This structure locates a topic (e.g., prayer) within a general category (e.g., speaking to God) and then names particulars about that topic (e.g., at God’s invitation, with God’s promise, with words of the mouth and meditations of the heart, in the name of Jesus).

Prayer is speaking to God . . .

  1. at God’s invitation
  2. with God’s promise
  3. with words of the mouth
  4. and meditations of the heart
  5. in the name of Jesus.

While numerical identification of the particulars about the topic is common (e.g., first, second, third), a persuasive reasoning for the ordering of particulars is more effective.  In this example, the order highlights God’s gracious gift of prayer before focusing upon the human response of praying.  In contrast to classification where the sermon would consider the topic in relation to topics outside of it (e.g., prayer differs from an incantation or a wish), definition considers the topic in and of itself. In contrast to classification where the sermon would expand the vision of the hearers beyond the topic of prayer, definition limits the vision of the hearers to specific details about the topic.

Often when working with definition, the preacher will offer a single example for consideration and then draw the various points of the definition from that example.  So, the biblical text might offer an example of Solomon praying and the preacher then works with that text in its context to communicate a larger theological teaching about the activity of prayer and to relate that teaching to the lives of God’s people in Christ today.