YOU ARE READING a passage from Scripture. As you read, you are impressed that a portion of what you are reading would be helpful to the church you serve and would make a good sermon. Moved by the Spirit, you decide to use this text the next time you are called upon to preach.
This is how a "textual sermon" begins. You are im pressed to preach a Bible passage, rather than a topic. In either case you will be preaching Bible truth, but the approach is somewhat different in terms of the development of the sermon.
Remember, whether the sermon is topical or textual it must still have the qualities of a good sermon. That means it must be clear and coherent, it must have unity, organization, and progress. It must have a theme, the amplification of the theme, and the application of the theme, and all of these qualities must come from the text as much as possible. How is all of this to be achieved?
Let us begin with a simple sentence. Every complete sentence has a subject and those elements of the sentence that modify the subject. It might be said that the subject is "amplified" by the adjectives, verbs, and adverbs that tell us something about the subject. In the sentence, "God is love," God is the subject and is love amplifies the subject by telling us what God is like. The sentence could be outlined:
Is love (amplification)
If we add to the sentence, "The great God is love," we might outline it thus:
A. Is great (amplification)
B. We stand in God's grace
It is obvious, of course, that the shorter the text, the less there will be of amplification in the sermon which comes from the text. That is why a sermon is not "strongly" textual that uses one sentence as the text. A much stronger textual sermon results from the use of a paragraph as the text rather than a single sentence.
Since a paragraph is a unit of thought, it usually has a topic sentence and other sentences, clauses, and phrases that modify the topic sentence. In this case, then, the topic sentence is the theme and the other sentences, clauses, and phrases amplify the theme.
Because the paragraph is the basic unit of thought, it is recommended that when studying the Bible for purposes of preparing a textual sermon a Bible be used in which the text is organized into paragraphs. A number of the newer versions and translations are printed in this way. Caution should be observed when using one of the newer paraphrases because, while the text might be in paragraph form, the para phrase may be a misrepresentation of what the text actually says.
Micah 6:8 is often used to illustrate how a text can be structured or outlined for purposes of preaching a textual sermon.
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (R.S.V.) The outline looks like this:
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you . . . (theme)
A. To do justice (amplification)
B. To love kindness (amplification)
C. To walk humbly with your God (amplification)
Obviously this is just the outline. The outline must now be filled in with further amplification. The material may come from a number of sources such as: (1) The Bible itself; (2) The writings of Ellen G. White; (3) Life's experiences; (4) Illustrations. The textual sermon does not exclude the use of other Bible texts or material from without the specific text, but it uses these materials only to amplify the passage that is the text of the sermon. Since Micah 6:8 is one sentence in length, it can readily be seen that most of the material for amplification will come from without the text itself. This would not be as true of a longer pas sage such as Roman 5:1-5, R.S.V.
The outline of this text could look like this:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, (theme)
A. we have peace with Cod through our Lord Jesus Christ. (amplification)
B. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, (amplification)
C. and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. (amplification)
D. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings,
1. knowing that suffering produces endurance,
2. and endurance produces character,
3. and character produces hope,
4. and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (amplification)
In preparing the sermon the outline would probably be reworded something like this:
Theme: The Blessings of Justification
A. We have peace with God
B. We stand in God's grace
C. We rejoice in the hope of sharing in God's glory
D. We rejoice in suffering
1. Because suffering produces endurance,
2. Endurance produces character,
3. Character produces hope,
4. Hope is not disappointing, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
This sermon is a textual sermon it preaches the text. The amplification of the theme is developed in the text. True, other materials are used to fill out the sermon, but they will all amplify the theme in keeping with the amplification in the text itself. Unity, organization, and progress are present just as they are in the topical sermon.
Not much has been said yet about application. This will come later.