (GNT-TR). Take a look at the workspace below:
With the compare texts feature enabled, we can immediately spot a textual difficulty in Titus 2:11. The TR includes an article before the word σωτήριος (“bringing salvation”), while the NA27 omits the article. This difference has grammatical significance. In the NASB/NA27, the adjective σωτήριος is understood as a predicate adjective describing what the grace of God has done in appearing. However, with the article before it, the NKJV/TR takes σωτήριος as an attributive adjective modifying what the grace of God is like. It is the “salvation-bringing” grace of God.
What is the pastor to do in this kind of situation? Undoubtedly, he has his text-critical work cut out for him. The good news is that the pastor knows why this difference exists, and that it’s not simply a matter of translation committees having a different underlying theology.
The Compare Texts feature is often used in conjunction with English texts, but its hidden power is its ability to compare original language texts. Such comparisons enable the busy pastor to quickly spot differences in texts to see where major text-critical problems lie. With the variety of New Testament texts available in Accordance and the new Multiple Texts feature added to the Compare Texts command, pastors have unprecedented options for examining evidence for variant readings.
Next time you’re studying the biblical text and you get in an exegetical bind, I hope you find these tips helpful. Check out some other original language texts to see if they shed light on grammatical, syntactical, or lexical problems, and don’t forget to use the Compare Texts feature to see if peculiarities exist in the manuscript tradition.
This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Steve Bauer, Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in West Newton, Pennsylvania.
The people at Accordance have asked me to include a section on how I make use of Accordance in my sermon preparation. There is no doubt that some of this will overlap with what others have written. But I hope that as you travel through this with me you’ll learn to use Accordance in ways you haven’t thought of before, or in ways that might help save you some time in preparing for your sermons.
Do the Gruntwork
Whether you are not using a computer at all or using Accordance, there’s always the tedious gruntwork that is involved when preparing for a sermon. So, before we get to the fun, we need to get the gruntwork done.
Get the parsing into the user notes
Accordance has a separate, little file for each verse. So, the first task is getting the original language words into our notes so that we can make our own notes and comments on each word. Here’s the process I use:
- Drag your cursor over the words in a verse to select them
- Click the “parsing” button.
- A nice-looking table will appear. Copy the contents of this window (commmand-a, command-c)
- Close the parsing window.
- open up the user notes file for that verse (click back into the verse that you highlighted and then use the key combination, command-u)
- The user notes Edit window now opens. Paste your parsed words into your user notes (command-v).
Ok, we have the words in the user notes. But wouldn’t it be nice to have some space in beween the lines so we could write some notes? The proper answer is ‘yes---most definitely yes!’
- Drag the cursor from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line to highlight a linebreak.
- Copy it (command-c)
- within the user notes editor open up the find window (command-f).
- Make sure the “Latin characters only” button is not checked!
- Click the “Find” field and paste once (command-v)
- In the “Replace with” field paste twice (command-v twice)
- Click the “Replace All” button in the window.
What you should have now is a nifty looking window with vertical spaces between the lines. The great part about this is that after you have put the parsed words into each user note for each verse, all you have to do is open up the find window (in each user note window editor) and hit ‘Replace All’ to have these spaces added for each verse.
I walk through these steps for all my sermons. It doesn’t take much time. And if I don’t have much time to prepare (e.g. funeral sermons), I have the words formatted in the user notes so that I can move on to my exegesis.
Getting your windows to work for you
Some time ago, Accordance added Favorite Workspaces. That’s what that big, yellow star is for on your Resource palette. Those are where your Favorite Workspaces appear. Dr. Jenney has provided a good overview of workspaces in his podcast, but briefly, you can set up a workspace with all the tools you need for a given task and then save it for use at any time. I put my Grammars and Lexicons into these workspaces. I also put some of the user tools I have made (or have been given) into workspaces.
We will talk more about using workspaces a little later on. But if you haven’t put together some workspaces with collections of your precious tools you use most, now would be a good time to watch that podcast and make some workspaces.
Do the Exegesis
You’re on your own
This is the part of the post where I need to be a little blunt. I can’t teach you how to do exegesis. I went to school for five years to learn the biblical languages (greek and hebrew). I went to our seminary for four more years to learn how to use the biblical languages.
Accordance can’t teach you the languages. And when you learn the languages, Accordance can’t teach you how to use the languages. But, if you have gone to a good school, Accordance can be a valuable tool in your teaching and sermon preparation.
Highlighting can help
Once you have done a faithful text-study and have learned what the words mean, the next task is to figure out how to organize your thoughts and communicate them. There are many books written on this topic.1 But highlighting can help to show the flow of thought, the parallelism, repeated phrases, etc.
In order to get this done, I made two collections of highlights. The first highlighted relationships within one verse. The other set highlighted relationships between words spread out throughout several verses. Perhaps some examples would help.
- In this first example I highlighted instances of the same word (παραιτήσησθε...παραιτησάμενοι) or contrasting words (ἐπὶ γῆς...ἀπ᾿ οὐρανῶν)
- Likewise, since The Writer to the Hebrews carries this theme of shakable-unshakable throughout these words, I thought it would be a good idea to track it (ἐσάλευσεν... σείσω... σαλευομένων... σαλευόμενα... ἀσάλευτον)
I’ve found this pattern useful not just for NT stuff, but also for OT texts as well. Especially in Hebrew poetry, which relies on parallelism so much, highlighting can be a useful (and fun?) way of charting the flow of the words.
In the provided screenshot you’ll notice the parallelism highlighted within the verses. But, I also make use of highlighting to chart the connections between the verses.2
The whole point of this is to find how the words flow and speak so that the pattern you find in the words can give shape to your flow of thought in your sermon.
Protect your Humility
One of the troubles and temptations of preachers is to go beyond what either linguistically or contextually the text is actually saying. Here is where the workspaces come in handy. (If I have time) after I have finished my exegesis, I start at the beginning and use my custom workspaces to see if I might have gone too far in my translation. I highlight the verse3 and then click the ‘star’ icon to open up my workspace with my grammars, lexicons and tools. The workspace then spills out every time the verse you have highlighted is cited in your tools. This can be very helpful...
I may be alone in this, but I like it when grammarians rant. Sometimes the points they make I miss, simply because they hide them with five-syllable words. But when they start ranting, then I know I’m getting to the good stuff. Take for example what I came across in preparation for my last sermon. In Luke 11:4, Wallace offers this vivid commentary:
Fourth, as the colloquial aphorism goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The results of the traditional approach are almost comical. Exegetical and expository literature in the past several decades is filled with statements that are less than credible. Applying the traditional canon to Eph 5:18 results in: “Stop being drunk with wine, but continue to be filled with the Spirit” (μὴ μεθύσκεσθε, πληροῦσθε). On this view, one could ask, “Why stop getting drunk if it does not prevent one from getting Spirit-filled?” Further, if Ephesians is a circular letter, why are specific judgments made in it? Note, for example: “Stop provoking your children to wrath” (μὴ παροργίζετε in 6:4); “Stop grieving the Holy Spirit” (μὴ λυπεῖτε in 4:30); “Stop being foolish” (μὴ γίνεσθε in 5:17).14 Or consider John 5:8: “Take up [aorist: ἆρον] your mattress and continue walking [present: περιπάτει].” But how could the lame man continue walking if he had not done so for thirty-eight years?15
In sum, the basic force of the aorist in commands/prohibitions is that it views the action as a whole, while the basic force of the present in commands/prohibitions is that it views the action as ongoing process. This basic meaning may, of course, be shaped in a given context to fit, say, an ingressive idea for the aorist. Thus if the conditions are right, the aorist prohibition may well have the force of “Do not start.” This is an affected meaning or specific usage. But to call this the essential idea is not correct.4
But wait, the ranting continues in the footnote:
15 Other texts are equally absurd, if the traditional canon is followed. The following examples include translations that are patently ridiculous. For the present tense, note, e.g., Matt 4:10 (“Continue to go away, Satan”); 5:44 (“Continue to love your enemies” [when the audience had not yet begun]); Matt 7:23 (“Continue to depart from me”); Mark 5:41 (“Continue to rise”); 7:10 (“Let the one who speaks evil of his father or mother continue to die”); Luke 8:39 (“Continue to return to your home”); John 10:37 (“If I do not do the works of the Father, stop believing in me”); 19:21 (“Stop writing” the title on the sign above Jesus’ name—v 19 states that this was already a completed act). For the aorist, note, e.g., Mark 9:43 (“If your hand offends you, begin to cut it off”); Luke 11:4 (“Begin to forgive us our sins”)5
There will always be this temptation to make the immediate words we are translating say more than what they are saying. There are times that the grammars can keep us in check.
Prevent the Timidity
On the one hand, there is a temptation to say too much. But on the other hand, there is a temptation to say too little. Here again, Accordance can help.
In my sermon for Easter 5 - Cantate, my text was Hebrews 12:25-29;13:4-6. Robertson provides this comment on Hebrews 13:5:
Even οὐ μή was not strong enough sometimes, so that we have οὐδέ and οὐ μή in Heb. 13:56
There is no more extensive and emphatic way of saying ‘no’ in the NT than the strong future negation. Robertson’s note is worthy of considering in your heart and preaching from your lips. If οὐ μή wasn’t enough for the writer to the Hebrews, should it be enough for us?
What I mean is this: If the writer to the Hebrews tells us that God will never, ever, ever leave us nor will he ever, ever, ever abandon us, isn’t that a point we should emphasize in our preaching?
With “ancient and widespread” Variants
Ever since Accordance added the Nestle-Aland textual apparatus (and then later the CNTTS) the variant readings have been more accessible than they ever have been before. But, what do we do with them? Here is where the old phrase Ancient and Widespread comes into play. Yes, it sounds like a poorly crafted punchline to a joke about your grandma or mother-in-law. But it’s not. It’s how we attempt to find the original text (the autograph).7 So, if we look at Hebrews 13:5, we find this variant:
- Option 1: οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω (aorist subjunctive)
- Option 2: οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλείπω (present subjunctive)
As with all the variants in the NT, they don’t change the doctrine in the bible. However, they might change the emphasis in your preaching. In support of the base reading in the Nestle Aland text (ἐγκαταλίπω) we find Bezæ (D) and a whole bunch of later minuscules:
However, we find that earlier and more widespread witnesses have the second option (ἐγκαταλείπω):
If the variant (ἐγκαταλείπω) is the better option, the next question is “why should I care?” What difference in translation and preaching would the aorist subjunctive vs. the present subjunctive make? Although I can’t prove this with sufficient detail, my conclusion is that the writer has chosen the present subjunctive deliberately to show that God’s promise of never abandoning doesn’t just apply to the distant, abstract future. It applies now. If this is true, then it provides a good emphasis in preaching which I might have overlooked if I didn’t look at the variants.
This is my Sermon Preparation Workflow. I get the verses in the user notes and do the exegesis. If time permits, I use the workspaces to quickly and efficiently grind through the grammars, lexicons and other tools to see where these verses are cited. If there is still a little more time, I have a look at the variants to see what the most ancient and widespread witnesses wrote.
All of this serves two purposes:
- Save time in the areas I don’t want to be spending time (paging through dusty old tomes, trying to see what they might say about my text)
- Costing time in the areas I want to be spending time. I want to translate these verses faithfully. I want to ponder them. I want to avoid saying too much. I want to avoid saying too little.
I hope this little walkthrough hasn’t taken up too much of your time and has given you some ideas of how you might use Accordance in better ways than I do.
1 perhaps the best out there right now is Bryan Chappell’s, Christ-Centered Preaching.
2 עֶבֶד In Is. 49:3 and Is. 49:6
3 not the words in the verse---just the verse number!
4 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 717.
5 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 725.
6 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Accordance electronic ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), 1175.
7 Some might point out that this phrase and approach to solving variants is not what they were taught. My point here is only to concisely provide a format for dealing with variants. This method is what I was taught. And over the years I have become convinced that this is the only way of dealing with the variants in an objective manner.
This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Lorinda Hoover, a United Methodist elder in Iowa. Lorinda is currently the Stated Supply pastor of the United Presbyterian Church of Pocahontas, and will soon begin serving as the pastor of Glidden United Methodist Church.
I’ve been using Accordance for about 6 years. Over that time, I’ve gradually developed my process for using Accordance for sermon preparation, which I’ve been asked to share with you. In the interest of space, I’ve not detailed every command involved. If you’re not sure how to do any of the things I mention, please ask in the comments, and I’ll provide more information.
Step One: Setting up the workspace
I’m part of a tradition that uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a set of four readings (usually Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, New Testament) for each Sunday of the Christian Year, in a three year-cycle (Years A, B, and C.) Currently we are in Year A. For each Sunday, I use a workspace with two main zones. The first zone contains four text tabs: Old Testament, Psalm, Gospel, and New Testament. These are not search tabs, but text tabs originally created by clicking on a link. I then set up the panes the way I needed. (Generally the Greek or Hebrew Text and one or two English Translations)
The second zone contains tabs for several tools I use, including: RCL-A (a User Tool from Accordance Exchange that lists the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Sundays in Year A) and Year A Notes (a User Tool I created to take notes on the readings for the Sundays in Year A).
Each week I open the workspace from the week before, set the Text tabs to this week’s readings, and save the workspace with a new name. The Zones feature has made this a lot easier for me, since I can see both the RCL-A tool and the tab I want to change at the same time.
Step Two: Translate My Preaching Text
While the RCL has four readings, I usually focus on only one reading for my sermon. Each week I translate the original language text (Hebrew or Greek) into English. These translations go into a special User Notes file. I set up the User Note Edit window to cover the English text pane in my main workspace, so I’m not relying on the English translation. If I need help with a word’s meaning, I can triple-click on it, and my chosen lexicon’s entry on the word will appear in my second zone.
As I’m translating, I highlight any words or phrases I want to explore more thoroughly later.
Step Three: Word Studies
If there are words that seem particularly important to me, I will do a word study. I have favorite workspaces set up for both Hebrew and Greek words. These workspaces search both the Biblical texts and my primary Greek or Hebrew Tools. I simply select the word I’m interested in, then amplify to the favorite workspace. I update my Year A Notes User Tool with any significant findings.
Step Four: Repeated words
Some weeks I’m struck by the repetition of one or more words in a reading. When this happens, I use Accordance to identify all the repeated words in a reading. When doing this, it’s important to remember to set the range in the Range drop-down, and not in the search box. [ed: For the differences between the range pop-up and the RANGE command, see this recent post] I have a special range called “temp” that I set to the current passage I’m working with. This way I’m not cluttering up my range list with all the lectionary readings over the course of a year.
For Greek searches, I keep the search syntax in a saved clipboard (using a third-party utility) and paste it into a new Greek search tab. For Hebrew searches, I open a saved workspace with the syntax for a search pre-entered. (My third-party clipboard utility doesn’t correctly handle the right-to-left direction necessary for Hebrew searches)
Again, I make notes in my User Tool.
Step Five: Other Accordance Resources
Step Six: Non-Accordance Resources
I typically also go to several on-line study resources and sometimes consult print resources. I enter notes from those into my User Tool as well. For on-line resources, I include a hyperlink to the web page, so I can return to the original if I need to.
Step Seven: Write the sermon
I write my sermon in NeoOffice. I consult Accordance as I go, but I don’t try to write my sermons in Accordance itself.