The Textual Sermon is a miniature Expository Sermon covering a few verses, a verse, or part of a verse, but not the whole paragraph.
Just to review, Broadus in his book, "Preparation and Delivery of Sermons," says that topical sermons are those in which the subject alone is derived from the text. Textual sermons are those in which the subject and main divisions are derived from the text. Expository sermons are those in which the subject, main divisions and most of the details are derived from the text.
As I said earlier, that explanation of the three major types of sermons might be a little bit simplistic, but it comes close to the truth. The fact is, many writers believe that the topical and textual sermons can and should be just a variation of the expository sermon. I tend to agree with them.
Even though the textual sermon covers fewer verses than the expository sermon, the subject does come from the Bible and each major point comes from those verses. Yes, there is less material from which to get the supporting material, but it still may be possible.
The textual sermon is just a shorter form of the expository sermon and covers only a few verses, a verse or part of a verse, but still expounds that shorter portion of Scripture.
Gibbs in his book, The Preacher and His Preaching," says that the textual sermon, as its name implies, consists of selecting verses, a verse, or even the part of a verse as the text.
After the theme or subject of the verse or verses has been discovered and stated in one's own words, it should be analyzed, divided, and expounded in the light of its context. As someone once said, "A text without a context is just a pretext."
The textual sermon is similar to the expository type of sermon, except that instead of selecting a paragraph, with many verses, the preacher has only a few verses or one verse or a part of a verse from which to speak, and must confine himself to expounding this portion of Scripture to his hearers.
This is thought by many to be a more desirable form of preparation than the topical method. An important fact to keep in mind is that the chief difference in textual sermon and topical sermons is the source of the divisions.
Particular emphasis is placed on that fact. In the case of the subject or topical method, it has been seen that once the subject has been determined, the minister then adds the subtopics according to his own reasoning.
There is no such list of subtopics with the textual sermon method. The question naturally follows, "What is the source of the divisions in a textual sermon?" The answer is that the Bible supplies them from the text chosen. It can be readily determined that this will offer more scriptural outlines.
The dictionary (Word Web-Princeton University) says that "textual" is "Of or relating to or based on a text" and of course the "sermon" is "an address of a religious nature (usually delivered during a church service)." So the textual sermon is a sermon that is based on a Scriptural text.
Naturally, the textual sermon centers around the text. This is the very first thing to be chosen. Not all verses lend themselves to this sort of sermon building. The preacher must study to find those which do lend themselves to this method of sermonizing.
This is a great way to bring the actual words of the Bible before the hearers, and it gives Divine authority to the message, as well. And since it is a short text, as opposed to a longer paragraph, it will be easier to remember or even memorized for that matter.
Breed, in his "Preparing to Preach" said that the textual sermon method is closely allied to the expository and the line of demarcation can not be sharply drawn. In the expository sermon more attention is generally given to special words or expressions, with more particular and extended explanation.
This, of course, is true because in the longer expository sermon passage, there are more words and expressions to expound.
The disadvantages of these methods (expository and textual) is apparent; they do not afford the range of the topical method. But they have this great advantage in that the preacher who employs them deals with distinctively Scriptural themes that come right out of the text.
And Broadus in his "Preparation and Delivery of Sermons," says that a well-constructed textual sermon has most of the advantages of the topical sermon, and the great additional advantage that is is much more intimately in contact with the text, drawing from it not only the subject treated but all the leading thoughts of the treatment.
It also gives ample opportunity for variety, freshness, and originality.
Some have said that the use of the text, especially of the short text, is often fatal to the most intelligent treatment of the Scripture itself. The Bible is chopped into fragments and sadly abused by the dislocation of its parts.
Its real meaning and intent cannot be discovered, so it is said, by taking a few isolated words from some book, and using them in whatever way the preacher may himself desire.
Because of this, the unity of the Bible is not so apparent with this method, as it is with the expository method of preaching. If texts are selected here and there throughout the Scriptures, they are not likely to impress the hearer with the unity of the Bible as a whole.
The Bible may be made to appear as a book of isolated texts, instead of appearing as it should...a living whole and a complete revelation.
Another danger is that the preacher may become nothing more than a text hunter in the Bible jungle of texts. Texts are never acquired by a homiletical search warrant. Passages of Scripture may be easily found, but texts that are texts indeed are not found by simply hunting for them.
To treat the Bible as a mere collection of texts is foolish and wrong; it yields no worthy fruits. It has a bad effect on the preacher and the hearer.
G. Campbell Morgan said, "There are thousands of people who have been brought up in somewhat close relationship to the Christian church who nevertheless think only of the Bible as a book of texts from which sermons are preached, or which are quoted in proof of some theological position."
Morgan goes on to say, "To think out a sermon which seems religious and then to hunt for some Biblical text upon which to hang it, is little short of profane." Dr. M. B. Riddle says, "The most pernicious habit is that of studying passages of Scripture mainly, if not exclusively, for homiletical purposes.
To treat the Word of God as a collection of texts for sermons is putting dishonor upon it. To use it as if this were its character is to get away from its full and true meaning. He who seeks to find in it little save sermon material will soon find himself short of good sermon material. What he thinks he finds will prove to be inadequate, and very often incorrect."
The danger comes when the preacher yields to the temptation to read the Word of God only that he may apply it to others. He avoids it by reading it first of all for his own soul's sake.
The preacher who seldom reads his Bible except for some sort of a homiletical purpose, may quite unconsciously excuse himself from his own private study upon the ground that he is professionally engaged with the Bible much of his time.
But such a preacher is not likely either to feed his own soul or to feed the souls of others. The texts upon which he preaches will not be chosen in the right spirit, nor handled in the most profitable manner. His work will be professional and hastily dutiful, but not warm, personal, practical, and spiritual.
If a preacher is to preach a textual sermon, he must first select one. How then does he select one properly? Texts my come to the preacher in the course of his general reading or of his pastoral duties, or in connection with special circumstances transpiring about him. But from whatever source they arise, they are given to him, and in that sense they are not of him.
As Watson said, "It is far better then for one to put himself in the way of texts finding him, than for him to attempt to find texts. In other words, it is not the man who selects the text. It is the text who selects the man.
As the minister was busy with study, or as he sat by the bed side of the sick, or as he walked the crowded street, the truth, clad in a text, suddenly appeared and claimed his acquaintance.
It seemed to him that they had met in the past, as one is haunted by the idea that he has known someone before he has ever seen him, and he will be right; for there is a pre-established harmony between that particular truth and his own soul."
Practically, however, the very best of all sources from which texts are acquired is the devotional reading of the Bible. Some texts come to the preacher indirectly when he is reading or listening to other preacher's sermons. Texts may also be acquired from providential circumstances when the circumstance is connected by God with some passage of Scripture in our mind.
Unger, in "Principles of Expository Preaching," says that although much textual preaching, like topical preaching, strays from the Bible, a bona fide use of this method will expound what the text or passage itself actually says, rather than what the preacher wants to draw from it to give expression to his own thoughts or ideas.
If the preacher truly expounds what the text actually means, he is of necessity, compelled not only to break it up into its leading words or clauses and use these as the main points of his message, but he must relate the text to its context in order to arrive at its accurate meaning.
And if the preacher does that he is really preaching an expository sermon, though of the textual sermon variety, and the only difference from a purely expository sermon will be the shorter length of the passage preached.
By the way, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and who was called the "Prince of Preachers," was considered by most to be a textual type of sermonizer, and I might add...one of the best.
"And now Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord with all thy heart and with all thy soul. To keep his commandments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good."
Explain who Israel was, and why God could require things of them to receive blessing; then explain who we are in Christ and why God can require things of us, though he does not force us to obey.
I. He Requires Fearing Him.
II. He Requires Walking in His Ways.
III. He Requires Loving Him.
IV. He Requires Serving Him.
V. He Requires Keeping His Commandments.
God is watching to see if we do these things.