Home > Preaching, Voegtlin > Preaching – Expositional, Textual

Preaching – Expositional, Textual

October 9, 2006

I mentioned in the comments of my first post that I had read Alfred P. Gibbs’ The Preacher and His Preaching for my pulpit speech class in college. If you would have asked me why we read that book in college, I would have replied that the teacher must have needed a textbook and some way to give us some work to do (I honestly felt it was just busywork). About six months ago, while browsing the internet, I read a post that referred to Alfred Gibbs and his categorization of sermons. I thought it was interesting, but it still took me months to figure out that I had read about all these things before — so much for my excellent memory! I would like to take my next few posts to summarize Gibbs’ descriptions and instructions concerning five types of sermons.

Alfred P. Gibbs

The Expository Sermon

“Of all the types of sermons this, though perhaps the most difficult, is the very best.” Exposition is putting on display the message of a passage of scripture. The main theme and all the supporting points come from a particular passage of Scripture. In an expository sermon all the points come from the passage and all of the passage is represented in the sermon. Expository sermons have been likened to a wheel. The hub is the main point; the spokes are the contributing thoughts; and (I would add) the outer wheel is the application (where the rubber meets the road).

There are seven advantages of expository sermons:

  1. It puts supreme emphasis on the Word of God itself.
  2. It makes for a broad knowledge of the Scriptures as a whole.
  3. It provides an opportunity for speaking on many passages of Scripture which would otherwise be neglected.
  4. It will also make for variety in the ministry of the Word.
  5. It enables the preacher to deal with current evils.
  6. It will deliver the preacher from the tendency to a fanciful use, or abuse of isolated texts.
  7. It will furnish the preacher with enough material for a lifetime of preaching.

The danger of an expository sermon is that it may degenerate into many small sermonettes that have no controlling theme. Be careful not to have too many sermons inside your sermon. Also note that the expository sermon is not just commenting on the verses of a passage. Commenting goes verse-by-verse and makes application along the way. Exposition studies the passage and brings its full meaning out to the open.

The Textual Sermon

This sermon is developed by taking one verse, several verses with the same words, or even a part of a verse as the text. The theme of the verse is discovered, analyzed, divided, and expounded. This is done in much the same way as for an expositional message only the focus is on a verse and not a passage.

There are four advantages to textual sermons:

  1. The actual words of Scripture are brought before the people.
  2. A short text is more easily retained by an audience.
  3. It makes for variety in preaching.
  4. It is good sometimes to take a number of different verses which contain the same word or thought.

Textual sermons do not present the Bible as a whole. This is a disadvantage of this type of sermon. A preacher can tend to wear out his audience by always selecting texts that are on a favorite topic.

In my opinion, there is not a type of sermon that is more biblical than another (as long as it is biblical in the first place!). Of the five that I will present, all are good and all should be used. In order to preach the Word comprehensively, all must be utilized.

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Categories: Preaching, Voegtlin
  1. October 10, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    I like Dr. Gibb’s book, and Robinson’s as well. Vines and Shaddix wrote a helpful book called ‘Power in the Pulpit.’
    Anyway, it seems that good preaching has similarities to Inpiration. By Inspiration we have God’s Word despite the prophetic (or apostolic) writer’s’ style. It could very well be that in preaching, God’s men have their styles, but if their preaching is rooted in God’s Word, then we as listeners must recieve it as such – no matter what the style may be.
    I am looking forward to some more of your thoughts on Gibbs. Thanks for this post!

  2. October 10, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    I think Gibbs is worth reading, but his book will not help someone learn how to preach expostionally.

  3. October 11, 2006 at 4:24 am

    Gibbs is quite succinct, but he did help me see that I was not preaching expositionally. I think my recent sermons would be a hybrid of commenting (verse-by-verse) and expositional preaching.

    On another note, I forgot to include that he mentioned that C. H. Spurgeon was a master at the textual type of sermon. I often wondered how his sermons would be categorized.

    Kent, would you say that a preacher must go “through” a book in order to be preaching expositionally? Or, just be preaching on a passage or paragraph of Scripture. I would have said expositional preaching goes “through” a book of the Bible, but that doesn’t fit Gibbs’ description.

    BTW, while Gibbs does not help to learn how to preach expostitionally, understanding what expositional preaching is should and that’s what I’ve gleaned from him recently.

  4. October 11, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    I do think someone should read Gibbs, which I did in seminary and since have had some men here read it in a preaching class. I don’t think someone must preach through a book to preach an expositional sermon. I often preach one message someplace and I preach a passage from a book. However, what adds to that message is a brief explanation of that passage within the whole book.

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