Thursday, 27 August 2009

Homiletics on Acts 13:13-52 - BSF-style

***EDIT: I seem to be getting a lot of traffic from Google hits on this post. If that includes you, welcome to my blog! I hope this post is helpful to you, but please don't use it to avoid doing your own homiletics task. You might also be interested at some of the posts I write irregularly on my other blog, which contains my reflections on some of my Bible reading: Following the Star.***

One of the (many) helpful things about studying the Bible with BSF is that each year a number of seminars are run to teach attendees skills that will help them in their own private study of the Bible and in teaching others from the Bible. I have been studying the Bible with BSF for four years now, and each year I try to attend a few of the seminars. A few weeks ago, I went to the seminar on "Sharing the Gospel" and this week I did the seminar on "Homiletics". I have attended each of these once before, but that was back with the Evening Women's class in Darwin, over three years ago. I did the Homiletics seminar just before Abigail was born. I remember that I missed the BSF class that week and used my new skills to study the week's Bible passage while I was in hospital. Given that Abigail turned four a few months ago, it was well and truly time for a brush up!

So what is Homiletics?

According to BSF, and I am sure specific denominations or theological colleges have their own definitions, but here I will only consider the distinct BSF-style, "Homiletics is the analysis of a Bible passage to gain an understanding of the truths in it so as to apply them to daily life. It can be a tool for preparing a talk on the passage."

There are five simple steps in BSF-style Homiletics, but rather than explain them, I will illustrate them with my own efforts from the seminar. I am typing them out almost word-for-word from my notes, so you can see the development from raw scrawl to end result.

I have included my own, hopefully transparent, personal shorthand. Here are some extra tags I needed to use because I was typing from hand written notes:
/alt: indicates I wasn't content with my previous effort, and the following is another try, both from during the seminar.
^[...] indicates an inserted word or phrase added shortly after the main section was first completed.
this line indicates something I crossed out from my notes (I am providing this detail to help you understand my thought process).

Keep in mind I only had one-and-a-half hours, and that included the seminar leader's instructions. I was working from Acts 13:13-52 (click on the link to read the passage in the NIV translation), in order to be able to develop a Bible Study for our church's Women's Gathering.

Step 1: Contents
Read the passage at least once. Draw up a list of 10-20 topics or events from the passage.

13:13-14 Paul & Barnabas travel from Cyprus to Psidian Antioch
13:15 At Sy Synagogue, Paul invited to give "words of encouragement"
13:16-20a Paul speaks: God chose Israel as His ppl, made prosper, led out, endured conduct, overthrew nations, gave land
13:20b-22 Paul speaks: God gave judges, K. Saul, K. David
13:23-25 Paul speaks: God brought David's descendant, Saviour J., as promised. John (Baptist) prophesied of Him - repent, baptism, JC to come
13:26 Paul speaks: It is to us message of sal'vn sent
13:27-31 Paul speaks: JC not recognised, so carried out prophecies; God raised him from the dead & He was seen by witnesses
13:32-37 Paul speaks: God's promise is fulfilled for us by JC's resurrection as promised ^[prophesied] David would not see decay
13:38-39 Paul speaks: Thru' JC we have forgivenness of sins and justification
13:40-41 Paul speaks: Take care you do not scoff and thus perish
13:42-44 Paul & Barnabas invited to speak further, & even more gather to hear the word of the Lord
13:45 Jews are jealous and talk abusively
13:46-47 Paul & Barnabas respond to Jews - telling them since they reject word of God they will proclaim it to Gentiles
13:48 Gentiles rejoice, ^[glad,] & believe, honour word of God
13:49-51 Word of God spreads; opposition is stirred up & increases, Paul & Barnabas leave for Iconium in protest
13:52 Disciples filled w joy & HS

Step 2: Divisions
Separate the list into 2 to 4 groups to help you remember the structure; write a division sentence for each with the main thought.

Div I 13:13-22 Paul is invited to speak in ^[the] Synagogue @ Psidian Antioch /alt: Paul explains how OT events are the beginning of God's salv'n plan
Div II 13:23-39 The Good news of Salvation in J is proclaimed
Div III 13:40-52 ^[Jews & Gentiles have different] Alternative responses to the good news

Step 3: Subject Sentence
Write a full sentence of no more than 10 words summarising the entire passage, including a subject and verb. The subject sentence may be a compound sentence, but may not be a phrase.

Paul proclaims salvation, forgivenness of sins & justification thru' Jesus in Psidian Antioch; & Jews reject abuse the message but Gentiles believe.
/alt: "Paul proclaims salvation thru' Jesus, but only Gentiles believe."

Step 4: Aim
The main lesson I want the audience to learn (to know, or to do in response), whether this is myself or others.

To cause the audience to be glad ^[respond to] ^[believe] the gospel message ^[promises] with gladness & joy.
/alt: To cause the audience to ^[(1)] believe the good news & ^[(2)] respond to gospel promises with gladness & joy.

Step 5: Applications
Several specific applications, for each division, from real life of self or audience.

Q Do you understand how God used OT events to lay the foundations of His plan of salvation?
Q Do you look for "gospel connections" when you read/study the OT?
Q What foundations for the good news did God lay in your life? Q What promises did How did He choose & lead you?
Q What conduct of yours has God endured? Q How have you shown repentance?
Q What opposition have has God overthrown in your life? this Q How have you shown thankfulness?

Q How would you explain to your child or spouse (if they are not a Chn) or a ^[NC] friend...
a) the good news of God's promised salvn that He has fulfilled for us thru' J? (13:26,32)
b) ho why our sins ar can only be forgiven thru' J? (13:38)
c) what we believe when we "believe" in the biblical/Chn sense?
d) what it means to be "justified"? (13:39)

Q Do you ever respond to a sermon or Bible passage study with argument? that What is it that causes you to stumble?
Q Are you glad to hear from God's word read & explained in a sermon? How do you show that you honour the word of the Lord? corporately? privately?

And that is the end of the process, at least for the sake of developing my Bible Study questions. There are one or two more steps if you are planning to write a talk, but I wasn't.

Just in case you are (still!) interested, below are my final questions for our Women's Gathering Bible Study on Acts 13:13-52, which I completed separately. Because we have a limited time for the study, I give verse references wherever I think it might help the women find the answer in the text. About half of the women in our group have English as their second or subsequent language, and this is particularly helpful to them, as they have difficulty scanning through the text. Previously, I had the application questions bundled together at the end of the study. This week, I embedded them with the content questions wherever they arose from my Homiletics analysis. I used my Homiletics divisions to provide the structure for my questions:
Division I: Q1 & Q2
Division II: Q3
Division III: Q4
Related prayer items: #5

1. Read Acts 13:13-15.
a) Who went where? 13:13-14
b) In Psidian Antioch, when and where did Paul speak? Who invited him to speak? 13:15

Questions for Group Discussion
2. Read Acts 13:16-22.
a) Each of these events is recorded in the Bible. Which testament are they in? Do you know what books they are in?
b) Connect How important is it for you, a Christian living today, to be familiar with the OT events and understand the OT Scriptures?
c) How did God use the events recorded in the OT and spoken of by Paul here to lay the foundations for His plan of salvation?
d) Connect Think about the foundations for your faith in the good news of Jesus that God has laid in your life:
i) How did God reveal to you that He had chosen you?
ii) How has God made you prosper?
iii) How did God lead you out of your previous life of sin?
iv) What sinful conduct has God since endured from you? Have you repented?
v) What opposition has God overthrown for you? How have you shown thanks?
vi) What has God given you through Jesus? Which Bible passages tell you about these gifts?
vii) Who will judge you? Who is your King?

3. Read Acts 13:23-39.
a) Who did God promise to bring to Israel? 13:23
b) From 13:26, to who was the message of salvation sent? According to 13:27-31, how was our salvation achieved?
c) What are the three elements of Paul’s “good news” in 13:32-33, 38 & 39? From 13:33-37, how has God fulfilled His earlier promises to Israel?
d) Connect [See Taking it Further #2.] In pairs, explain as you would to your son or daughter, or to a non-Christian family member or friend:
i) The message of salvation through Jesus’ atoning, propitiatory death.
ii) The proof, which Jesus’ resurrection provides, that our sins are really, truly, completely forgiven.
iii) What we believe, when we “believe” in a biblical, Christian sense.
iv) What it means to be “justified”.

[After we did Q3d, we had a discussion of what "atonement" and "propitiation" meant. It was great! I explained that while we may be vaguely familiar with the general idea behind the words, we often don't know the doctrinal terms. As we read more of our Bibles, listen to more sermons and become more mature in our faith, we learn more about these doctrinal and theological matters. We can also work out what biblical terms mean ourselves by looking the word up in a concordance, then comparing the verses that use that word; or by reading a book on the topic; or just a chapter from a theological compendium, such as Concise Theology by J.I. Packer, or the far weightier tome, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, which, as Amy blogged, is available in bite-sized audio chunks for those of us who can't cope with the thought of 1200+ pages in a miniscule font size. Knowing the theological terms and understanding what they mean doesn't make us more holy, or more saved, but it does provide matter for us to reflect upon in our worship, and hopefully deepens our thankfulness to God.]

4. Read Acts 13:40-52.
a) What did Paul warn the people against? 13:40-42
b) Who did not follow his advice? How did they respond? 13:45,46
c) Connect Do you ever respond to a sermon or to something you read in your Bible with annoyance or an argument? What particular details trigger this response? (Would you like to discuss any of these with me, or with our pastor, who is paid by the church to have such edifying conversations?)
d) What did Paul do because of the Jews’ response? 13:46
e) What words describe the response of the Gentiles to Paul’s message?
f) Connect Are you glad to hear God’s word read and explained in sermons?
g) Connect In what ways do you demonstrate that you honour the word of God?

5. In your Prayer Triplet: Please pray for me as I work on some better ways to structure our Bible studies so that we may honour the word of God.
[And you, dear blog reader, if you have got this far, are herby invited to pray for me as well!]

Background Notes
After Saul and Barnabas proclaimed God’s word on Barnabas’s home island of Cyprus, they went to Paul’s native land, Asia Minor. Perga (in Pamphylia) was a short distance inland from Attalia, the port where Paul, Barnabas and Mark probably landed. Mark left them to go home; they were later reunited and Mark helped Paul (Acts 13:13, Col 4:10, 2 Tim 4:11).
Psidian Antioch was north of Perga, and the journey was long and arduous, over mountains and in danger from bandits. Psidian Antioch was a Roman colony, the political and military centre of southern Galatia. [Click on the map below to see it enlarged.][Map source: Marshall, I.H. (1980) Acts pg 16.]
Paul later wrote in his letter to the churches of Galatia (Gal 4:13), “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” Some scholars have hypothesised that Paul might have suffered from malaria, and travelled into the cooler mountains to obtain relief from the painful symptoms of the illness.
In Psidian Antioch, Paul attended the Sabbath day services at the Synagogue. According to Stott, “The synagogue service will have begun with a recitation of the Shema (“The LORD your God is one LORD, and you shall love the LORD your God…” [from Deut 6]) and some prayers, continued with two lessons, one from the Pentateuch [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy] and the other from the prophets, followed by an expository sermon, and concluded with a blessing.” Even though some Gentiles were in the Synagogue , it was a specifically Jewish environment (Acts 13:16,26).

Taking it Further
1. Memorise Acts 13:26.
Acts 13:26
26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.”

2. Re-read 13:23-39.
a) Write down your own simple explanations of the points from question 3d from the Group Discussion. Try to avoid using any words that are not used by children or non-Christians with the same meaning that we would use them as Christians, or include your own explanation of these words as well. (This is a very hard task, so congratulations if you get through all four parts of 3d!)
• Take the time, and make the effort, to sit down with (at least) one of your children, or a non-Christian family member or friend, and explain one of these points to them. If you are nervous or unsure, practice first with a Christian.
• Take time to pray that your explanation will be received with gladness, and that your listener’s response will honour the word of God that you have explained to them. Pray also for opportunities to talk with them more about the good news.


Mrs. Edwards said...

Great way to show homiletics! I still do homiletics occasionally, and should try to do it more often. Maybe this year, as we study John in BSF, I'll privately do the homiletics assignment as well!

Sharon said...

Yes, I keep thinking that myself, but then reality catches up with me.

Just yesterday I was musing over how pleasant and enjoyable life would be if I could be a nun or a religious recluse (one of those who lived in a hole in a wall somewhere and was brought food occasionally by the local villagers... provided the hole in the wall had a flushing toilet and internet connection, of course!).

If I was a recluse I could spend all day reading and studying my Bible and never have to repent of the harsh realities of my sinful responses to interruptions from other people (who shall remain nameless) when they have bad dreams during what is ostensibly my evening Mummy Time, or need a drink of water because I won't trust them to use the tap unsupervised, or just want a kiss and cuddle to comfort them because a sibling (who shall also remain nameless) has bashed them over the head in an attempt to obtain a particular set of blocks...

Yes, sometimes I think the life of a recluse would be so very, very delightful. But then how on earth would God do His refining work in my heart? He'd probably send me spiders or rats to share my hole in the wall, or something else likewise far more horrible than petty irritations from my darling children.

~ Sharon

argsmommy said...

I attended the homiletics seminar twice and it was always my favorite. I rarely was able to do homiletics with my lesson though because I was always preparing a children's lesson. This would be a great year to try though -- I'll have to go dig out my notes. I'm going to do a study on Isaiah this year, something I've been wanting to do since I left BSF. I always felt like BSF gave me such a solid background in the Bible, but Isaiah was one of my "gaps."

Sharon said...


Did you know that BSF is in the process of developing a new study on Isaiah, to be used (I think) in place of the History of Israel and the Minor Prophets study, after John? Ask your class administrator or teaching leader if they can give you any more info about it.

~ Sharon

argsmommy said...

Wow! I did not know that. But how sad -- Minor Prophets was one of my favorite studies. Let me know if you hear more info about it, but I will ask around here too.

Mrs. Edwards said...

Hopefully they don't drop the History of Israel altogether, but just add it to the rotation? Hmm.

Kellie, I just finished reading through Isaiah, although I didn't do homiletics. I generally read the passages and pray through them in my devotions. Anyway, after finishing up the last chapter a few days ago I felt sadness. It was as if I was there with Isaiah, seeing with him all the revelation about Christ, the suffering servant, about the Day of the Lord, the new heaven and new earth, but then turning back to the reality of Assyria invading and knowing that Hezekiah delayed the judgment on Jerusalem only for a generation. Imagine seeing the glory of the Lord that was to come but then being the prophet to a people that was losing faith.

That was a ramble, but in short, I too would like to truly study Isaiah, coupled with the history of Israel at that point (you could actually even go forward and see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies re: Cyrus and so on, in a study of Isaiah).

I'm with you about the "let me just go off in a hole and study the Bible all day" but how true that so much of our sanctification comes from the interaction of God's revelation to us in Scripture with our daily experiences.

Shelly said...

Awesome that you shared this with your readers. I took the 2 hour seminar yesterday and your sample was much more user friendly than those 2 hours! Thanks.

Sharon said...

I'm glad it was a help to you Shelly. I am using it regularly now working my way through Acts and it is a brilliant help to me in preparing my Women's Gathering Bible Study questions.

~ Sharon