Monday, February 18, 2008

Third, Word Studies

In my series of sermon preparation, I have been working with 1 Timothy 1:3-11. I have diagrammed the text and from that diagram, I have developed a working outline. From this point, I begin to do word studies.

It should be noted at this point that sermon preparation, or any exegesis for that matter, is an art and a science. It is a science in that there are rules which must be followed and if those rules are thrown out the window, the results will be inaccurate. However, it is also an art in that it takes practice. The more one does it, the better one becomes at practicing it. Also, like learning a new instrument, one should start with easier material and work up to the more difficult material. I say this here because developing outlines and working on word studies all develop with practice.

People do word studies a variety of different ways. I tend to spend a lot of time on word studies because the words of the text provide the foundation of the author's meaning. Regardless of what the Post-modern leaders of the church try to tell us, words do have meaning and the author was trying to convey a particular message to his readers and as thinking beings made in the image of God, we have the capacity to understand that meaning. It just takes a little work.

When working with a text, I have already read through it several times and probably have an idea of the words which I would like to know more about. However, there are always words that surprise me in my study. I think the word is somewhat insignificant and it ends up being pivotal in the study. Therefore, I tend to look up A LOT of the words in the passage. For our passage, 1 Timothy 1:3-11, here is the list of words and phrases I looked up:

Teach false doctrines
Pay attention
Endless genealogies
Mere speculation
Which is by faith
Pure heart
Good conscience
Sincere faith
Turned aside
Fruitless discussion
Law teachers
Do not understand
Confident assertions

I know this is a long list and perhaps many would not want to look at this many words. However, I have found that each one contributes to my understand of the text. I may not bring each meaning out in the sermon but a minister's understanding of a passage preached should be like an iceberg: You may not share every bit of information you learn about a text but every bit of information helps you teach the text.

I usually inject the word study into the outline so that I have all the information where it needs to be. Click Here to see an example of my word studies.

I used several different sources to accomplish this. I am careful not to use a commentary in this process so I am not exposed to differing ideas but simply definitions of words. I realize that word studies are a kind of commentary but they are not as vunerable to personal opinion since the rules of grammar and lexigraphy tend to guide the discussion. Here are my sources used in the example:
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology by Brown
The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament by Rogers and Rogers
Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Wuest
The Hebrew and Greek Key Study Bible

These were used because they were in my library. If I could not find a sufficient definition of a word, I would have perhaps looked online at, or made a trip to my church's library, or asked my pastor if he had a resource I could use, or made a trip local bible college's library, or various other avenues.

All the information so far has given us a lot of information but it is pretty dry so far. Next, we will be begin to consult commentaries to see if we are on track theologically.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching