By Andy Alexander
Members of the body of Christ who are worldly minded do not appreciate or want sermons that expose and condemn sin in all its hideous forms. Sometimes they are heard to say that we should just preach “Christ and him crucified” and leave those “questionable” teachings alone. “Teaching directly about sin might cause some to leave and not obey the gospel, ” is another cry from the worldly. The “questionable” things they usually have in mind are immodest dress, social drinking, mixed swimming, dancing, and such like.
It is imperative that we teach and preach about the sacrifice of Christ and what that sacrifice means; but, preaching “Jesus and him crucified” requires more than just teaching about the atoning death of Christ. It means that we must teach all that Christ taught, and stand for that teaching in the face of the most perilous danger (Matt. 28:20; Acts 7:51-60). We must be balanced in our teaching of God’s word and teaching the lost about the efficacy of the blood of Christ is certainly necessary, but there are other pertinent truths that must be discussed.
A better example could not be found than the sermons we have recorded for us by the Holy Spirit. We certainly would be presumptuous to think that we could put together a better outline than the Holy Spirit, who guided the speech of the apostles (Acts 2:4). Let us begin with Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.
Assembled on that day was a group of devout Jews who had come to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 2:5). The apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit and this caused the people to come together to witness the events that were transpiring (Acts 2:1-6). A charge of drunkenness was leveled at the apostles.
Peter quickly responded to this charge and then proceeded to explain the events they were witnessing (Acts 2:15-21). Following this, Peter began to convict this assemblage of Jews of the crime of murder (Acts 2:23). Why would Peter do this? Was he trying to drive them away from God, Did he love them The Spirit is aware that the conscience of the sinner must be pricked or he will take no action to correct his course. He must realize that he is in danger and Peter did his utmost to convince this audience of the danger they were in, so that they could repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:40). Preaching “Christ and him crucified” includes preaching that convicts of sin.
The sermon that the apostle Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia contained a message that would cause some in the audience to feel uncomfortable. He preached that Jesus was the Savior and that belief in him was necessary in order to be free from sin, which the Law of Moses could not accomplish (Acts 13:23,38-39). This was repulsive to some of the unbelieving Jews and they stirred up a great persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of the city (13:50).
Should Paul and Barnabas have softened the message? Was it necessary that they teach something that they knew was going to be offensive to some? These persecutors trusted in the Law of Moses and Paul taught a very unpopular doctrine when he declared that one could not be saved under that Law. Preaching “Christ and him crucified” includes preaching that is unpopular and unwanted by some people. Peace with Christ must come before peace with people and we cannot be at peace with Christ and preach a watered down gospel. The problem rests not with the truth, but with the hearer who is unwilling to repent.
Another sermon preached by the apostle Paul is recorded in Acts 26 when the apostle to the Gentiles stood before King Agrippa. This sermon contained an admonition for men to repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20). This is a message that many people in our country do not want to hear today. They want a religion that requires little or no sacrifice; however, if our preaching is to be patterned after the inspired preaching of the first century, then we must exhort the lost to repent and bring forth works meet for repentance.
Was Paul centering his message on the cross when he preached in such a negative manner? Certainly he was, because this is what it means to preach “Christ and him crucified.” Did Agrippa obey the gospel? No, as far as we know Agrippa never went past the “almost” stage. Was it the Holy Spirit’s fault for the way the sermon was presented? No one should dare make such a charge. No, the fault was not in the truth, nor in the presentation of the truth, but in the sinner who was not willing to obey.
The lesson that Paul taught Felix contained teaching on righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come (Acts 24:25). These three elements must be included when we preach “Christ and him crucified.” Again, this message was not too favorably received, but the fault lies at the feet of the hearer and not the one who taught the gospel.
We learn from God’s instruction to the prophet Ezekiel that it is the preacher’s responsibility to proclaim God’s word to mankind (Ezek. 3:16-21). When this is done, the gain or loss of a soul becomes the responsibility of the hearer alone. When this is not done, and a sinner dies in his sins, the one who should have taught him the truth will share in his guilt (Ezek 3:18).
This same lesson is learned from the discussion between Paul and the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Paul declared that he was free from the blood of all men, because he did not shrink from declaring the whole purpose of God to them (Acts 20:26-27).
Preaching “Christ and him crucified” means that we must teach the whole purpose of God. All that Jesus taught must be included, because we will be judged by all that he taught (John 12:48). And, if men reject the words of Jesus, they are rejecting Jesus.
Disrespect for the commandments of God is equivalent to disrespect for God. We must teach the disciples to obey all that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:20). The New Testament contains the doctrine of Christ and if we are to have God, we must abide in that doctrine (2 John 9). If members are having a problem that centers around the atoning death of Christ, then that must be discussed, but if they are being deceived by Satan and lured back into the world, then those issues must be addressed.
Avoiding issues that are uncomfortable or that might drive the unrepentant away will not please God and as preachers of righteousness, we should always be trying to please God and not man (1 Thess. 2:4). Brethren, let us always demand that sound, healthy or wholesome, doctrine be preached for this is the kind of preaching that will turn the good and honest of heart to God (Tit. 2:1; Lk. 8:15).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI; 17, pp. 533-534
September 3, 1992