By Larry Ray Hafley
There is never a time when tactics, technique and style should replace simple preaching of the testimony of God (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Our age does not need an old gospel in a new package. Our age does not need a new gospel in an old package. Our age does not need a new gospel in a new package. It needs the gospel – “preach the word.”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, the gospel “ain’t broke,” and it does not need amendment or repair. Men, though, are broken on the reef of sin, and they need mending in the glad haven and harbor of God, with the anchor of their souls made both sure and steadfast. This can only be accomplished in, by and through the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).
Efforts to project a new, handsome, winsome, inviting, exciting image of the church to the world should be discarded. With all boldness, using great plainness of speech, the sinner should be shown his true status and the hope he can have through the blood of the cross. Besides, the image of the church is not the thing to project; it is the image of Christ that we must erect.
The tenor and trend of our era is to smile and superficially “love” a sinner unto repentance and into the kingdom. Yes, the goodness of God leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), but that very goodness declares wrath, indignation, tribulation and anguish against its opposers (Rom. 2:3-11).
True, scriptural love includes hatred of sin and “every false way.” It involves a casting down and a rooting up of iniquity and error (2 Cor. 10:35; Tit. 1:9-13; 2:15; 2 Tim. 4:24). It is neither loving nor loveable to fail to hate and expose what God hates and opposes.
The sinner must know God’s hatred of sin and his wrath against it (Rom. 1:18). The sinner must see himself as he is in God’s view, i.e., condemned and unclean. Preaching that truly converts, truly convicts (Acts 2:36,37). The gospel order is conviction followed by conversion. The sinner, like the son of Luke 15, must come to himself. He must see himself in the hog lot of the muck and mire of sin. It is a stinking, filthy sight, but every erring creature must recognize his condition, his guilt, in all of its ugliness.
If the Lord hated the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:6,15), can we show tolerance and indifference toward false doctrines of our day and be pleasing to him? Evidently, some think we can. Attempts are being made to present the truth in a more positive, appealing manner, one that will not rankle or offend those who subscribe to false doctrine. Obviously, one should not preach to see how many people he can revile, reproach and repulse, but the “new image” orators rarely speak negatively against anything except those rude, crude preachers who speak negatively. Their harshest words are not directed at false doctrine, but at those who speak pointedly against false doctrine.
It used to be that gospel preachers would carry their Bible and the creeds of men into the pulpit. They would quote the denominational doctrines, name the churches that held to the views presented and then use Scripture to deny the doctrines of men and affirm the doctrine of Christ. How long has it been since you have seen this done? “Ye have heard that it was said . . . but I say unto you” is the type of preaching needed today. It is not popular. It does not tickle or delight the ears of men, but it is the kind of preaching that will convict and convert the honest and good heart.
Knowing God’s power, knowing God’s sovereignty, knowing God’s holiness, knowing my true state in sin, and then seeing what God has done for me when I deserve nothing but have earned condemnation this enhances and increases my appreciation for the grace, mercy and love of God. How could he love me? Why would he save me with the awful cost of the sacrificial humiliation and death of his Son? I do not deserve it! Still, he freely gave it all for me.
So, to preach the true grace of God, one must preach the truth in love, preach the gospel of God’s hatred of sin and false doctrine and preach of his love for the sinner (Eph. 4:15; Jn. 3:16). When the convicted, condemned sinner sees his plight, he will respond more readily to the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 11, p. 328
June 2, 1988