The hallmark characteristic of an expository sermon is that the main point of the text becomes the main point of the sermon. As such there are various models of expository preaching, ranging from text-centered preaching of the older generations to the more popular Christ-centered preaching of Reformed preachers. All of these models seek to emphasize specific nuances. While these models of preaching have been helpful in thinking through various homiletical issues, the question is not “what is the best model” but rather “what is the most faithful model?”
In my opinion, the question of faithfulness must be answered based upon three specific questions: 1) Which model is the most faithful to the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2) Which model seeks to “rightly divide the word of truth?”; 3) Which sermon model can accurately “make us wise for salvation?” I suggest that the text-driven model is indeed the most faithful model of preaching for these three reasons.
Text-Driven Sermons Seek to be Faithful to the All Scripture Principle
The text-driven model of preaching is grounded in the very nature of Scripture. All Scripture is given by inspiration for the purpose of perfecting His people by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training for righteousness. While the various models of preaching such as Christ-Centered, Text-Centered, Theological-Exposition all seek to be faithful to the truthfulness of 2 Timothy 3:16–17, I suggest that the only model that can faithful re-present the Word is text-driven preaching.
This means text-driven sermons take the whole counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation and aims to teach, rebuke, correct, and train God’s people. This model of preaching takes seriously the charge to “preach the Word” since all of Scripture is intended to shape the congregation. This means that God intends His people to know the truth of various texts like Genesis 37, 1 Kings 17, and Matthew 28 within the text’s context. Why? Because every bit of Scripture is intended to perfect the Church. As a result, text-driven sermons are by necessity congregational focused, applying the text to the specific needs of the congregation. I argue that for the pastor of a local church the model that faithfully exposes God’s solutions to human problems is the text-driven model. God is wiser than man!
Text-Driven Sermons Aim to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth
Text-driven sermons are heavily devoted to exegesis. These sermons don’t isolate various points from texts. Rather, text-driven sermons desire to re-present God’s Word accurately. Each paragraph of Scripture has a semantic intent. The form (structure) of the text shapes the meaning of the text. As a result, this means that the pastor must seek to rightly divide the Word.
Of course, this requires the pastor to give time, energy, and effort to understand the particular text under consideration. By exploring the grammatical nuances, logical relationships between the surface structure of clauses, and the theological truths of each text the pastor can stand on Sunday morning and say, “This is what God says to His people.” On a particular level, this prevents the pastor from preaching the same sermon multiple times. There is always a desire for creativity in the pulpit. Since every text is different, this means every sermon will be different. The sermon structure doesn’t follow the “3 points and a poem” model of Text-Centered sermons. Text-driven sermons seek to follow the structure of the text. A sermon can have 1 point or multiple points that develop the main idea of the paragraph.
Text-Driven Sermons Accurately Make us Wise for Salvation
Text-driven sermons are Christ-centered sermons. Instead of imposing Christ upon the text, each text can accurately point of Christ only to the extent that the text is understood properly. How can we preach Christ from each text if we don’t know the intent of each text? Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and since the text-driven sermon seeks to rightly divide each text, the means that the overall aim of each sermon is to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t simply mean that every sermon is aimed at those who are lost. Rather the idea of a “make you wise for salvation” is connected to “so that the man of God may be complete.” Thus a text-driven sermon has a dual purpose: 1) The salvation of sinners; 2) The sanctification of saints.
Indeed all Scripture points us to Christ. Christ is the beginning and end of salvation. And Scripture serves as the means by which we grow in our salvation. By necessity, then, a text-driven sermon will lead the congregation to see Christ from the text. They will see how the text is calling them to repentance and greater faith in Christ. Now how one preaches Christ is another question for another article (see Is Theocentric Preaching Enough).
It is my conclusion that text-driven preaching can faithfully engage the Word, the congregation, and the reality of Christ. Granted, text driven-preaching can be difficult. The prep time can be laborious. But the eternal significance of faithful preaching the text is invaluable. Pray like eternity depends upon it. Study like souls are at stake. Preach like heaven is meeting earth.
Michael Cooper is the Pastor of Grace Community Church in Mabank, Texas, and a Preaching PhD student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.