In part one, we learned from Jude’s introduction. In this post, we look at his clear thesis statement. In the realm of homiletics, the “thesis” goes by many names. It has been called the homiletical idea, the big idea, the fallen condition focus, and the central idea of the text. No matter what you call it, you must clearly state it and elaborate on it. Jude provides an excellent example. Jude writes:
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (ESV)
Jude’s purpose in writing is to make an earnest appeal to his readers “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” We should be just as clear with the thesis of our books, papers, articles, and especially with our sermons. People will follow our sermons easier if they know where we are going. We should also note that it is “the” faith and not “a” faith. The claim for absolute truth is definite.
After clearly stating the main idea, you must demonstrate why it matters. Listeners or readers need to know why they should be interested in the matter. Many call this the “interest statement.” Jude then gives a statement by explaining that ungodly people in your midst pervert the grace of God. Preachers must do the same. After declaring the main idea of the text, we need to indicate the importance of the topic by telling the listener why it matters. Jude writes:
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ESV)
In a succinct way, Jude gives the audience the roadmap for his letter. This letter will discuss contending for the faith once delivered. You should be concerned about this because certain people have crept into our midst that pervert the grace of God.
This provides a great model for a deductive sermon. But be cautious because not all texts demand the deductive approach. Many narrative texts or parables lead naturally to preaching an inductive sermon, where the main idea or thesis statement comes at the end. Matthew 18:21-35 comes to mind. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, you would want to hold verse 35 until the very end of the sermon, “so also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” This verse expresses the main idea of the parable, and you loose the tension if you give it away at the beginning. We must strive to communicate the text faithfully in the structure of our sermons as well as the explanation of the text.
So while the text determines which approach the preacher should take, Jude provides a good model for the deductive approach.
In a deductive sermon you state the main idea early in the sermon, gain the listener’s attention, and then follow the text to elaborate on the main idea. Because following an audible sermon is more difficult than reading a paper, clarity becomes essential for effective communication. The old adage holds true here: a mist in the pulpit produces a fog in the pew.
In the next post, we will look at Jude’s use of biblical examples to illustrate his point.