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Six Lessons From Luther’s Preaching

2. Preach the Main Idea of the Passage

Over time, Luther developed a unique method of preaching. The Germans called it, schriftauslegende Predigt, or “Scriptural sermon,” what we might call “expository preaching.” Instead of preaching about every word in the text sequentially in the sermon (as was done in patristic homilies), he would discover in his own exegetical preparation what he called the center of meaning, the heart point (herzpunkt), the big/main idea or kernel of the passage.

He would preach a passage verse by verse, or perhaps summarize a story in the Gospels, but always with the main point, the kernel in mind. To give an example, he began a sermon based on John 11, the raising of Lazarus, with these words: “Dear Friends of Christ. I have told you the story of this Gospel in order that you may picture in your hearts and remember well that Christ our God, in all the Gospels, from beginning to end, and also all writings of the prophets and apostles, desires of us nothing else but that we should have a sure and confident heart and trust in him.” The sermon then went on to focus on that big idea.

In order for the Gospel to spread the masses, Luther spoke a good deal about simplicity in preaching. In his collection of after-dinner remarks, Table Talk, he said, “In my preaching I take pains to treat a verse of Scripture, to stick to it, and so to instruct the people that they can say, ‘That’s what the sermon was about.’”

3. Don’t Try to Impress People / Use Everyday Language

Luther insisted that preachers use common language. They must be simple and direct. He explained:

“Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they too need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen, they can leave…we preach in public for the sake of plain people. Christ could have taught in a profound way, but He wished to deliver His message with the utmost simplicity in order that common people might understand. Good God, there are sixteen-year-old girls, women, and farmers in the church, and they don’t understand lofty matters.”

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Steve, a New York native and accomplished musician, has pastored for ten years in Tucson, Arizona with a commitment to expository preaching, discipleship, and apologetics. He earned his D.Min. from The Master's Seminary. Steve speaks at various conferences, does pastoral consulting, and preaches at churches across the United States. Dr. Ingino is the author of a few books and an app for iPhones which helps parents pray for their children (31 Prayers for My Child). He is married to his incredible wife Bridgett and they have three children. Steve is working on his addiction to dark chocolate.