Category Archives: Homilitics

Fact Checking Your Preacher

We’ve warned that your should never trust your preacher. It is not that preachers are dishonest (although some are) but that your soul is too important to entrust to anyone other than Jesus.

After all, preachers have no innate authority other than that which flows from Scripture. They are just as fragile and breakable as anyone else.

The obvious question is: “How do I know if my preacher is speaking truth when he preaches?”

The media likes to fact-check politicians. They compare what officials say against the known facts. You can do the same with your preacher. This is not disrespectful. Your minister should appreciate the fact that his people are listening carefully to what he says and are willing to dig into Scripture to discover pure truth.

Here are 5 ways to fact check your preacher.

Listen Carefully and Without Distraction

It is not fair to give half your attention to the sermon. He has worked hard to prepare his lesson and you should be able to devote the requisite time to hear his words. Pay careful attention. Note the flow of the lesson and note the points which build to his conclusion. Later, you will want to analyze his study and see if you reach the same Biblical conclusions that he has.

It can be impossible to control distractions around you. A cute, playful, child, chatty people, folks getting up and going out constantly, all these can rob you of your attention. The solution is amazingly simple: Move up! As you move forward you will be putting those distractions behind you and you can listen carefully.

You cannot fact check the preacher without an accurate hearing of his lesson.

Take Careful Notes of the Sermon

What the preacher says must be backed up by the Bible. Listen for the “book, chapter,and verse” of every claim he makes. Jot the reference down and then you can compare his statement with what the text actually says.

I once preached with Wendell Winkler in the audience. He sat near the front in the center section. As I began to speak I saw him draw out his pen and pad and begin to takes notes as I spoke. It staggered me. Why would he take notes? What could I say that he hadn’t heard a million times before? I never asked him about those notes but I would venture that he was fact checking the young man in the pulpit.

Your notes will serve as the basis for your analysis of the sermon. You will note the following:

  • The Big Idea – what is the main purpose of this lesson. If someone asks what the preacher spoke about you should be able to explain by stating the big idea.
  • The Text – what is the primary, foundation text of the lesson. Is it from the Old Testament or the New? This matters because of the way we receive the message. The New Testament is our guide for today while the Old is our teacher.
  • The Main Points – each well-crafted sermon is usually composed of 3 to 5 main points. What are they? How do they relate to one another and how do they support his Big Idea?
  • The Scriptures – Every point must be backed up by Scripture. I can think of no exceptions. Collect the passages together with the points they make and compare. Does the passage, in its context, really say what he is teaching?
  • The Conclusion – All of the points with their Scriptures should support his conclusion. If it does not, there is a problem.
  • Your Questions – if a question pops into your mind, write it down for later study.

Pray, Pray, and Pray Some More

God has revealed his word through inspired Bible writers (2 Peter 1:21). He has also promised help for those seeking to know the truth. He has also promised that we can find him if we seek him because he is not far away (Acts 17:27ff).

The Lord has also promised wisdom as we study (James 1:5-8). Here’s a bit of wisdom from Solomon (Proverbs 2:1-8):

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2  making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3  yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4  if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5  then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6  For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7  he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8  guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.

Notice the necessity of seeking truth and the promise that we can understand and know the knowledge of God.

As you approach the Scriptures, do so prayerfully. You are not seeking to prove or disprove anything. You only want to know truth.

Analyze Your Notes

After the sermon, analyze your notes and fact-check every statement he made. This step cannot be done during the sermon. If you try, you will miss important teachings. Do this at home. It is a far better use of your time than that Sunday afternoon nap!

Look for context, context, context! Job’s wife infamously declared “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Obviously, that is not a command for us to follow today. The context of the verse makes that plain. Sometimes, preachers botch the context.

Once you understand who is speaking, who is being spoken to, what the occasion is, and what the intended message was, you can determine if the speaker got it right.

It’s common to confuse commands under the law of Moses with commands under the law of Christ. See our discussion on the Covenants for more.

Share What You Find

Let your preacher know that you are carefully following his lessons. If he has done a good job, tell him so. He should be acknowledged for his good work. If he has stumbled – well, tell him that too. He needs to know.

One sweet lady would frequently tell me that she was going to think about what I said. That is one of the greatest complements you can pay to your preacher.

Let us all pay careful attention to our preachers and even more attention to the word of God. It is the standard!

Devilish Piety

Some people just look righteous don’t you think? They seem to have an angelic glow about them and always seem to have just left the throne on high. They appear to be people of near constant peace and joy. But we know that looks are not everything. We know the old cliché that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is powerfully true. You may have been hoodwinked by someone who seemed so pious. Let us consider the question of whether the appearance of piety equals the reality of righteousness.

Arising from an old Latin word, piety simply means reverence for God or a completion of sacred duties or obligations. We can never fully know the quality of man’s heart or his actual devotion to God. But our question here centers on the appearance of devotion and whether or not we should be drawn to someone based only on that appearance.

Appearances Are Deceiving

One of the most chilling passages in the Bible is found in 2 Corinthians 11:11-15:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 

Not even the pulpits of our time are free of false teaching! To look only upon the outer behavior and conduct of a man is not sufficient. He may be a teacher of falsehoods ensconced in a satanic disguise. No one wants to believe their preacher, teacher or mentor is doing the work of the evil one but Scripture is clear that false teaching is found even among the church. Paul speak of false teachers who “slipped in” to the church to lead God’s people back into the slavery of sin (Galatians 2:4-5).

Rely on Truth

If appearances can be deceiving, how then can we choose the people who teach us and guide us in this life?

The only foundation is the faith delivered “once for all “(Jude 3). That foundation is the word of God, inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and given by holy men without any private interpretation (2 peter 1:20-21). We cannot reply on any teaching, any creed or any confession not given by inspiration alone. Only the truth saves (John 17:17; Psalm 119:160) and any departure, regardless of the reason, is indefensible.

So as a practical matter, never trust a preacher, even this one. Place your entire confidence in God and in His ability to communicate to you. Listen carefully to your preacher, very carefully, but then test his words against the truth you possess in the Bible (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1).

Some things are priceless. Your soul is priceless. Never entrust your soul to anyone other than the Lord. Those who appear pious may be or they may not be. Only by comparing their words against the divinely inspired Scriptures can we know the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

 Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at You can follow Bryant on Twitter  @jbevans.

A Call for Courage in the Pulpit

Preaching is the finest task a man can do. There is no more demanding work than that of a dedicated spokesman for God. The task is too important to be left to last-minute-find-a-sermon-on-the-internet kind of preachers. The preparation is hard and the presentation exhausting. To be sound, preaching must be done with courage.

Sound gospel preaching demands courage.

The time for men willing to stand and speak plainly is now. It takes little or no courage to preach the trends of today. Few people will complain of preachers who sound more like television variety show hosts or who seem to craft their preaching after a stand-up comic somewhere. However, men who call sin what it is and point out sin in their communities and even in their churches are not terribly popular.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Paul’s carefully worded, inspired advice to Timothy speaks plainly to us today. Continue reading A Call for Courage in the Pulpit

Through the Eye of a Needle

Camels are big – really big. Standing over 7 feet tall these interesting creatures inhabit the dry desert regions of the Middle East. They have been used in combat for millenia and were even used experimentally in the American Civil War. The camel has an ability to frighten horses and so they have proven useful on the cavalry battlefield.

Jesus spoke of the camel in the synoptic Gospels just after speaking with the rich young ruler who was told to sell all that he had. Matthew records the words similar to Mark and Luke:

Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24).

Such a comment was astonishing to the listeners who concluded that no one could be saved.  Jesus corrects their misunderstanding in verse 26 when he says that “with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

It is indeed an odd, even cryptic saying of our Lord. What exactly does he mean and what should present day hearers take from this passage?

An Attempt to Explain How A Camel Can Pass Through A Needle’s Eye

Some time ago, a teacher hit upon a way to explain this passage. The story is that the needle’s eye in the Gospels is not the same needle we think of today. Instead, the needle’s eye was a small passageway built into t he side of a walled city. The passage was so low that a camel would have to pass through by crawling and not walking. This would prove very difficult but possible.

An interesting suggestion but wholly unacceptable when one considers the facts.

A Camel Cannot Go Through the Eye of a Needle

Let us begin by taking the Scripture in their simplest interpretation. Using Occam’s Razor we make the fewest assumptions possible about what Jesus means and just take it at its face value. We know what a camle is and we know a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle.

  • We observe that there are no other Bible passages which are contradicted or compromised by this interpretation.
  • We observe the ease with which a hearer would have understood Jesus’ comment.
  • We note the smooth flow of the text and context to verse 26 where Jesus offers a fuller explanation of his intention.
  • We also mention that the idea of a gate called the Needle’s Eye was never even thought of until the 11th century by Theophylact. So far as we know such a gate was just a fabrication!

The Beauty of Jesus’ Words

What Jesus speaks of is impossible (Matthew 19:26). The word Jesus uses is a derivative of the dunamis in Romans 1:16 where Paul declares his faith in the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation. However in Matthew 19:26 the Greek word is prefixed by the letter alpha – a – which creates an opposite word. Instead of man have power to do something he has no power. Therefore, in this context of wealthy people, thy have no power to reach heaven within themselves. The power Jesus says, is with God!

While Jesus was speaking of the wealthy in these passages, the same idea – the impossibility of self salvation – is prevalent in other passages. Most notably Paul’s comment in Romans 3:28  and Galatians 2:16 that no man can be justified through works and Romans 5:23 that salvation is a free gift of God and not earned by men.

Jesus is saying that just as a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle and man cannot earn or pay his way into heaven.

We ought use care not to move too far in one direction. Jesus is not declaring that man does nothing. Man must be obedient and faithful to Christ.  Just as the young ruler was instructed to do certain things, so too we have been commanded to do certain things. Jesus says in Luke 17:10 that when a servant has done what he has been told, then he has done nothing remarkable, just what he was supposed to do. Our actions and work are what we are supposed to do. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now when studying this passage, I hope you recall our discussion here. As always, this post is open for your comments.