Should Preachers Seek to Please Men?
There is an idea advocated by religions in general and by some in the Lord's church that preachers should preach in such a way so as to favorably impress the world and project an acceptable image of the church in the mind of the public. The clamoring cry is for a camouflaged gospel to scratch the itching ears of those who will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1-4). This demand is made by impenitent sinners who want to be left alone, and by lukewarm, compromising, spiritual weaklings in the church who, for one reason or another, are fearful of the consequences which may result from plain preaching of truth, as done by the prophets, Jesus Christ, his apostles and faithful evangelists today. Some brethren argue that such preaching "won't do any good, but will only offend, harden and drive people away." This manifests either a shameful lack of Bible knowledge or a willful disregard for the truth.
The gospel is God's power to save and we should not be ashamed or afraid to boldly declare it (Rom. 1:16). It is quick, powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, painfully cutting deeply into the hearts of sinners (Heb. 4:12). It is not designed to appease and please sinful man, but to convict man of ~in and convert him. But whether one is convicted and converted depends upon his attitude toward the truth. Some have dull hearings and closed eyes; others search the scriptures to determine the truth (Matt. 13:15; Acts 17:11).
The Bible records various reactions to the preached word of God. Some who were pricked by it were converted (Acts 2:37-41). Some turned back to walk with Christ no more, "driven away" by the teaching of Christ (John 6:66). Some were offended when Jesus condemned their vain religion, but he refused to apologize (Matt. 15:1-14). Some were hardened by Paul's preaching (Acts 19:8-9). Some who were cut to the heart killed the preacher (Acts 7:51-60).
(Acts 7:51-60). We ask those who criticize and oppose the plain preaching of the truth now, whether they endorse the preaching of Jesus, Paul and Stephen? Do you dare answer?
Some argue, "But if one preaches in love, no one will get offended." This is not true! Jesus, Stephen and Paul preached in love but many were not pleased. To preach "in love" does not mean to camouflage the truth with wisdom of words, to compromise with error, to refrain from convicting the guilty, to lessen condemnation of sin. It does mean we must boldly preach all the truth in great plainness of speech, which truly manifests love for God, Christ, the gospel, and the souls of all men.
Gospel preachers must seek to please God. not man. They are obligated to preach the word, reprove and rebuke sinners in and out of the church, in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:1-4; Tit. 1:13). He who would use flattering words to preach what the people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear, for glory of men, popularity, financial gain or any other reason, would not be worthy to be called a gospel preacher. The apostle Paul said, "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know . . . Nor of men sought we glory . . ." (1 Thess. 2:4-6).
Preachers are obligated to convict the world of sin, not please sinners of the world. We must convict the sinners before we can convert them, for there is no such thing as conversion without conviction. We must prick or cut them to the heart with the sharp and powerful sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17). Certainly this is emotionally painful to the guilty, and it should be, otherwise how will they be constrained sorrowfully to repent of sins? But whether sinners are convicted and converted, offended and hardened, driven away from or drawn to God, regardless of the reactions of the hearers and resulting consequences, the full gospel must be preached, sin must .be plainly identified and reproved, applications to the guilty must be made. "Good words and fair speeches" may glorify the speaker, appease and please the audience, but such will not convict and convert aliens and erring brethren. Such preaching makes the cross of Christ of none effect (1 Cor. 1:17).
I suppose there will always be "children who will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us" (Isaiah 30:9-11). The apostle Paul prophesied that "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). The gospel preacher must resist the demand to be an ear-scratcher to those who are more interested in covering and forgetting sins than in obtaining forgiveness from God. It is sinful to preach "peace, peace, when there is no peace" (Jer. 6:14). It brings disastrous and eternal consequences to the preacher and the people.
Let us forever forget about trying to establish an acceptable "image of the church" in the eyes of a sinful world, and stand solidly upon and for the pure, plain, sin-condemning, soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us zealously strive to cut sinners to the heart with the sword of the Spirit, calling upon the guilty to obey God or be eternally lost in everlasting fire. This is the only way the preacher can faithfully serve God and save man, including himself. The Bible teaches that God, Jesus Christ, the prophets, apostles and other preachers of God, COULD NOT and DID NOT SEEK to please the multitudes. The only way it can be done today is to compromise with the Devil and become an ear-scratching sinner. "Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6: 26). Let us not try to appease and please, but convict and convert.
Truth Magazine VIII: 6, pp. 23-24 March 1964