By O. C. Birdweil
“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
This passage by Paul clearly shows what is to be preached by the gospel preacher and what such preaching will accomplish. Inspired scripture is to be taught and such scripture will furnish completely unto every good work. This is profitable preaching. In the face of this plain passage, however, some will preach that not found in scripture, and will often affirm that scripture is not even relevant in out age and should be renovated.
Somewhere there was given a listing of several kinds of preaching that is unprofitable. Since not only the hearer, but also the preacher, has an obligation before God in the matter it might be good to consider what is involved in unprofitable preaching that it might be avoided.
(1) Preaching that makes the hearer think there is nothing for one to do is unprofitable. There is much of this kind being done. Peter, however, did not do this kind of preaching. He said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40). Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Some of these modern day preachers, no doubt, would have taken the Lord and Peter aside and have told them they should not do such teaching. They would have rebuked them for telling people to do something that they might enter the kingdom and be saved! Also, the Hebrew writer said that Jesus, “having been made perfect. . . . became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). Obedience is necessary in order to receive it. Any other kind of preaching is unprofitable. Think about these passages when you hear your preacher talk about there being nothing for man to do to be saved.
(2) Preaching that scratches the itching ears is unprofitable. Paul said, “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4). Some people ask for advice but are offended when it is given; that is, if it is opposed to what they wanted. They did not want advice at all. The wanted someone to concur in their judgment. This is the way it is with the religionist with itching ears. He wants a preacher, not to preach it like it is, but to preach it the way he would like for it to be. This kind of preaching is not only unprofitable, but it will lead ultimately to hell. Such men turn away their ears from the truth.
(3) Preaching that only excites the hearers is unprofitable preaching. Surely the hearer must be excited. Emotions are to be touched in conversion, but possibly not in the way most people think. Apparently some feel that one who becomes hysterical and acts irrationally has been saved. Hence, rather than preach the truth of the gospel to reasonable men and women, some preachers try to stir the emotions. They tell their favorite emotional tales, stir to a high pitch, and bring on some sort of emotional convulsion. But when all this is done, the one is still unsaved unless the gospel of Jesus Christ is obeyed from the heart. People need to know that there are facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be received.
(4) Speculative preaching is unprofitable. Consider what Paul had to say on this subject. “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear. Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that neede ‘ th not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:14-18). Paul does not here condemn contending for the truth. In fact he charges Timothy to so contend. He is talking about “profane babblings,” and such false doctrines as “the resurrection is past already.” When a preacher mishandles the word of truth and wrests it to make it back his speculative theories he is engaged in an unprofitable effort.
(5) Truth presented with an apology is unprofitable preaching. Such action amounts to compromise. We are talking about an apology for the truth preached. If we present the truth it is not ours for which to apologize. It is the Lord’s. He did not apologize for it and neither should we. It may be that one preaches the truth in an abusive manner. This, if so, is tragic. Such manner should be apologized for and stopped. Often a preacher is accused of speaking or writing in a rude manner when in fact, the hearer is offended in what is said, and not at all in the manner. It is the truth and cannot be refuted. So one who does not want to accept it has no recourse except to get mad at the preacher. Many a preacher is criticized for one thing when in reality the critic is actually mad about something else.
(6) Truth preached always in a general way is unprofitable. Some in the audience may be able to make proper application. Yet, often the ones who need the lesson most cannot. I have known preachers who thought they were dealing effectively with institutionalism when the audience did not even know they were on the subject. A warning should be given so one can know what the danger is. Otherwise, the warning is worthless. Let us label the sin, identify the false teacher, and apply the remedy. When this is done, with no uncertain sound, the honest and diligent servant can be prepared and protected.
A few years ago, a preacher was noted for preaching on such subjects as The Eichman Case, and The United Nations. The church where he was preaching had a class that was studying Pat Boone’s Twixt Twelve and Twenty. With such a spiritual diet as this, no wonder we are having schism, isms, and immorality! Preacher friend, just preach the word. It will “furnish completely unto every good work.”
Truth Magazine XX: 34, pp. 534-535
August 26, 1976