Preaching Through the Whole Bible (with Example Outlines)

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Last January, I decided to try to preach through the whole Bible, book by book. It was an ambitious project, but I had several reasons for doing it.

Reasons for Preaching the Whole Bible

First, I wanted my people to understand the message of the Bible as a whole. If we draw our theological understanding only from those books we currently understand best (often parts of the NT, Psalms, and Proverbs), we miss out on important parts of God’s self-revelation. This often results in a lopsided theology.

Second, I was concerned that because we so often focus on just two or three verses at a time, we risk missing the authors’ overall intended message in a given book. It’s a noble task to step back and try to understand the main message of a biblical book.

How many preachers can make a quick allusion to Zechariah with the expectation that their people will grasp its significance?

Third, when preaching individual passages, I wanted the church to have a good understanding of where each passage fits into both the particular book, and the flow of salvation history. Looking at the whole Bible together as a church creates a great environment for Bible study. It allows me to make references to books I’ve preached on, without having to go back and give extended explanations of the passage I’m alluding to. How many preachers can make a quick allusion to Zechariah with the expectation that their people will grasp its significance? The NT writers did it; I believe it is a worthy task for us to aim for that level of whole-Bible literacy in our congregations.

A Word of Caution

While I highly recommend this method of preaching, it is with some caution. First, know that discerning the overall key message of a whole book is often more challenging than doing so for a shorter passage. Additionally, guard against merely teaching the content of a book, without relating the message to the needs of the audience.

Guard against merely teaching the content of a book, without relating the message to the needs of the audience. 

However, for those willing to do the hard work of uncovering each Bible book’s central message and relating it to the real needs of the congregation, the rewards are great. It was encouraging to hear the accounts of those who were reading through the Bible as I preached it, and who were filling their handouts with notes of what God was teaching them.

Recommended Method of Study

For those who are interested in trying this approach to preaching, here is a method of study that I believe will prove fruitful:

  1. First, read through or listen to the book repeatedly, watching for recurring themes or phrases, and noting difficult sections.
  2. Second, outline the book. Many books can be outlined by their natural structure, which is preferred when possible.
  3. Third, study the individual passages that are either difficult or do not seem to fit into the flow of the book.
  4. Fourth, go back and adjust your understanding of the themes of the book, based on the results of Step 3.
  5. Fifth, try to boil down the book to a core message.
  6. Sixth, consult several sources. I recommend the Bible Project, as well as a variety of commentary introductions.
  7. Lastly, prayerfully consider how this core message of the book addresses needs within your congregation.

Example Handouts

I have attached my 55 sermon handouts from my “Through the Bible” series. Some books are combined, but generally I was able to preach one book per week. Anyone is welcome to use them, adapt them to their audience, and print their name at the top (just please do not publish them). However, as I have only preached them once, they are still working documents for me. I would encourage you to do your own study, as your sermons will naturally be so much richer than if you were to simply borrow an outline.

May God richly bless you and your congregation as you seek to preach the whole counsel of God!

Old Testament Handouts

New Testament Handouts

Joey Ratcliff
Joey Ratcliff is Campus Pastor at Aldersgate Christian Academy in Cincinnati, OH, where he resides with his wife, Andrea, and his five children. He is pursuing a Master of Divinity through Wesley Biblical Seminary.