Good, biblical sermons must contain at least three things. These three elements are basically a homiletical framework. In other words, as a preacher preaches, what should he seek to communicate? Every sermon will have it’s own unique emphases and character depending on the topic and text. However, every sermon should contain these three elements, in which such emphases and characteristics are to be found.
1. Exegesis. This is taking out of the text what is there, not adding into the text what is not there (eisegesis). A preacher must endeavor to explain the historical and literary contexts of the passage his sermon is based on. This does not mean he needs to be an audio commentary, giving every little detail and explaining the intricacies of the Greek words that lay behind our English words. This should be part of his personal study of the passage as he prepares the sermon, but he need not communicate every detail that comes up in his own study. It should, however, inform his preaching. Preachers must explain the context of the passage (e.g. theme(s), purpose, difficulties), that way their hearers will have a better understanding of the meaning of the text.
2. Doctrine. Rightly understanding the context and content of the passage allows us to move toward a right understanding of the doctrine or teaching contained in the passage. Formulating the doctrine of the passage, after understanding the context and content of the passage, helps the hearers to think through the theological significances and implications of the passage. This gets to the principled heart of the passage that transcends time and culture, allowing for a discussion of implications/applications to the context of the hearers.
3. Application. A good, biblical sermon is incomplete without discussing the implications/applications of the passage. The preacher, after interpreting the passage (explaining its context, content, and doctrine), must proceed to speak that doctrine into the lives of his hearers. The Christian life is not simply storing up doctrinal/theological knowledge, but embracing that knowledge and walking according to it. All sound living must be grounded in sound doctrine.
These three elements make a well-rounded and meaty sermon. To illustrate these three elements, preaching a sermon is like climbing a ladder. Exegesis sets the ladder in place, making sure it’s balanced and steady. Doctrine sets the hands to the rungs, allowing a firm and steady grip. Application sets the feet to the rungs, allowing for the ascent.