By Jack Gray
Perhaps there has never been an age when it is so little respected as now. Not only is this true of the world at large but among professing Christians as well. It is often spoken disparagingly about. I have even been hesitant to address the subject lest I appear only to be defending some outmoded form of sermon delivery. More and more, however, we are seeing the devastating effects such an attitude is having on the church in our day.
Never has the church been in greater danger of apostasy than now. Movements both to the right and to the left are attempting to corrupt its doctrine. The danger is very real that the church could be lost within the next generation. The danger is even more threatening that it will continue to exist but will be so corrupted in doctrine or practice that it would have been better if it had died. Doctrinal preaching is one of the only defenses we have left; and far too little of it is being done in our brotherhood today.
1. Doctrinal preaching is not just “first principle” preaching. Some complain about doctrinal lessons as being “first principles,” saying they need the “meat” of the Word . . . when what they really want is something new, different and exciting. They feel that they have outgrown the Bible stories. That is “old hat” to them. They have heard it all before.
First principles are really the means of coming into fellowship with Christ: faith, repentance, confession and baptism; and any of us may honestly dwell too much on them. But teachings about the one church, a defense against instrumental music or a corruption of the Lord’s supper is not first principles. Upholding the proper use of the Lord’s day or warnings against hell and the judgment are not first principles. Instead, this is doctrine and doctrine simply means teaching, so any lesson that teaches great Bible truths is doctrinal preaching.
2. Doctrinal preaching is our strongest defense against biblical illiteracy. This has been described as “The Teen and Young Adult Epidemic” of our time; and it is growing worse each year. For example, according to Gallup polls only thirty-five out of a hundred teens can name five or more of the Ten Commandments. Only three percent can name all ten. In a recent survey, two-thirds of the young adults asked couldn’t name all four Gospels. In another study, only one in ten high school students could successfully summarize the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Among young adults, the figure was one in eight.
Neither is this foreign to us for it is frightening how uninformed our younger members are in comparison to our older ones. Neither can this be accounted for on the basis of age alone, for our younger people are better informed on every other subject under the sun. It deals rather with attitude and desire. It deals with respect for God’s Word as being better than the “positive thinking” material put out by some human author.
3. Doctrinal preaching is the hope of our children. Nothing will make them stronger than knowing what they believe and why they believe it. We have parents who are already reaping a bitter harvest because their children were never indoctrinated with Truth; and sometimes their own attitude toward such teaching is what has turned them away from it. How can we expect them to be strong and to withstand temptation when they don’t know what “is written”? Isn’t that the very defense that God has provided for them?
4. Doctrinal preaching is the heart of soul winning. Why preach so much doctrine to Christians? Why emphasize the reasons for doing something that they have already done? So that they can tell others. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? You can no more teach what you don’t know, than you can return from a place that you have never been; and nothing hinders our soul-winning more than the fact that we do not know the doctrine ourselves.
We all would like to be well liked. I am certainly no exception; but I am not in a popularity contest for public esteem. I am much more concerned about being God’s man and delivering God’s message. In the final analysis, few things would scare me as much as to find that those who don’t like “doctrinal preaching” were beginning to like my sermons! Then I would know that I was in real trouble with God.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 21, pp. 645, 661
November 5, 1987