Preaching the Tone of the Text

by H.B. Charles Jr. July 31, 2020

Biblical preaching seeks to explain the meaning of a passage of scripture and exhort the hearer to respond to the truth. Faithful preaching is truth-driven.

The goal of the preacher’s exegetical study should be to find to truth of the text. The passage may mention anxiety, prayer, thanksgiving, peace, and even refer to the Lord Jesus Christ in the same text. But that passage is not about all of those different things. Only one truth is the dominating theme of the text. The others truths support the main idea of the text.

Having discovered the message of the text, the preacher should then build his sermon on this biblical truth. Yet the preacher must be careful not to abandon the truth in the journey from text to sermon. A key way to guard from selling-out the truth during in the pulpit is to preach the tone of the text, as well as the truth.

Every text has a central truth. And every text has a natural tone. To discover the truth of the text is to discover the tone of the text. Some passages teach doctrine. Others offer comfort. There are passages that state commands. Still others give issue warnings. Some passages encourage the weary soldier to fight on, while others rebuke the wayward traveler for going the wrong way.

There are places in Paul’s letters where he speaks with apostolic authority. There are places he speaks with pastoral concern. And there are places where he speaks with brotherly affection. The tone he selects is governed by the truth he communicates.

Let the truth of the text determine the tone of the message. Preach about heaven with a smile on your face. Preach about hell with a tear in your eye. Don’t make heaven funny. And don’t make heaven boring. As you preach, the hearer should fee the tone of the text, as well as hear the truth of it.

I repeat: Every text has a truth. And every text has a tone. To faithfully preach the truth of the text, you must strategically preach the tone of the text.

Editor’s Note: This originally published at