By Bill Cavender
Bible preaching is preaching the Bible, what it says and what it means. If the Bible is the inspired word of God (which it is, 1 Cor. 2:8-13; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4,20-21), then Bible preaching is the most serious, solemn, sacred, sublime and important work that can be done in this world. If Jehovah be the Only True and Living God (1 Cor. 8:4-6; Eph. 4:4-6; Deut. 6:4-5); if Jesus Christ be Deity manifested in human form (Jn. 1:1-3,14,17; Matt. 16:13-18; 1 Tim. 3:16; Phil. 2:5-11); if no sinner can be saved except through the blood of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God (Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Rom. 3:25-26; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:11-28); if the gospel is God’s power to save the sinner and it must be preached to every human being in every generation in every place (Rom. 1:16-17; Mk. 16:15-16; Col. 1:36,23; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; Matt. 28:18-20); and if sinful men and women, boys and girls, must believe and obey the gospel to be saved from guilt (Jn. 3:16,36; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38-41; Rom. 6:1-7,16-18; 10:13-17; 1 Pet. 1:22-25; 2 Thess. 1:310), then preaching the Bible is the weightiest task that men can assume to do and attempt to accomplish. Bible preaching is no trifling matter. It is not a frivolous, foolish, silly exercise in futility. It is not a half-hearted, part-time, side line, secondary endeavor in which a man engages to be known among brethren, or by which he becomes “a leader” in a church, or in which he indulges for a livelihood and/or additional income, or because he is too unprepared or lazy to do anything else.
The inspired men, the prophets and apostles, felt and believed that the word of God and its proclamation to a lost world of unsaved sinners and unfaithful brethren was a “burden” to be borne and a work given by God to faithful stewards and laborers. The Hebrew word maysa or burden has the idea of “an utterance or oracle given by God” to faithful men to proclaim to and against men and nations (2 Kings 9:25; Isa. 13:1; Nahum 1:1; Mal. 1:1, etc; it occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament). The message was of God and from God. The prophets and apostles were permitted to proclaim the word of the Lord alone, without alteration; it had already been bound in heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18). God said, “And he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully” (Jer. 23:28). This is the only authority any man has who proposes to be a preacher of the Bible. He is to speak God’s word (not man’s or man’s opinions) faithfully as it is written (1 Cor. 4:6).
Paul considered himself to be a steward of the mysteries of God revealed in the gospel, a minister of Christ, one who must be faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 4:1-2). An elder of a church must be blameless as the steward of God (Tit. 1:7). Each disciple of Jesus must be a wise and faithful steward, a servant caring for his Master’s goods, doing the work entrusted to him (Luke 12:31-48). Ali of us are workers in the Lord’s vineyard and laborers together with God and with each other (1 Cor. 3:1-9; 2 Cor. 6:1).
Bible preaching is to be done by men. The treasure (gospel) is in (committed to) earthen vessels, first of all to the apostles (2 Cor. 4:1-7). Preaching is said to be “the communication of God’s truth by man to men and is the use of speech with intent to reveal God to man.” Preaching is “the art of moving men from a lower to a higher life, the art of inspiring men toward a nobler manhood” by God’s will. Preaching always has as its sole and final objective the saving of the -souls of lost men and women. Our Saviour came into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost,” to “save sinners,” and to “do the will of him that sent me” (Lk. 19: 10; 1 Tim. 1:15; Jn. 6:38). The gospel (“good news” of salvation) which is preached in His name has power and is the power of God to save lost souls (Lk. 24:46-47; Rom. 1:16-17; Mk. 16:15-16). The preacher and teacher of truth must not become side-tracked by opinions, traditions, commandments of men, philosophies, and endless genealogies and wranglings which only engender strife and alienations rather than peace, unity and good will among brethren (Mk. 7:1-13; Matt. 23:1-4,15,23-24; Col. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 2:15-16,22-26). Plain, simple, unadulterated pure truth from God’s word will appeal to right-thinking souls who search for truth and righteousness. By His holy word God can and does open the ears, eyes, minds and hearts of His offspring to the saving of their souls (Jas. 3:17-18; Acts 16:14-15; 17:27-31; Matt. 13:10-17; Rom. 10:13-17). All Bible teaching must come from the hearts of sincere, convicted men and women, such ones believing with all their hearts that the message of truth is God’s and not their own, and that the gospel and the teacher of it truly are “a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (2 Cor. 2:14-17). We are not to trifle with God’s word, nor be idle tellers of tales, nor be pulpit “jim-dandies” or fashion experts, nor menpleasers or ear-ticklers, nor popularity seekers or pulpit personalities and politicians. If the Bible, God’s word and gospel, is to be preached, let it be preached by sincere, consecrated, pure, godly, studious and sober-minded men who understand and believe the source and nature of the message, and who willingly bear the burden which they are to faithfully proclaim, publicly and privately, in behalf of Jesus.
Bible Preaching requires time, study, consecration and diligent efforts. The prophets and apostles did not borrow their messages from one another. They did not consult the brotherhood papers to see what the latest “issue” is among the brethren, what the party line is, and what must be parroted if one is to be considered to be faithful. They did not consult the doctors and teachers of the law amongst the seminary faculties in order to obtain the correct interpretations of the Scriptures so as not to be offensive to the brotherhood. They did not own, operate and publish brotherhood sermon services to supply the over-loaded, hardworking preachers (who have been so busy at the lake with their fishing or skiing, or on the golf course discussing brotherhood problems with other serious-minded preachers, or who have been watching the television each day and night to see how the world turns and what needs to be preached on) their sermons for each Sunday of the month or year because these preachers have “such busy schedules” that they’ve not had the time to study and memorize God’s word or meditate upon it, as they otherwise would have done had they not been so busy. God’s true servants mean business. They do not play at preaching the gospel. They plead with and persuade lost men (2 Cor. 5:11). They do not talk to be talking (1 Cor. 9:19-27). They bear an oracle, a message from God, a burden, and they must preach it.
Jeremiah said, “I will not make mention of him nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (20:9). Paul said, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). Peter and John answered the Jewish leaders, saying, ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Those who really preach the gospel to the lost seek no honor and glory of men (1 Cor. 7:23), have nothing of which to boast (1 Cor. 1:26-31), but truly have the burden of God’s will in their hearts. They teach precious truth which will set men free in every way and from every thing which would bring us into bondage (Jn. 8:32; Gal. 5: 1-4; Rom. 6:16-23). Matters concerning sin, God’s grace and mercy in forgiveness, the blood of Jesus, obedience to the gospel, faith and works, heaven, hell, judgment and eternity are vital to all. Personalities, popularity, jokes, oratory, stories and poetry are not sufficient to explain and instruct in such eternal verities. Bible preaching is not fight, surface-skimming talking which has no value. Serious, sober-minded men are needed as preachers of the Bible. We are to do God’s win and work cheerfully, willingly, and with great enthusiasm. We are not to run in the wrong direction, away from God, through discouragement, or the lure and lust of things of the world. Jonah tried to run. We must not do so. There might not be a whale to protect us, teach us, and vomit us up! A fire in our bones to preach the word and a compelling necessity in our hearts causes us to speak kindly, honestly, plainly, clearly and simply those things which are most surely believed among us (Lk. 1:1-4; Phil 1:9-11; Eph. 4:15).
The solemn charge regarding the preaching of the inspired Scriptures is best stated by Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For 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. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2-5). The apostle tells us what to preach: “the word. ” He tells us when to preach: “in season, out of season.” He tells us how to preach: “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.” He tells us why to preach: “they will not endure sound doctrine,” etc. So serious is this work that the Bible preacher should be watchful, endure afflictions, fulfill (“to bring to full measure”-W.E. Vine) his ministry, and remember that Jesus will judge it all at His appearing and His kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1,6-8). The Scriptures are profitable “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:14-17). We cannot be able and effective preachers of the Bible if our hearts, minds, souls and bodies are not filled with the word of God and a burning desire for the souls of the lost (Prov. 11:30; Dan. 12:3).
Men cannot preach the Bible unless they have “eaten” and practiced it themselves. John, in receiving the little book from the angel, was told to “take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it, shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey” (Rev. 10: 8-11). In Ezekiel 2:1-3;11, we read, “Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth and he caused me to eat that roll . . . Then did I eat; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” To the true Bible preacher, the Word of God will be as sweet as honey in its blessed life-giving power, but it will bring bitterness. He must first preach to himself and conform his mind and will to God’s (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:14). He must remember that he is a sinner, preaching to sinners, just as the high priest of Israel offered the atonement of animal blood each year for his own sins, the sins of his family, and the sins of the people (1 Tim. 1:12-16; Heb. 9:6-7; Lev. 16:6,11,17). We cannot preach conviction if we have little or none. We cannot preach repentance unless we have practiced it. We cannot preach obedience to the faith if we have no faith to really obey God. There is power in preaching only as the power of God has worked to accomplish His will in the soul of the preacher. If there is no “well of living water” in the preacher, it will not swell up and overflow into eternal life in the lives of others (Jn. 4:13-15; 7:37-38; Matt. 5:6).
The word of God is a “burden” to be borne in the preaching of it. Preaching is not easy work-if we do it to please God! It is not easy to preach publicly and privately, to audiences and individuals, day and night, at every opportunity. Most brethren are experts on how it should be done, but comparatively few are willing to try to do itl It is hard work to preach, knowing that we must ever please God and not men,’and that we must give account to Jesus the Judge at the last great day, the judgment day, for our work. We must ever be reading and studying the word of God. We must be praying often and working daily. We must preach to the strong and the weak, but not to encourage the weak so as to discourage the strong, nor to commend the strong so as to grieve the weak. We must preach the grace and mercy of God for the forgiveness of sins, but not in such away as to give credence and latitude to sin. We must encourage sinners to repentance by condemning their sins, yet not driving them to despair for the magnitude and heinousness of their sins. We preachers walk a narrow path, ever praying for wisdom and understanding, and for boldness to speak without fear or favor of men (Acts 4:29). “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:14-17; 3:45).
Bible preaching is both exhausting and inexhaustible. It is exhausting for it requires continual study and learning, thinking and meditating. No man knows it all. No man or group of men is the official interpreter of God’s word for the rest of mankind. We need no official seal, stamp of approval, or imprimatur of any group, school, paper, or hierarchy to preach God’s word. We must preach truth to be approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15), the only approval we must have to go to heaven. “Much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12), for the soul and body becomes weary and we grow faint in our hearts and minds at times (Jer. 4:31; 8:18-9:2; Heb. 12:3). Jesus became weary as a man in His journeys (Jn. 4:6). Thinking, studying, working, traveling, preaching, praying, talking (hopefully profitable talking, not brotherhood gossip, back-biting, devouring and consuming one another with our tongues, Gal. 5:13-15), and being concerned for our own soul, our family, our brethren, the lost, and the kingdom of Christ are exhausting burdens. Bible preaching is inexhaustible as we never run out of prospects, lost sinners, unfaithful brethren, problems, opportunities and lessons to teach. We are never done. We never get “caught up. ” There is always work to be done and more to do. Always in our hearts are the souls of fellow human beings. We want to preach all we can, write all we can, help to save all we can, and do all the good we can in one short lifetime. We never run out of truth to learn and lessons to preach. Every Bible preacher “is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52). When you run out of something to preach, read the New Testament, underline each verse you have never used in a sermon or lesson, learn what the verses say and mean-and then go preach! There are fewer Christians-saved people, and more sinners-lost people, all the time. There are plenty of lost souls to teach. We are just not getting out there where they are. We are spending too much time, money and effort in our meeting houses preaching over and over to the same folks, and are not spending nearly enough time, money and effort out among the people of a lost, ungodly world.
Bible preaching is preaching what is needed, not what people or brethren may want to hear. Too many ears of men and brethren are itching, and there are too many professed preachers who will tickle and scratch them (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We must try to “restore” sinners in the “spirit of meekness,” and “convert the sinner from the error of his way,” and all of that with the doctrine of Jesus and with patience (Gal. 6: 1; Jas. 5:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:2). We must not be purposely offensive to people, yet many will find the truth and those who preach it to be offensive (Jn. 6:60-61,66; Matt. 13:20-21, 53-58; 15:12; 26:31-33). It is not pleasant to the preacher nor to the hearer to rebuke sin and to rebuke it sharply, yet this is a part of the work of God (Tit. 1:13). Sin unrebuked and unrepented of will damn both the souls of the preacher and the hearer (Ezek. 33:1-20).
Bible preaching will humble us. It rebukes and rebuffs human pride and self-aggrandizement. The gospel convicts man of sin, making him realize that he is guilty before God. Human glory and achievement cannot save him. His righteousness is as filthy rags. He owes his salvation to God’s mercy and grace, not to his own deservings and perfection. It crucifies his pride and holds human glory in contempt. The wise and the prudent of this world, in their human wisdom, despise the gospel and are not called to obedience by it, for they reject Christ and His blood (1 Cor. 1:18-31). They do not believe in damnation and eternal punishment in hell. They do not want to hear that the wicked are wicked. The wrath of God to come does not frighten them (2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rom. 3:9-18). The judgment seat of Christ and “depart from me, ye workers of iniquity,” are those burdens of Bible preaching which sinful men care not to hear or believe (2 Cor. 5: 10-11; Acts 17:30-3 1; Matt. 25:41,46). Yet this part of God’s truth must be preached and the wicked must be warned (Matt. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1: 10; 2:14-16; Rom. 2:5-6).
It is the fervent prayer, heartfelt hope, and burning desire of every true gospel preacher that lost people will come to Jesus. We would desire that all be doers of the word (Jas. 2:22-27), and not hearers only, that none would die unforgiven. Our Father in heaven has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (2 Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 18:23,32). Our Savior continually invites the guilty, condemned sinner to come to Him for forgiveness and rest (Matt. 11:28-30; Jn. 6:35-37; Rev. 22:17). Would to God that every soul who hears us preach, who stands condemned and unforgiven, who needs the cleansing of the blood of Jesus, who needs the salvation offered by a merciful Father made known in the gospel, would respond to Heaven’s call and duty’s demands and render that obedience to Christ and to the gospel from a sincere heart which will bring that “abundant pardon” of which the prophets and apostles spoke and preached (Isa. 55:6-7).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 9, pp. 258, 260, 279-280
May 2, 1985