Connie W. Adams
Gospel preachers do not always know what to preach during a series of gospel meetings, though there are some self-appointed "experts" who think they know what not to preach. A study of the preaching of the apostles convinces one that the same gospel is needed now which they preached in the first century. The spiritual needs of man are the same as then. Ancient errors reappear in new dress. Sin condemns a soul now as it did then. False religious systems arise to compete with the faith once delivered. Congregations go astray, or have internal troubles even as in New Testament days. We are dedicated to the proposition that the Bible as it is, is adapted to man as he is, in whatever generation.
What Did the Apostles Preach?
1. They preached the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:33, 36; Eph. 1:22-23). They presented the evidences to convince their hearers that Jesus of Nazareth was divine. His miracles, fulfillment of prophecy and resurrection from the dead were all given as proof of his Sonship (Acts 2:22-36). Having established his divinity, they proceeded to present his will with an appeal for obedience.
2. They preached the word of Christ (Acts 8:4, 5). They did not offer men their own speculations. The Spirit guided them into all truth (Jno. 16:13-14; 1 Cot. 2:9-16). Timothy was told to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2). The angel charged Peter and John to stand and speak in the temple "all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20}.
3. They preached the plan of salvation (Acts 2: 38; 3: 26; 10: 43). Unbelievers were taught and convinced of the claims of Christ as a basis for obedience (Acts 16:31-34). Those who already believed were told to "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). A penitent believer was taught to "arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22: 16). This was called "preaching peace by Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36).
4. They preached the grace, mercy and love of God (Rom. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:1-10). They showed that man did not deserve what God and Christ did for him, but that grace provided it.
5. They attacked the errors which threatened the truth in the places they preached. In Athens (Acts 17) Patti opposed idolatry. He did not leave them with the idea that he approved their error. He said he was right and they were wrong. He even used their own poets against them. They adapted the claims of truth to local needs. Here is where some preachers lose their courage. It is easy to preach on Mormonism when there is not a Mormon in five hundred miles. The apostles did not avoid local problems. Paul did not shun to declare "all the counsel of God" at Ephesus and "kept back nothing that was profitable" to them (Acts 20: 20, 27). He preached what was needed. Preaching the word includes reproof and rebuke whether the sin is in the church or out of it (2 Tim. 4: 2-3).
6. They gave much attention to exhortation and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13, 16). Their preaching was not lopsided. People must be instructed and encouraged. Timothy was told to do this in meekness and patience in the hope that repentance would be the result (2 Tim. 2: 24-25). Some preachers are afraid to lock horns with error. Others do not know how to patiently instruct and earnestly exhort. Their preaching is a constant one-sided debate and their sermons are nearly all argumentative in nature. Expository preaching sparked the movement to restore the New Testament church in this country in the last century. It requires diligent study and the development of skill to make it effective, but it will produce the most lasting good.
7. They faced current issues without flinching. In Jerusalem they thrashed out the matter of receiving Gentiles and sought to acquaint brethren everywhere with the apostolic decision (Acts 15). The books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews were written to combat Jewish teachers who kept error alive on the subject. At Antioch Paul even rebuked Peter for his failure to practice the truth, and did it before all (Gal. 2:11-14).
8. They did not become implicated in petty squabbles. They met issues which denied the faith and threatened the purity of the church. But they taught that preachers should not take up their time in "endless genealogies" which create questions but do not edify (1 Tim. 1:4), nor in "vain jangling" (1 Tim. 1:6), nor in "questions and strives of words, whereof cometh envy, strife . . ." (1 Tim. 6:4). They were not to be vain babblers (1 Tim. 6:20).
Preaching in Meetings Today
What the apostles preached should ever be our guide. On whatever subject we speak, the documentation of the word of God is needed. If a meeting is planned to answer to a specific need, then the sermons should be addressed to that end. But in the usual gospel meeting, where general needs are to be met, what should one preach?
The root of all religious error is an improper attitude toward authority. Did the doctrine or practice come from heaven or from men? The absolute authority of Christ in all things pertaining to religion, rooted in his own divinity, and how that authority is expressed now in the scriptures, is always needed. The difference between the Old and New Testaments is basic and needed even by members of the church. The gospel plan of salvation must be made plain. One of the best ways to do this is to preach one night on a case of conversion in the book of Acts. The difference between the church and denominationalism, and the identifying marks of the New Testament church is ever timely. The nature of the church, its organization and work is not well known, even by some Christians. "Outsiders" do not know why we do not use instrumental music, and some of the members could not tell them intelligently. A lesson dealing with this will not only cover worship, but will provide another opportunity to impress the lesson of respect for the authority of Christ and his word. The character of the Christian in contrast to the works of the flesh is a constant need. Such a lesson will help at the present to offset the influence of the "new morality" posing such a damaging threat to the young people
If there are local issues or practices threatening the purity of the church and the godliness of the members, then these should be exposed and the truth upheld. If a congregation is uncertain or divided in sentiment over some of the current issues, then the word of God touching the subject should be presented and error opposed. There have been some preachers who have "preached the principles" on the issues in such generalities that no good was done. Their opportunities have been lost, and some congregations have gone on into error while some gospel preachers lacked the courage to spell out what they meant so all could understand them. If they had done so, the congregations might have reversed the trend or stopped the unscriptural practice and might have taken a stand for the truth.
Personally, I do not like to announce a list of subjects before a meeting starts, for then I feel bound to it more or less. Sometimes situations arise during a meeting which might call for a certain lesson. But regardless of approach, there are basic subjects which need to be covered in every meeting.
Forget about impressing visiting preachers with your wisdom! Some are terrified when some well known preacher is in the audience. He might feel that his lesson will sound shallow to a man known as a deep thinker and able expositor. Forget it! The Lord is listening all the time. That preacher needs to hear the old, old story even as others. If he is what is ought to be, he will give you his undivided attention and will rejoice in hearing the word preached. Incidentally, I have seen some rude conduct out of' some preachers. I have preached to some gum chewers, nail filers (or clippers), and others of assorted bad listening habits. They really do need to hear the gospel preached. A preacher can ruin a meeting by trying to sound too scholarly. He may be awed in standing before a congregation with a reputation for good works and may forget that many of the people are of average education, and that they need old fashioned, plain, gospel preaching like others do. We need to be well prepared in body and mind, determined to do our best, and then get up and "speak with all authority" (Tit. 2:15). Keep it simple. If illustrations are needed, none are better than Bible illustrations. They are practical and as up-to-date as today's newspaper.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 8, pp. 7-9
January 1, 1970
Gospel Meetings (VI) Supporting the Preacher