Choosing a Preaching Text (Pt 2)

It is not uncommon for preachers to choose multiple preaching texts intending to show how they fit together. It is a good practice to connect two or more passages because this allows Scripture to interpret Scripture. It is especially helpful to pair an Old Testament passage with a relevant New Testament passage in order to demonstrate the coherence of the entire Bible and to illuminate the fulfillment of all Scripture in Christ. However, mismatching two or more passages of Scripture can be deadly to proper exegesis and exhortation.

There are many reasons why preachers misconnect passages. One of the most common errors emerges from topical preaching. Topical preaching, by its very definition, requires the preacher to pull together multiple preaching texts. If proper attention to context is not heeded in bringing multiple texts together, or if there is not a single primary preaching text supplemented appropriately by additional texts, then the preacher opens himself and his congregation to exegetical error. As Johnson (The Glory of Preaching, 54) so plainly writes:

Topical preaching leaves too much to the preacher’s ability to come up with the content of the sermon… The preacher has to rummage through all kinds of different verses and try to make some coherent sense of them; too much is left to the preacher’s ability to pull a message together.

Johnson’s advice for topical sermons is apt and helpful. He continues to suggest that even topical sermons must be carefully rooted in “one major text and try to use other texts only if they are clearly in sync with the major text.” Topical preaching is a valid approach to preaching and is, at times, necessary. When done, however, careful attention to text selection is of paramount importance.

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