In our series on sermon development we come to proving your points using good argumentation. What does that mean and how do you do it. Plus we've got more Logos deals.

In your sermon development, you should include 4 essential elements: explanation, illustration, application, and a fourth one that too many preachers leave out. We call it either argumentation or proof.

Each kind of sermon development answers a question:

  • Explanation: What does that mean?
  • Application: Why does it matter to me?
  • Argumentation or Proof: Is that true?
  • Illustration: What does that look like?

Why Do We Need to Prove a Biblical Truth with Argumentation?

Have you heard this popular statement among Bible-believing Christians? “The Bible says, I believe it, and that settles it.” I’ve also heard people shorten it to, “The Bible says it so that settles it.”

The Bible says, I believe it, and that settles it.

Well-known evangelical quote.

Unfortunately, we preach to people who don’t believe things just because the Bible says it. Some guests at your church don’t believe the Bible is infallible. Even church members might choose only parts of the Bible to believe and apply. A recent Barna study defined a Biblical worldview and found that most Christians disagreed with that definition. So, we must consider these people as we prepare to preach our message.

Many Christians believe something until it forces them to change their assumptions or behavior; then, they willingly give up their Biblical convictions and choose to live like they want. We must prove to them that applying the Bible in their lives brings them into proper obedience and makes it in their best interest to obey.

My seminary preaching professor, Wayne McDill, wrote:

Sermons are designed to persuade. But if you are to be persuasive, you will have to make a case for your ideas. You will have to demonstrate that your point is reasonable and worthy of belief, that what you are saying makes sense. Argument is that part of your support material in which you give reasons for accepting the principles you are presenting.

McDill, Wayne. 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching.
12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill is one of the best books on sermon development around.
12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill
Click here to get it in Logos Bible Software.

Tying Your Sermon Argumentation to the Context

Advanced preachers use multiple sermon types or outline styles to carry the text’s message, and we want to describe where we should place argumentation or proof in our sermon development.

You might call yourself an expository preacher because you work through books of the Bible and take a verse-by-verse approach. It’s like a commentary that covers each verse separately. That’s a form of preaching, but it’s not Expository Preaching.

Truly Expository Preaching follows the Big Idea of the text, as well as the tone and form of the passage. For example, if you preach poetic language and imagery from a Psalm, you won’t preach a didactic sermon with few mental images. Use the mental images the Psalmist offers and share them to make your points. Explain the imagery and how it relates to the theological concepts your message presents, following the author’s approach in both content and tone. Your sermon development might contain a modern-day version of the psalmist image to explain your idea.

Once you’ve explained the idea and tied it to the text, you will argue the truth of the concept for your audience. Don’t assume they will believe it because David wrote it. This is where we fit proof or argumentation in our sermon development.

An Example of Where Argumentation Fits from Psalm 1

Look at Psalm 1, which includes several metaphors to describe the godly man. We learn that he’s like a person taking a walk. He won’t walk by ungodly influences and get distracted by them. We get a mental image of someone stopping to look at what the ungodly are doing. Then he sits down with them. The progression of walking by, stopping, and taking a seat is the mental image of being drawn into the sins of the ungodly.

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

Psalm 1:1, NKJV (italics mine)
psalm 1:1-2 as an example for argumentation in sermon development

You will first need to show the hearer what you mean by describing the scene or telling a story about a time when you were distracted by something while taking a walk or driving along the road. You’ve used an illustration or natural analogy to explain what you mean by the concept of distractions from a spiritual relationship with God.

As the Deer Panteth for My Attention


I once drove home at night along Yellow Banks Road near my home in the rural area of Wilkes County, NC. A home along that road has a huge field in front and to the left. There’s a row of trees about an acre off the road. We recently moved here and, at dusk, saw some deer. It grabbed my attention, and my wife counted. The number grew while my speed decreased. Finally, I nearly came to a stop to see for myself. We counted more than a dozen deer in that field.

Those deer grabbed my attention to the point where I nearly stopped. Sometimes, as we walk along God’s path, we get distracted and slow down to see something. We stop and might take a seat to examine it for a while.

After explaining the concept using an illustration, you must prove it to your modern hearers who don’t assume the Bible’s truth. This leads us to the next step in proving your point with Biblical argumentation.

Consider Arguments People Might Make Against the Big Idea and Answer Them

proof or argumentation answers the question is that true in our sermon development

You’ve shown the audience what you mean and explained how it relates to the text. Next, brainstorm possible arguments against the Big Idea. How might someone object to the text and your statement of the idea?

You could write the idea at the top of a page or type it into your sermon notes. Then, use bullet points to list arguments against it.

You’re not writing or typing what you believe are valid arguments against the idea; you’re brainstorming what a listener might say in response to the Biblical truth. Imagine a teenager or a young mother who might struggle with the issue. Picture people who might sit in the congregation listening.

Using our example above, consider the following possible arguments against the truth. Sinful influences won’t easily distract a godly man living for God.

Sinful influences won’t easily distract a godly man living for God.

We’ll clean up the above statement in a future part of our sermon design to make it pithy and memorable. At this point, it’s a good idea to write it out in detail to give you a complete idea of your concept, which will help you brainstorm. List the possible objections. Consider these two.

  • I won’t get distracted because I’ve been a strong Christian for many years.
  • Didn’t Jesus tell us not to neglect lost people?
  • I get easily distracted by sins. I can’t stop … (fill in the blank with any sins people might habitually commit).

Answering Arguments Against a Truth

You might think of other arguments against the truth. Let’s consider an answer to one of the arguments listed above.

You’re at a coffee shop with a friend. You discuss the concept found in verse one of Psalm 1. He looks at you thoughtfully, looks away, and then says, “I get distracted by sin all the time. I find it really hard to resist certain temptations.”

We need to convince the person that they can walk with the Lord, and this helps us overcome temptations as we continue in the faith. Where would you find a convincing argument to help your friend trust that they can overcome sin if they do something new?

Is the Bible a Valuable Source for Argumentation?

We’re tempted to rush to other passages that will prove our point. I immediately thought of a passage in 2 Peter 1 that says…

5- But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6- to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7- to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8- For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9-For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

2 Peter 1:5-9, NKJV

That passage might help someone who trusts God’s word. When you first believe God can answer your problems, this kind of faith adds virtue. We progress from virtue to knowledge. You find great self-control when you learn about God’s love, grace, and support through His Holy Spirit. That brings perseverance and less failure. The more perseverance you find, the more godliness you gain in your behavior, and you can better resist temptation. That leads to an abundance of fruit-bearing behavior.

However, this alone won’t help the skeptic. Scripture is powerful, so use passages like this to support your argument. However, you will usually need more for an unbelieving person and even for Christians who don’t yet submit willingly to the Word just because “God said it.”

Other Sources for Argumentation in Sermon Development

You can find many sources for proof or argumentation in your sermon development. Statistics, examples, stories that show the truth applied effectively, and quotations from trusted people all help the preacher prove the truth.

For example, I used a Barna Research stat to prove that believers might not trust Scripture alone for proof in a sermon. I could strengthen my argument with an example of someone I knew who claimed to serve Christ but didn’t believe some clear Biblical idea.

Returning to Psalm 1:1, we see that our friend at the coffee shop didn’t agree that living for God can help them fight off the distractions of temptation. What if we used 1 Peter 1, an example or testimony from our own lives, and a quote from someone the person trusts? Together, with the conviction of the. Holy Spirit, might convince our friend.

Find Argumentation or Proof for Sermon Development in Bible Software

the topic guide in logos bible software helps find argumentation in sermon development

I use Logos Bible Software to study passages and topics found in those passages. You could open Logos Bible Software and run a Topic Guide from the Guides menu. Type the topic in the search box and wait while Logos returns content from your library. Look through the results to find some possible support material.

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